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Cats take four-day break to celebrate Christmas with family and friends following loss to Cards

By Keith Taylor
KyForward senior sports writer

Following Kentucky’s 73-70 loss at Louisville earlier this week, Kentucky’s players and coaches returned to campus and went their separate ways for Christmas break.

The Wildcats (10-2) will return to practice Monday but until then the players plan on enjoying time away from the hardwood. Kentucky guard De’Aaron Fox said the break is what the Cats needed following two Top 10 matchups in five days.

De'Aaron Fox drives to the basket during UK's loss at Louisville Wednesday. The Cats are taking a four-day break for Christmas before coming back to campus Monday (Bill Thiry Photo)

De’Aaron Fox drives to the basket during UK’s loss at Louisville Wednesday. The Cats are taking a four-day break for Christmas before coming back to campus Monday (Bill Thiry Photo)

“I feel like everybody needs a break,” Fox said. “This is our break. After this, the real season is gearing up. It’s time for (Southeastern Conference) play. The tournament will be in no time.”

Fox plans to focus on family and friends this weekend, but also will make time to work on his individual game.

“I’m going to work out of course when I go home – but right now I’m not really thinking about it,” Fox said. “Just trying to spend time with my family. We don’t get to go home much, so just spend Christmas with my family and come back on the 26th ready to work.”

Kentucky took the Cardinals to the limit in their first time playing in a hostile environment for the first time this season. Even though it was a loss, Fox said the setback will be a learning experience going into league play. The Wildcats open SEC play at Ole Miss Thursday in Oxford, Mississippi.

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“It was good for us to have a game like this — first true road game,” Fox said. “There’s not too many environments like this in the country, especially with this rivalry we have. We probably won’t go into another arena like this one, even in the tournament. It was good. I’m not going to say it was a good loss for us, but it was good to have this game as our first road game.”

Kentucky shot 40 percent against its rival and made just five 3-pointers on 22 attempts. The Wildcats connected on just two treys in the final half as the Cardinals limited Kentucky to four second-chance opportunities on 34 missed field goals.

“You don’t make shots every game,” Fox said. “Sometimes you shoot rough from the free-throw line. We were still in the game. We still had moments where we still could have won the game, but we didn’t make the big plays at the end.”

Fox said the biggest issue behind not making the plays down the stretch came down to “just execution.”

“We still scored 70 points,” he said. “Half the teams in the country don’t even score that much. We just have to start getting defensive stops and make the big plays when we need them.”

Coming off a freshman school-record 47-point outing in a 103-100 win over North Carolina, Malik Monk managed just 16 points and made one trey on nine tries against the Cardinals. Fox said Monk had a hard time getting into the flow after sitting out more than eight minutes in the first half because of foul trouble.

“He was in foul trouble,” Fox said. “(He) came back in the second half trying to get his rhythm. Sometimes shooters don’t have those games, but you keep shooting. We kept telling him to shoot. We never told him not to shoot, or hesitate. Sometimes you just have those games — we’ll bounce back.”

Gametracker: Kentucky at Ole Miss, 8 p.m., Thursday. TV/Radio: ESPN2, 98.1 FM WBUL

Keith Taylor is a senior sports writer for KyForward, where he primarily covers University of Kentucky sports. Reach him at keith.taylor@kyforward.com or @keithtaylor21 on Twitter

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