No. 1 Kentucky Suffers Stunning 67-64 Upset Loss at Home to Unranked Evansville

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorNovember 13, 2019

Evansville's Jawaun Newton (3) pulls down a rebound near teammate DeAndre Williams during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kentucky in Lexington, Ky., Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
James Crisp/Associated Press

K.J. Riley scored 18 points and Sam Cunliffe added 17 off the bench as Evansville stunned No. 1 Kentucky 67-64 on Tuesday at Rupp Arena in Lexington.

Per the SEC Network broadcast (via Adam Zagoria of the New York Times), Tuesday marked the first time an unranked nonconference opponent beat the Wildcats on their home floor in 53 attempts.

Vegas Insider showed the Purple Aces were a 25-point underdog at most sportsbooks. South Point Casino (h/t B/R Betting) listed them as 40-1 moneyline underdogs.

The Wildcats shot just 37.0 percent from the field and hit only four of their 17 three-point attempts. Evansville did not shoot well either (38.3 percent) but nailed nine threes in 30 tries.

The Purple Aces led until the final buzzer following Riley's three with 7:18 remaining in the second half, which put his team up 56-53.

The Wildcats' Tyrese Maxey hit a layup to cut the deficit to 65-64 with nine seconds left, but Cunliffe made two free throws.

With six seconds left, Maxey drove down the court and hoisted a deep three, but it fell short.

Evansville went 11-21 and finished last in the Missouri Valley Conference in 2018-19. The Purple Aces were projected in a preseason poll to land eighth in the 10-team league this year. They defeated Ball State in their opener Saturday and entered the evening ranked 152nd in the Division I Sagarin ratings.

Second-year Evansville coach Walter McCarty is a Kentucky legend who was an integral part of its 1995-96 national championship team. He also played in the NBA from 1996 to 2006.

Kentucky beat then-No. 1 Michigan State 69-62 in New York last week to open the season before defeating Eastern Kentucky 91-49 on Friday. On Tuesday, Immanuel Quickley led the Wildcats with 16 points, and Maxey added 15 off the bench.

After the game, the Purple Aces celebrated in their locker room:

Kyle Tucker @KyleTucker_ATH

McCarty didn’t want to enter this locker room. He knew what was waiting. “This is a $4,000 suit.” https://t.co/wp0MYH9uv0

Not only did they get the win, but Yahoo Sports noted the Wildcats paid them $90,000 to play at Rupp Arena.

ESPN Stats and Info and Dari Nowkhah of ESPN offered more context for Evansville's huge win:

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

No. 1 Kentucky loses at Rupp Arena to unranked Evansville. It is the first time an AP No. 1 Kentucky team has ever lost a home game to an unranked non-conference opponent (had been 39-0). It's Evansville's first road win over an AP-ranked team in program history.

Dari Nowkhah @ESPNDari

Evansville was 0-33 on the road against AP Top 25 teams. Kentucky was 39-0 as AP #1 at home vs unranked non-conf teams. Kentucky had not lost as #1 against an unranked, non-major conf team since 1950. Evansville just beat Kentucky at Rupp Arena.

Per Kyle Tucker of The Athletic, McCarty called the night his best moment at Rupp Arena. The ex-Wildcat has had plenty of those, capped by the 1995-96 season in which McCarty and the rest of the "Untouchables" went undefeated in 13 home games en route to a 34-2 record and the program's sixth of eight national titles.

Meanwhile, Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio called the defeat the worst of head coach John Calipari's 11-season tenure and one of the worst ever. Kentucky.com concurred.

Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated presented a theory:

Pat Forde @ByPatForde

I believe Cal purposefully undercoaches his team in November and December to make them figure it out ... but still. That’s gotta be his most embarrassing loss at Kentucky.

And Justin Rowland of CatsIllustrated offered his assessment of the team's effort:

Justin Rowland @RowlandRIVALS

This is one of the worst efforts -- literally, effort -- of the Calipari era. Look like they don't even want to be out there.

Kentucky will look to rebound against visiting Utah Valley on Monday. Evansville will host Indiana University Kokomo on Thursday.