2010-11 Season Analytical Writings

Cats Limp Home To Host Tennessee

My how fortunes can change over a swing of only a few points. This Kentucky team now stands at 4-4 at the mid-point of the 2011 SEC Season. This is the worst SEC start since 1989-90. All 4 losses have come on the road, and three of those losses have ended with the Cats on the short end of the scoring by 2 points. In each of the four losses, the Cats appeared to be shell shocked as their opponent raced out to double digit second half leads only to see furious attempts by the boys in blue to fight back into the game fall short. In each instance, as the clock approached 0:00, the opponent's players made the plays to win and the Kentucky plays did not. Three losses by a total of 6 points and four losses by a total of 13 points. The marginal difference is simply an inability to make plays at the end when the game is on the line.

The murderers' row of the schedule, seven games that require the Cats to travel throughout the southeastern US five times is coming down its home stretch, and rather than take care of business during these first five games, the Cats have lost 3 of the 5 with this home date against Tennessee and the last of the five road trips, to Vandy, looming next Saturday. Any hope that this team would perform on the road and make winning plays in the face of venom that always seems to meet them at these SEC venues is gone.

Over the years, Kentucky-Tennessee basketball matchups have seen vitriol, circus atmospheres, buzzer beaters, and blow outs. With Bruce Pearl's arrival in Knoxville, the full blown circus atmosphere is operative again, and I will not be surprised if he pulls the orange and white basketballs and unicycles out of mothballs for tonight's encounter with the Cats at Rupp. Pearl will be on the Tennessee bench tonight for the first time this SEC season after sitting out their first 8 conference games as a “penalty” imposed by the SEC office for Pearl's admitted lying to NCAA investigators last summer. The cynic in me can't resist noticing that the SEC Commissioner made sure that Pearl would be set free in time for their games against the Cats. Seems as if the full blown circus has also opened a branch location at the SEC Headquarters.

Tennessee has played twenty-three games posting a record of 15-8; 5-3. The Vols were impressive early this season, racing out to a 7-0 start that included wins over #34 Belmont by 9, #10 Villanova by 10, and at #5 Pitt by 7. However, Tennessee's wheels came off following their big win at Pitt and the Vols lost the next rhree games, and 4 of their next 7 to start the SEC play with a 10-5 record. A mid-SEC encounter at UConn dropped the Tennessee non-conference record to 10-6. In the SEC, with Pearl forced to watch the games from a remote location, Tennessee won five of their first 8 games, including an impressive [especially to UK] three road wins in four games, winning at Georgia [Kentucky lost], at Mississippi [Kentucky lost], and at Auburn. However, the Vols have lost twice in Knoxville, to Florida in overtime at to Alabama, also in overtime. The two home losses operate to negate two of their road wins, leaving the Vols +1 on road wins/home losses, which is equal to UK's current home/road balancing act.

TENNESSEE has played these games at an average pace of about 69 possessions, averaging 72.4 ppg and allowing 67.1 ppg. This translates to an offensive efficiency of 1.048 points per possession and a defensive efficiency of 0.971 ppp. TENNESSEE's turnover rate has been 19.9% while they have forced turnovers at a 20.9% rate. On the Boards, TENNESSEE's offensive and defensive rebounding rates have been 40.5% and 68.1% respectively.

As a basis of comparison, UK's performance against its first six opponents produced 69 possessions, and a score of 77.1 to 62.7 ppg for efficiencies of 1.118 ppp and 0.909 ppp on the offensive and defensive ends. UK's turnover rate is 16.5% but UK only forced turnovers at a 18.6% rate. On the boards, the Cats posted rates of 34.8% and 70.4% at the offensive and defensive ends.

Kentucky's current Pomeroy SOS value is 0.6995 while Tennessee's is 0.7118

The NGE analysis indicates a game played at a pace of about 69 possessions for the Cats and 69 possessions for the Vols, with the Cats winning for the seventeenth time in twenty-three starts this season by 15 points, 77-62. The analysis projects an offensive efficiency of 1.116 ppp and a defensive efficiency of 0.899 ppp.

Game Summary:

For the first 15 games, the same starting lineup posted a 12-3 record, but the loss to Tennessee was enough for Coach Calipari to make a change, sitting Jones and moving Lamb into a starting role. Since he made that change, his Cats are 2-1, beating very weak Auburn and LSU at Rupp but losing again on the SEC road, this time at Alabama.

Coach Calipari returned to his original starting lineup for the South Carolina game, and that lineup now has a record of 14-5. Against TENNESSEE, Coach Calipari starts Knight, Jones, Miller, Liggins, and Harrellson. There is little doubt that Lamb will be the first player off the bench, followed by Vargas. In the Georgia game, Hood did not make an appearance for the first time all season, and Poole and Polson remained on the bench as well.

The Cats open the game with 2 for 6 shooting and 3 turnovers, but Tennessee only makes 2 of 7 shots, and the teams battled to a 5-5 tie in the opening segment of the tame to the under 16 TV timeout. In the second segment, the Cats extended themselves into a 7 point lead on two occasions, the last at 16-9, but Tennessee used two Kentucky offensive fouls late in the segment to trim the lead to 4 points, 16-12, and possession at the under 12 TV timeout.

In the third segment, Tennessee fails to cut further into the lead, and a Miller three pointer sends the lead back to 7 points, 19-12, but with 9:28 to play, Knight picked up his second foul. However, Tennessee only made 1 of 2 free throws, and after Liggins drained a pair of his own, UK converted a Tennessee turnover into a 3 pointer by Lamb to send their lead into double figures for the first time in this game, 24-13, with 8:48 to play in the first half, prompting a UT timeout. Then following another UT turnover, Lamb drained his second three pointer in a row to extend the lead to 27-13 at the under 8 TV timeout. After the Cats extended the lead to 19 points, Tennessee scored 4 straight points to trim the lead to 15 points, 33-18, prompting a Kentucky timeout with 4:30 to play in the first half. That remained the score at the under 4 TV timeout with 3:16 to play before halftime. In the final segment, Tennessee outscored the Cats 7-2 to trim the lead back to 10 points, 35-25, with 1:00 to play, and Coach Calipari called a timeout. However, the Cats fail to score, and Tennessee hits a buzzer beating three pointer to cut the 19 point lead to only 7 points at the half, 35-28.

UK scored its 35 points with 34 possessions for the half, and TENNESSEE scored its 28 points on 34 possessions. UK won the rebounding battle, 16-14, but the teams each managed to get 5 offensive rebounds and Tennessee won a 2 point advantage with the second chance points, 6-4-. TENNESSEE had an offensive efficiency of 0.647 ppp on its 34 first chance possessions and 1.200 ppp on its 5 second chances. Kentucky had an efficiency of 0.918 ppp on its 34 first chance possessions and 0.800 ppp on its 5 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 35.7% of its misses as offensive rebounds while TENNESSEE was able to convert 31.3% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.

UK hit 6 of its 7 free throws in the first half [85.7%]. TENNESSEE hit 4-6 [66.7%] for the half. Field goal shooting for UK was 12-25 overall [48.0%] and 5-9 from long range [55.5%]. For TENNESSEE, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 6-18 [33.3%] and from long range, TENNESSEE hit 4-8 [50.0%].

The Cats committed 11 turnovers, one for every 3.1 possessions. The Cats forced 10 Vol turnovers, one for every 3.4 possessions.

Second Half:

The Cats open the second half by crashing the boards, stealing passes, and making 3 of their first 6 shots for an opening 8-0 run over the first 2 ½ minutes, forcing a Tennessee timeout trailing 43-30 with 17:17 to play in the game. Josh Harrellson finishes off a dominating opening segment with a basket and will be shooting a free throw to complete the three point play when play resumes after the under 16 TV timeout with the Cats leading 50-33 and with 15:13 to play in the game. In the abbreviated second segment, the Cats only manage 2 points, on 2-3 from the line, but Tennessee was only able to trim 2 points off the lead to 15 at 52-37 at the under 12 TV timeout. UT will be shooting a pair of free throws when play resumes.

Tennessee continues to stage a come back, cutting the lead to 10 points, 52-42, and when the Cats are unable to make the in bounds pass, Liggins calls a timeout with 10:37 to play. After the timeout, the Cats run off 6 straight of their own, and a Tennessee three pointer trims the lead back to 13 points, 58-45, at the under 8 TV timeout with 7:13 to play in the game, and Knight to take free throws when play resumes. In the 4 th segment, the teams played on even terms to 62-50 with 3:47 to play in the game, and the Cats with the ball following the under 4 TV timeout. The teams played out the final segment on even terms, as the Cats won 73-61.


UK scored its 73 points on 63 possessions for the game, and TENNESSEE scored its 61 points on 63 possessions.

Kentucky won the battle of the boards, 38-28, and Kentucky won the offensive glass 15-11. Kentucky won the second chance points battle 15-12. TENNESSEE had an offensive efficiency of 0.778 ppp on its 63 first chance possessions and 1.091 ppp for its 11 second chance possessions. UK had 0.921 ppp on its 63 first chance possessions and 1.000 ppp on its 15 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 46.9% of its misses as offensive rebounds while TENNESSEE was able to convert 32.4% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.

UK hit very well from the free throw line in this game, making 22-27 [81.5%]. TENNESSEE made 8-12 [66.7%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 22-49 overall [44.9%] and 7-18 from long range [38.9%]. For TENNESSEE, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 13-38[34.2%] and from long range, TENNESSEE hit 9-16 [56.3%].

The Cats committed 16 turnovers, one for every 3.9 possessions. The Cats forced 14 TENNESSEE turnovers, one for every 4.5 possessions.

Prior to the game, the NGE analysis predicted a 15 point UK win, 77-62 at a pace of 69 possessions for UK and 69 possessions for TENNESSEE. The final score was 73 (77) to 61 (62) at a pace of 63 possessions for the Cats and 63 possessions for TENNESSEE. The UK offensive efficiency for the game was 1.160 (B-) and the UK defensive efficiency was 0.968 ppp (D+).

Next Game On Schedule: The Cats will Travel to Nashville to take on Vanderbilt on Saturday, February 12.

Submitted by Richard Cheeks


Submitted by Richard Cheeks


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