BIG BLUE FANS FOR
2011-12 Season Analytical Writings
As hard as it may be to imagine, this week marks the official and unofficial mid-point of the 2011-2012 regular basketball season for the Cats. Saturday's win over rival Louisville was the last official act of the non-conference portion of the schedule that saw the Cats face 6 BCS opponents in their first 14 games, 4 of which either are or have been highly ranked over the course of November into early January 2012. The Cats have traversed that dangerous and challenging landscape with only one loss, at surprisingly strong Indiana on December 10 by 1 point on a buzzer beating 3 pointer. Yes, there remains one final punctuation point to enter into the 2011-12 non-conference season, and the Cats will take care of that perfunctory duty on Tuesday night in their annual Freedom Hall home court appearance against Arkansas Little Rock.
This is an excellent time to take stock in the first half of the season, which unless a complete catastrophe strikes Freedom Hall on Tuesday, the Cats will finish the first half of their season 14-1, with an average margin of victory of over 22 points per game. This will be the largest non-conference average margin since the 1996 team wrote the record books with a 23.1 ppg average non-conference margin [including the post season run through the NCAA] and finished the regular season part of that schedule with a 12-1 record. The point being, this team is rightfully comparable to the Gold Standard of Kentucky basketball at the ½ way point of the regular season.
Pre-season, I projected a 14-1 non-conference record, and while I did not identify which of the “big” games would produce the loss, I have consistently warned since late October that the trip to Indiana would be the most difficult game the Cats would play in the non-conference portion of the schedule, and that has proven to be the case. This week, the Cats will shift their focus from their non-conference opponents to their standard fare of SEC opponents. In the pre-season, I projected a 14-2 SEC regular season record, and that projection overall remains sane, but frankly, the numbers have shifted sufficiently over the first 2 months to make a reasonable projection of 15-1, with a slight probability of 16-0.
But, first things first, and next up for these Cats will be the Arkansas Little Rock Trojans.
#226 Arkansas Little Rock enters the game with a 5-10 record, and one of the five wins came at the expense of non-D1 opponent Philander Smith, who the Trojans beat by 43 points. Arkansas Little Rock has won its last two games, posting their most impressive win of the season at #95 Denver by 7 on New Year's Eve. The Trojans' most embarrassing loss of this season were by 15 at #242 Northwestern State and by 3 at #249 Louisiana Tech.
ARKANSAS LITTLE ROCK has played its 14 D1 games at an average pace of about 67 possessions, averaging 64.1 ppg and allowing 66.2 ppg. This translates to an offensive efficiency of 0.950 points per possession and a defensive efficiency of 0.986 ppp. Contributing to those efficiencies are ARKANSAS LITTLE ROCK's turnover and rebounding rates. ARKANSAS LITTLE ROCK's turnover rate has been 20.3% while they have forced turnovers at a 20.0% rate. On the Boards, ARKANSAS LITTLE ROCK's offensive and defensive rebounding rates have been 28.5% and 73.0% respectively. ARKANSAS LITTLE ROCK's schedule strength prior to this game is 0.584.
As a basis of comparison, UK's performance against its first 13 opponents produced 71 possessions, and a score of 81.6 to 59.3 ppg for efficiencies of 1.133 ppp and 0.840 ppp on the offensive and defensive ends. Contributing to those efficiencies are Kentucky's turnover and rebounding rates. UK's turnover rate is 18.4% and UK has forced turnovers at a 20.6% rate. On the boards, the Cats posted rates of 39.1% and 69.1% at the offensive and defensive ends. Kentucky's schedule strength prior to this game is 0.535.
The NGE analysis indicates a game played at a pace of about 69 to70 possessions with the Cats winning their fourteenth game in fifteen non-conference starts this season by 28 points, 82-54. The analysis projects an offensive efficiency of 1.171 ppp and a defensive efficiency of 0.783 ppp.
For the first time in a couple of weeks, Terrence Jones moves back into the starting lineup with Lamb and the three freshmen. This moves Miller back into the role of the #6 man with Eloy Vargas and Kyle Wiltjer off the bench. For the fifth time, transfer Twany Beckham is eligible to play for the Cats.
The Cats open the game with a Lamb 3 pointer, but after trading baskets, a flurry of Kentucky turnovers gives UALR a 1 point lead, 7-6, at the under 16 TV timeout, and the Trojans in possession. The very sloppy play by the Cats continues through the second segment, as each team only scored two points, and UALR continues to lead by 1 point, 9-8 at the under 12 TV timeout. In the third segment, UARL hit 3 straight jump shots to move out to a 5 point lead, 15-10, prompting a Kentucky timeout with 9:39 to play in the first half. Out of the timeout, the Cats closed the gap back to 1 point, 17-16, at the under 8 TV timeout.
In the fourth segment, the lethargy continues with more turnovers, and run outs for UALR as they move back on top by 5 points, 21-16 prompting another Kentucky timeout with 6:32 to play in the first half. Out of the timeout, the Cats tied the score with a Jones 3 pointer and a basket by Davis, but UALR answered with a 3 pointer to regain a 3 point lead, 24-21 at the under 4 TV timeout. The Cats actually took a 1 point lead, 25-24, but it was short lived as UALR responded quickly with back to back 3 pointers to take a 3 point lead, 30-27, to the locker room.
UK scored its 27 points in a total of 33 possessions [0.818 points per possession] for the half, and ARKANSAS LITTLE ROCK scored its 30 points on a total of 32 possessions [0.938 ppp]. Kentucky won the battle of the boards 26-16, and Kentucky won the battle of the offensive glass 10-9. Kentucky used their second chance possessions for a 9-4 advantage in second chance points. ARKANSAS LITTLE ROCK had an offensive efficiency of 0.813 ppp on its 32 first chance possessions and 0.444 ppp for its 9 second chance possessions. UK had 0.545 ppp on its 33 first chance possessions and 0.900 ppp on its 10 second chance possession. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a respectable 58.8% of its misses as offensive rebounds while ARKANSAS LITTLE ROCK was able to convert a strong 36.0% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit 3 of its 4 free throws in the first half [75.0%]. ARKANSAS LITTLE ROCK was 0-0 [0.0%] for the half. Field goal shooting for UK was 11-28 overall [39.3%] and 2-8 from long range [25.0%]. For ARKANSAS LITTLE ROCK, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 9-28 [32.1%] and from long range, ARKANSAS LITTLE ROCK University hit 4-10[40.0%].
The Cats committed 13 turnovers, one for every 2.5 possessions. The Cats forced 3 ARKANSAS LITTLE ROCK turnovers, one for every 10.7 possessions.
The turnover-fest continues for UK in the opening segment of the second half, as Kentucky adds 3 more to their half time total in just 6 total possessions, but the Cats did manage to trim 2 points off the UALR lead to 1 point, 34-33 at the under 16 TV timeout. In the prolonged second segment, the Cats outscored UALR 12-1, capped by a Miller 3 pointer that were the points Darius needed to enter the UK 1000 point club at the under 12 TV timeout with 10:57 to play, and the Cats up by a game high 10 points, 45-35.
In the next segment, the Cats continue their run from 12-1 to 21-1, prompting a UALR timeout with 8:27 to play and the Cats up by 19 points, 54-35. The play resumes for the final ½ minute of the segment with neither team scoring to the under 8 TV timeout. After the Cats move on top by 20 points, 57-37, the Cats give up 5 straight points to UALR and Coach Calipari calls another timeout with 4:55 to play in the game, up 15, 57-42. The Cats respond with 6 points to the under 4 TV timeout and a 21 point lead, 63-42 with 3:28 to play in the game.
After moving on top by 25 points with 35 seconds to play, a foul and a turnover produced the game's final 4 points for UALR for the final margin of 22 points, 73-51.
UK scored its 73 points in a total of 63 possessions [1.159 ppp] for the game, and ARKANSAS LITTLE ROCK scored its 51 points on a total of 63 [0.810 ppp].
Kentucky won the battle of the boards, 50-23, and Kentucky won the battle of the offensive glass 20-12. Kentucky won the second chance points battle 20-4. ARKANSAS LITTLE ROCK had an offensive efficiency of 0.746 ppp on its 63 first chance possessions and 0.333 ppp for its 12 second chance possessions. UK had 0.841 ppp on its 63 first chance possessions and 1.000 ppp on its 20 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a strong 64.5% of its misses as offensive rebounds while ARKANSAS LITTLE ROCK was able to convert only 28.6% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit poorly from the free throw line in this game, making 11-16 [68.8%]. ARKANSAS LITTLE ROCK made 7-10 [70.0%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 28-56 overall [50.0%] and 6-16 from long range [37.5%]. For ARKANSAS LITTLE ROCK, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a strong 13-44 [29.5%] and from long range, ARKANSAS LITTLE ROCK hit 6-17 [35.3%].
The Cats committed 19 turnovers, one for every 3.3 possessions. The Cats forced 9 ARKANSAS LITTLE ROCK turnovers, one for every 7.0 possessions.
Prior to the game, the NGE analysis predicted a 28 point UK win, 82-54 at a pace of 70 possessions for UK and 69 possessions for ARKANSAS LITTLE ROCK. The final score was 73(82) to 51 (54) at a pace of 63 possessions for the Cats and 63 possessions for ARKANSAS LITTLE ROCK. The UK offensive efficiency for the game was 1.159(C) and the UK defensive efficiency was 0.810 ppp (D+).
Next Game On Schedule: January 7, 2012 against South Carolina at Rupp Arena in the first SEC game of the 2012 season.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks