BIG BLUE FANS FOR
2012-13 Season Analytical Writings
If ever a team that seemed to be in a tailspin pull out of the death dive and regain control, it is this Kentucky team. A road loss to Alabama after letting a 14 point lead evaporate, and a home game against LSU that ended far to close for comfort suggested that this team was ill-prepared for its 2 game swing through the south that took the Cats first to Oxford Mississippi to confront the best Ole Miss team in memory, and then on to College Station to face the same Texas A&M Aggie squad that had its own way at Rupp just 5 games ago.
The pre-game chatter on Tuesday was that the game could be ugly, suggesting that if the Cats can't keep it close, the Ole Miss Rebels could finish with a double digit win over the Cats. Some fans foresaw the Cats double digit victory, but those fans seemed to be engaging in more wishful thinking than analysis, or so the analysts among us argued in response.
The fans were right. The analysts were no. Cats showed a determination and toughness down the stretch against Ole Miss that had been lacking in previous games. Nerlens Noel played the last 8:30 with four fouls yet he stood his ground on defense and block no less than six shots without fouling, and single handedly stemming an Ole Miss surge at the end to secure the Cats' win. Poythress played his second consecutive game like a man on a mission, and Archie Goodwin may have emerged in the game as the dominant player we had been expecting to see all season. At one point, with 1:45 left in the first half, the Cats were down by 5 points when Archie Goodwin made a powerful move along the left baseline. He rose for a throw down dunk over an Ole Miss defender, and when Archie returned to earth, he showed more excitement for himself, the play, and the circumstances of the game than I had seen from Archie all season. I believe that instant, the light came on for him, and Archie realized what Coach Calipari had been trying to help him understand all season.
Then there was Kyle Wiltjer's offensive demonstrations. Not only did he open up the driving lanes for Archie, Alex Poythress, and others with his outside shooting, he also continued to show a deft post game, while posting a career high 26 points for the game. One game does not a trend set, but it sure felt like this team was turning a major corner.
On Saturday, we will see if this is the start of a surging trend for this team when they confront the A&M Aggies with a bit of retribution on their minds. On January 12, Texas A&M came into Rupp Arena a substantial underdog, and left with a 12 point victory that stung the Cats like a swarm of killer bees. The Cats suffered their second home court loss of the year, while the Aggies started their inaugural SEC season 2-0. However, since stealing one at Rupp, the Aggies lost 4 in a row, at home to Florida by 21, at Alabama by 1, at LSU by 4, and against Georgia by 7. The Aggies ended their losing streak with a 6-point OT win at Mississippi State last Wednesday. While the Aggies have lost 4 of 5 since leaving Rupp, the Cats have won 4 of their 5, including that impressive road win over #30 Mississippi last Tuesday.
Texas A&M enters this game with a 13-7 record, 3-4 in the SEC. TEXAS A&M's most impressive SEC win has been that 12 point win over the #17 Cats at Rupp. It is difficult to reconcile that win against back to back losses to #114 LSU and #137 Georgia. The A&M non-conference schedule strength was only 0.3849 (#295 th ) and since starting SEC play, the Texas A&M overall schedule strength has risen to 0.5455 (#107 th ).
TEXAS A&M has averaged about 62 possessions per game, producing 63.3 ppg (1.03 ppp) and allowing 59.3 ppg (0.96 ppp). TEXAS A&M has turned the ball over on 21.4% of its possessions while forcing turnovers on 21.1% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, TEXAS A&M has secured an offensive rebounding rate of 37.2% about 4% above the 33% NCAA average, and a defensive rebounding rate of 66.6%, about equal to the NCAA average.
In contrast, the Cats have averaged about 70 possessions per game, producing 76.4 ppg (1.09 ppp) and allowing 62.6 ppg (0.89 ppp) against a schedule strength of 0..5820 (77 th ). The Cats have committed turnovers on 18.4% of its possessions and forced turnovers on 18.9% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, the Cats' rebounding rates have been 34.6% and 69.0% on the offensive and defensive ends.
Based on this distribution, the analysis tips in favor of Kentucky by 3 points, 67-64 in a game played at a pace of 66 possessions for the Cats and 66 possessions for TEXAS A&M. Pomeroy figures the Game in Kentuckyk's favor by 5 points, 66-61 at a pace of 63 possessions. As discussed previously, this game will depend on which identity shows up at TEXAS A&M on Saturday night. If it is the personality that defeated Mississippi by 13 on Tuesday, the Cats should beat A&M by 12 or more. However, if the timid personality reappears for this one, the Cats will experience a loss in the single digits.
Willie Cauley-Stein traveled with the team to College Station, and has dressed for the game. Coach Calipari indicated that Willie Cauley-Stein will get some playing time as they begin to work him back into the rotation and reestablish his game conditioning. For the fifth game, Coach Calipari will use the three freshmen, Nerlens Noel, Archie Goodwin , and Alex Poythress starting with Ryan Harrow and Julius Mays. Coach Calipari will use Kyle Wiltjer,, and Jarrod Polson off the bench. Jon Hood has returned to practice, but we do not know how long he can go coming off his bout with mononucleosis. Twany Beckham remains unavailable due to his reinjured back.
The Cats control the tip, and on their second possession, Nerlens Noel scores the first points of the game. The Cats make 2 of their first 5 shots to take a 5-0 lead at the under 16 media timeout. In the second segment, Nerlens Noel scored the Cats next two baskets to take the Cats to a 9-0 start. TAMU then broke their scoring drought with a couple of free throws, and a Turner basket in the lane pulled the Aggies to within 5 points, 9-4, at the under 12 media timeout. In the third segment, the Cats continue their scoring drought of their own, with 2 straight turnovers, and TAMU pulls to within 2 points on a 3 point play following the second turnover.
After Willie Cauley-Stein misses a pair of free throws, TAMU ties the score to complete a 9-0 run of its own. Nerlens Noel ends the Aggie run with a couple free throws. Then Nerlens Noel bats the ball away to force a turnover, and Goodwin converted at the other end to lift the Cats up by 4 points, 13-9 at the under 8 media timeout and Goodwin will have one free throw to try to complete the three point play after the timeout. Goodwin missed the free throw, and on the rebound, Nerlens Noel went to the floor with his leg bending awkwardly, allowing TAMU to make an uncontested drive to the basket at the other end before the officials stopped play.
In the fourth segment, tbe Cats use 3-4 shooting from outside the arc, two by Mays, to extend their lead back to 9 points, 26-17, at the under 4 media timeout with 3:19 to play in the first half. The Cats move out by 13 points, 30-17, before TAMU closes out the first half scoring with 4 straight to close the Kentucky lead to 9 points, 30-21.
UK scored its 30 points on 30 possessions for the half, and TEXAS A&M scored its 21 points on 29 possessions. Kentucky won the battle of the boards in the first half 19-18, and Texas A&M won on the offensive boards, 6-3 producing an Texas A&M advantage on second chance points of 6-2. TEXAS A&M had an offensive efficiency of 0.517 ppp on its 29 first chance possessions and 1.000 ppp for its 6 second chance possession. UK had 0.933 ppp on its 30 first chance possessions and 0.667 ppp on its 3 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a weak 20.0% of its misses as offensive rebounds while TEXAS A&M was able to convert 27.3% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit poorly from the free throw line in this half, making 4 of 8 attempts (50.0%). TEXAS A&M finis4-8 from long range [50.0%]. For TEXAS A&M, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a weak 7-20 [35.0%] and from long range, TEXAS A&M hit 0-9 [0.0%].
The Cats committed 6 turnovers, one for every 5.0 possessions. The Cats forced 3 TEXAS A&M turnovers, one for every 9.7 possessions.
TAMU opens the second half by getting Turner to the line, drawing Goodwins's third foul, and trimming the lead to 7 points. After the teams trade a couple of baskets, and free throw chances, TAMU's first 3 pointer of the game pulls them within 5, 35-30, prompting Coach Calipari to call a timeout. After the timeout, each team is guilty of a turnover, and Mays hits his third 3 pointer of the game to lift the Cats back on top by 8. However, TAMU responds with a runner to trim the lead to 6 points, 38-32, at the under 16 media timeout, and the Cats will have the ball after the timeout.
The Aggies cut the lead to 2 points, 40-38 following three consecutive Kentucky turnovers, but Ryan Harrow stops the run with a three pointer, and Archie Goodwin made a circus shot on a drive and was fouled taking the teams to their benches for the under 12 media timeout, and Goodwin, for the second time tonight, will attempt to finish the three point play after the timeout. Goodwin converted this time, to lift the Cats up by 5, but TAMU responded with back to back scoring trips to trim the lead to a single point. The Cats responded and extended the lead back to 5 points, 51-46. However, after a TAMU turnover, the Cats were unable to capitalize, and Alex Poythress committed a rebounding foul. The free throws, their 14 th in 14 tries tonight, pulled the Aggies back to within 3 points. Kyle Wiltjer makes a three point play in response. However, TAMU scores on a layup, and forces a Kentucky turnover to take the game to the under 8 media timeout with 7:27 to play, and the Cats leading by 4 points, 54-50.
Out of the timeout, TAMU turns the ball over for only their 6 th turnover of the game, and then foul Kyle Wiltjer who converts both of his free throws to ease the Cats on top by 6 points again, 56-50. Texas A&M turns the ball over again, and the Cats get Nerlens Noel to the line where he makes 1 of 2. The Cats fail to capitalize on Texas A&M's third consecutive turnover. TAMU then make a pair of free throws to trim the lead to 5, but Mays drains a long 3 pointer as the shot clock expires to lift the Cats to an 8 point lead, 60-52. TAMU called a timeout with 3:38 to play in the game.
After the timeout, Nerlens Noel missed a pair of free throws, and TAMU scores to trim the lead to 6 points. After Goodwin is stuff on a drive in the lane, TAMU commits an offensive foul with 2:20 to play. Kyle Wiltjer commits an offensive foul, and Turner trims the lead to 4 points. Another Kentucky turnover, gives TAMU the ball down 4 with 1:32 to play in the game. Nerlens Noel's presence in the lane causes another TAMU turnover with 1:18 to play, but Kyle Wiltjer turns it over on a lob to Nerlens Noel, turning the ball back over to TAMU with 1:10 to play in the game.
TAMU goes straight to the basket to score and cut the lead to 2 points, 60-58. Four straight UK turnovers have allowed the Aggies to climb back into this game. The Cats ran the game clock to 35 seconds before Alex Poythress got fouled on his move to the basket along the baseline. Alex Poythress made both to make it a two possession game. TAMU missed but scored on the offensive rebound to cut the lead back to 2 points with 19 seconds to play, and the Aggies burn their last timeout. After the Cats get the ball in bounds, the Aggies tie up Kyle Wiltjer for the possession and a chance to tie or win with only 15 seconds to play in the game. Turner's shot hit the front of the rim, and bounced up and in the basket as if the ball had eyes to tie the game, 62-62 with 1.4 seconds to play.
Overtime. The Cats control the tip, and Nerlens Noel scores on the baseline. TAMU missed its first free throw of the night to pull within 1 point. Mays goes to the line for the Cats and makes both of his. The Aggies miss their next shot, and foul Kyle Wiltjer after the rebound. Kyle Wiltjer makes both for a 5 point lead with 2:55 to play. TAMU missed again, and foul Nerlens Noel after the rebound with 2:22 to play in the game. Nerlens Noel makes 1 of 2. Turner drains a 3 to cut the lead to 3 with 2 minutes to go. Mays misses a long 3 pointer, and when TAMU goes into the lane, the ball goes to the floor, and a TAMU's final timeout of the OT saves their possession with 1:13 to play in OT and the Cats up 69-66.
Kyle Wiltjer blocks the shot and Nerlens Noel gets the rebound, but the Cats fail to get a shot off before the shot clock violation with 27 second to play. TAMU goes quickly to the hoop to score a basket and cut the lead to a single point, 69-68, with 15.8 seconds to play. The official gave TAMU a bonus timeout. TAMU fouls Mays before the ball is put into play to send Mays to the line for a pair of shots. He makes both, and after TAMU missed a long 3 pointer, Alex Poythress grabbed the rebound and called a timeout with 1 second to play. The Cats get it inbounds, and TAMU fouls Mays makes 1 of 2, and the Cats survive in OT by 4, 72-68.
UK scored its 72 points in 71 possessions [1.01 ppp] for the game, and TEXAS A&M scored its 68 points on 69 possessions [0.98 ppp].
Kentucky won the boards, with a rebounding edge 35-32, and Texas A&M won the battle of the offensive glass 11-8. TEXAS A&M converted its 11 second chance possessions into 12 second chance points while Kentucky converted their 8 second chance possessions to score 6 second chance points. TEXAS A&M had an offensive efficiency of 0.812 ppp on its 69 first chance possessions and 1.091 ppp for its 11 second chance possessions. UK had 0.930 ppp on its 71 first chance possessions and 0.750 ppp on its 8 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 27.5% of its misses as offensive rebounds while TEXAS A&M was able to convert 28.9% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
Kentucky shot poorly from the free throw line in this game, making 23-34 [67.6%]. TEXAS A&M made 18-19 [94.7%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 21-44 overall [47.7%] and 7-15 from long range [46.7%]. For TEXAS A&M, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a strong 22-49 [44.9%] and from long range, TEXAS A&M hit 2-12 [16.7%].
The Cats who committed 19 turnovers, one for every 3.7 possessions. The Cats forced 10 TEXAS A&M turnovers, one for every 6.9 possessions.
Prior to the game, the NGE analysis predicted a 3point Kentucky win, 67-64 at a pace of 66 possessions for UK and 66 possessions for TEXAS A&M. The final score was 72 (67) to 68 (64) at a pace of 71 possessions for the Cats and 69 possessions for TEXAS A&M. The UK offensive efficiency for the game was 1.014 ppp (1.015 ppp) and the UK defensive efficiency was 0.986 ppp (0.970 ppp).
Next Game On Schedule: February 5, 2013 when the Cats return to Rupp for face South Carolina.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks