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2014-15 Season Analytical Writings
16-0; 3-0; 15 games remain on the regular season schedule, and on Saturday the Cats are “On The Road Again,” this time in Tuscaloosa Alabama. When the Cats finished their demolition of the Missouri Tigers on Tuesday, they tied the 1934 Cats for the 4 th best start of any UK season. The three better starts include Coach Calipari's 2010 team that started 19-0, Rupp's Runts that started 23-0, and the undefeated 1954 team that end their perfect season at 25-0.
For Cats fans, it is the second time down this path since Coach Calipari arrived in Lexington, but consider that before Coach Calipari, the last time anything like this happened was 1965-66. I was a senior in high school, and Rupp's Runts was the first UK team to ever earn my emotionally investment. My dad worked for the C&O Railroad, and he could obtain passenger passes from Ashland to Lexington, and I used those during January and February 1966 to travel to Lexington on home game Saturday's. I would go from the train station located at Rose, between Main and Vine to Memorial to get my place in the standing room line. About 5 minutes before tipoff, the University would allow us to enter the Coliseum to search among the rafters for a place to stand and watch the game.
The last trip I made that season was for game 23. The Runts treated this 17 year old to a 78-64 thumping of Tennessee to go to 23-0 on the season. For me, the Cats could not possible lose t anyone, anywhere, at any time. The roar of the Memorial crowd on each score by the Cats that day made a permanent record in my head. When Dampier, or Riley released a shot from the perimeter, the crowd could tell almost instantly whether the shot was destined to be a made basket, and the roar began with the ball mid flight, and peaked just before the ball would duck over the rim.
23-0 just seemed like the next step to a perfect season to me on that day. It all ended exactly 1 week later, at the hands of the same Volunteers, in Knoxville, TN when that Orange and White clad circus act beat my team 62-69.
The lesson for me in 1966 was that even a great team can stumble when you least expect, so treasure every victory, even when it seems like a loss is impossible.
Well, wind the clock forward nearly 50 years, and I must admit that to me, a loss to Alabama on Saturday seems impossible. That is the emotional half of my brain taking control away from the logic side of my brain, Nevertheless, I can honestly say that it seems that way as I write this and reminisce about my first year as a Cat fan, and what 16-0 means to me. 16-0 clearly should lead to 17-0.
In Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide faithful have similar feelings, not about their basketball but about their football team's entitlement to nothing but winning. That fan base is still reeling from their loss a mere 2 weeks ago to Ohio State that deprived them of their rightful place in the first even national championship game. I suspect that they are seeking to sooth their anguish with a basketball victory in what could be the equivalent of their national championship game surrogate when the mighty Kentucky Wildcats come to their gym.
The Cats and Crimson Tide have had two common opponent leading into Saturday's game. Kentucky demolished UCLA on a neutral court, and Alabama beat UCLA by 6 in Tuscaloosa. The Cats needed 2 overtime periods to subdue the A&M Aggies in College Station and Alabama took the Aggies to school to the tune of 22 points in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide finished their non-conference schedule 10-3. Their most impressive non-conference win was the 6 point win over #54 UCLA. The Tide's losses are no embarrassment, by 10 to #16 Iowa State on a neutral court, and by 13 at #25 Xavier and by 1 at #18 Wichita State. The Crimson Tide has a 2-1 SEC start. In addition to their 22 point win over A&M, the Tide disposed of Tennessee by 18 in Knoxville before losing to #35 South Carolina in their most recent game. Alabama's non-conference schedule has a strength of 0.4876 (#202), and the Crimson Tide schedule strength after the first three SEC games stands at 0.5531 (#106).
ALABAMA has played its first 16 games at an average tempo of about 66 possessions per game, scoring 70.3 ppg (1.066 ppp) and allowing an average 62.9 ppg (0.957 ppp). ALABAMA has turned the ball over on 18.1% of its possessions while forcing turnovers on 21.5% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, ALABAMA has secured an offensive rebounding rate of 29.8%, and a defensive rebounding rate of 68.8%.
In contrast, the Cats have averaged about 67 possessions per game, producing 76.5 ppg (1.14 ppp) and allowing 50.6 ppg (0.76 ppp). The Cats have committed turnovers on 17.0% of its possessions and forced turnovers on 23.7% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, the Cats' rebounding rates have been 44.8% and 66.4% on the offensive and defensive ends. The Cats' non-conference schedule has a strength of 0.5837(#82) and the Cats' schedule strength after the first 3 SEC games stands at 0.5978 (#56).
Based on this distribution, the analysis tips in favor of KENTUCKY by 10 points, 70-60 in a game played at a pace of 66 possessions for the Cats and 66 possessions for ALABAMA. Pomeroy figures the Game in Kentucky's favor by 8 points, 64-56 at a pace of 63 possessions. The March towards March in Search of Perfection will continue Saturday afternoon in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
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The starting players for the ALABAMA game are Willie Cauley-Stein,, Karl-Anthony Towns, Trey Lyles, Aaron Harrison, and Andrew Harrison. Platoon 2 consists of Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee, Devin Booker, and Tyler Ulis. Coach Calipari has decided that he needs to return to the full platoon system. Dominique Hawkins is not available due to a minor medical procedures performed on him Thursday. Derek Willis, and E. J. Floreal to provide deep reserve help should the game require or permit Coach Calipari to go to his 10 th or 11 th players.
The Cats control the opening tip, but a turnover on a lazy pass allowed Alabama to draw first blood. On their next possession, Willie Cauley-Stein ties the score on a put back basket. After ‘Bama moves back on top 4-2, the Cats run the next 10 points anchored by a pair of three pointers, one by each of the Harrison twins to a 12-4 lead. Alabama trimmed the lead to 6 just prior to the under 16 media timeout. With 15:05 remaining in the half, Willie Cauley-Stein will have a pair of free throws after the break.
In the second segment, Coach Calipari brought in his second platoon, leaving Trey Lyles in the game. The second unit outscored the Tide 6-3 in the segment to extend the UK lead to 9 points, 18-9, at the under 12 media timeout. After the timeout, Coach Calipari continued to use the second platoon until the 10:00 mark when the first unit returned. The third segment ended with the Cats on top 18-9. In the fourth segment, the Cats move on top 29-14, and Coach Calipari brings in the second unit including Derek Willis with 5:25 remaining. Over the remaining time of the 4 th segment, the Cats move on top by 17, 31-14 at the under 4 media timeout with 3:01 remaining, and a pair of Tide free throws coming after the break.
After back-to-back turnovers, Coach Calipari brings his first platoon back on the floor for the final minute of the half. When Trey Lyles makes a pair of free throws with 28 seconds left, the Cats enjoy their biggest lead, 35-17 which is how the first half ends. This is the third consecutive half of basketball in which the Cats have held the opponent to less than 20 points.
The first half was played at a pace of 28 possessions (58 game pace). The Cats scored its 35 points on 28 possessions (1.25 ppp) and ALABAMA scored 17 points on 28 possessions (0.61 ppp). The Cats shot well in the first half making 12-23 (52.2%) overall and 4-10 (40.0%) from outside the arc. ALABAMA shot poorly for the half, making 5-13 (38.5%) inside the arc, and the Crimson Tide were 2-9 (22.2%) shooting the ball from outside the arc. From the line, UK made 7-8 (87.5%) while ALABAMA made 1-4 (25.0%). Kentucky won the battle of the boards in the first half, out rebounding ALABAMA 19-9 overall. Kentucky also managed to grab 6 offensive rebounds to only 3 for the Crimson Tide. Kentucky earned a 7-0 advantage from second chance points for the first half. The Cats managed to get 50.0% of its misses, while ALABAMA grabbed 18.8% of its misses.
The Cats committed 7 turnovers (25.0%) and forced 6 ALABAMA turnovers (22.2%).
Alabama starts the second half with a 3 pointer, and following a pair of UK misses, a drive down the right side of the lane produces a basket to trim the lead to 13, 35-22. Coach Calipari takes a time out less than 2 minutes into the second half. Coach Calipari brings the second platoon into the game at the break. The teams trade a basket each over the last 2 minutes of the opening segment, and the Cats hold the lead at 13 points, 37-24 at the under 16 media timeout. ‘Bama will have the ball after the timeout. After the timeout, ‘Bama has trouble getting the ball into play forcing the Tide to burn a timeout.
In the second segment, ‘Bama continues to control the play, and cut the UK lead into single digits at 39-30, but Dakari Johnson makes 1 of 2 free throws, and scores from the right baseline to lift the Cats back on top by 12. A 3 pointer by Tyler Ulis on a fast break restores the lead to 15, 45-30, at the under 12 media timeout. The Cats will have the ball following ‘Bama's 11 th turnover of the game. At the under eight media timeout, the Cats are in control by 23, 57-34. At the under 5 media timeout, the Cats lead by a commanding 28 points, 68-40. Coach Calipari empties his bench with 1:02 remaining and the score 70-45. Cats win 70-48.
UK scored its 70 points in 55 possessions (1.30 ppp) for the game, and ALABAMA scored its 48 points on 54 possessions (0.87 ppp).
Kentucky won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 30-21, and the Cats won the battle for the offensive rebounds 11-8. The Cats won the second chance points 10-7. ALABAMA had an offensive efficiency of 0.745 ppp on its 54 first chance possessions and 0.875 ppp for its 8 second chance possessions. UK had 1.111ppp on its 55 first chance possessions and 0.909 ppp on its 11-second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a powerful 45.8% of its misses as offensive rebounds while ALABAMA was able to convert 29.6% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit well from the free throw line in this game, making 16-18[88.9%]. ALABAMA made 3-7 [42.9%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 23-46 overall [50.0%] and 8-17 from long range [47.1%]. For ALABAMA, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a strong 15-27 [55.6%] and from long range, ALABAMA hit 5-18 [27.8%].
The Cats committed 10 turnovers, one for every 5.4 possessions. The Cats forced 15 ALABAMA turnovers, one for every 3.7 possessions.
Next Game On Schedule: Tuesday night, January 20, 2015 against Vanderbilt in the 5 th SEC game of the 2015 season at Rupp Arena.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks