2014-15 Season Analytical Writings

Cats Face Duke Blue Devils In Preview Of National Championship In Chicago

The NCAA basketball schedule includes 31 regular season games for most teams in most seasons. However, teams that compete on a national stage only play a handful of games each year that define their season. For the Kentucky Wildcats, their 2015-16 season will be defined by games against Duke, UCLA, Ohio State, Louisville, Kansas, and a limited number of SEC games against the likes of Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, LSU, and perhaps this year Florida. That is a maximum of 11 games from the full 31 game regular season schedule. On Tuesday night, the Cats and the Blue Devils will face each other in what will be the first season defining games for each of these championship contenders.

Duke is the defending national champion, and Kentucky was the odds on favorite last year to be that champion. Each of these teams sustained deep personnel losses due to graduation and early exits to the NBA draft. Each of these rebuilding teams have played a two game exhibition season to test drive their new models. Each of these teams coasted through those exhibitions with embarrassingly large margins of victory. Each of these teams have played two D1 opponents at home in final preparation for Tuesday's showdown, and each of these teams set these D1 opponents aside with similar ease.

The stage is set for a shootout unlike anything since the one at the OK Corral. In less than 48 hours, the world will know if both of these proud programs are again legitimate contenders for another national championship, or just pretenders resting on the sole strength found in their names, not that the prestige of these basketball names is misplaced or inappropriate.

Kentucky-Duke. Duke-Kentucky. Such great encounters over the years.

My personal memories start in 1966. Adolph Rupp, Vic Bubas. 1966 Final Four. But it does not end there. 1978 Championship game. The 1980 NCAA tournament. The 1992 East Regional Final. The 1998 East Regional Final.

What a legacy of great NCAA encounters. UK 3 Duke 2.

In all other meetings, Kentucky holds an advantage, 8-7. However, in what many want to call the modern era, Duke has ruled, winning 7 of the last 8 meetings.

It is time for the Cats to stop that regular season dominance that the Blue Devils have had on Tuesday night.

In the first two games by each of these teams, some interesting similarities and differences emerge from the statistics. Kentucky has played at a pace of 72 possessions per game while Duke has pushed it at a 77 possession pace. Duke has enjoyed greater offensive efficiency (1.344 ppp vs 1.154 ppp) and the Cats have enjoyed lower defensive efficiency (0.847 ppp vs 0.971 ppp). Pomeroy gives UK a slight edge after these two games in the strength of schedule area (0.455 vs 0.347). Pomeroy sees this game as a 1 point Duke advantage, 77-76 at a pace of 74 possessions. My ANE analysis sees Duke with a 2 point advantage, 76-74 at a pace of 71 possessions. Win or lose, I look for a very competitive game decided in the last 4 minutes in favor of the team able to make the plays down the stretch drive in the game. I am hopeful that our Cats will find itself on top when the clock winds down to 0:00.

Game Summary:

Coach Calipari starts Tyler Ulis, Isaiah Briscoe, Jamal Murray, Marcus Lee, and Skal Labissiere. The addition of Isaiah Briscoe to the starting lineup sends Derek Willis back into a reserve role along with Alex Poythress, Charles Matthews, Isaac Humphries, and Dominique Hawkins.

Skal Labissiere controlled the tip, and after running the shot clock down, Jamal Murray drives for a layup. The Cats make 4-5 shots in the opening segment, and 1-2 from the line. However, Duke has made only 4-10 shots, 0-2 from long range, and 1-1 from the line, but the story early is wrapped up in 4 offensive rebounds by Plumley that results in all 9 of Duke's points. These nine second chance points have allowed Duke to stay with the red hot Cats, 9-9 at the under 16 media timeout. In the second segment, the Cats score the first 5 points on a 3 by Jamal Murray and a fast break layup by Tyler Ulis, but Duke tightens up their defense, and manage to score the next 5 points, including a second chance 3 pointer to pull even, 14-14 at the under 12 media timeout. Through the first 8 minutes, Duke has 12 second chance points on 5 offensive rebounds and the Cats have no second chance points on 3 offensive rebounds. The Cats are shooting 6-14 (42.9%) and Duke is 6-18 (33%).

In the third segment, the Cats and Blue Devils continue to match baskets with ties at 16, and 18. Duke took its first lead of the game, 20-18, but the Cats answered with 4 straight, all second chance points to regain the lead, 22-20 at the under 8 media timeout. In the 4 th segment, the Cats managed to stay in the lead at 24-23, but a 3 by Isaiah Briscoe, a run out dunk to Marcus Lee on a mid court pass from Isaiah Briscoe, and a layup by Tyler Ulis lifted the Cats to their biggest lead, 31-24, prompting a Duke timeout with 2:57 remaining in the first half.

After the timeout, Duke hits a 3 pointer to trim the lead back to 4 points, where the lead remained at 35-31 with 36 seconds left in the half and Duke in possession. Kentucky takes a time out to plan how they want to finish off the first half. Duke is forced to a turnover, and Isaiah Briscoe makes a layup just ahead of the buzzer to give the Cats a 6 point lead, 37-31, at the half.

Kentucky scored 37 points on 34 possessions (1.09 ppp) while Duke scored 31 points on 33 possessions (0.94 ppp). The Cats shot poorly, making 16-37 shots (43.2%), including 2-6 (33.3%) from long range. But, Duke shot the ball at an even lower percentage, 12-33 overall (36.4%) which included 2-10 (20%) from long range. From the line, the Cats were only 3-6 (50%) while Duke was 5-9 (55.5%). The Cats committed 4 turnovers, one for each 8.5 possessions, and the Cats forced Duke into only 3 turnovers, one for each 11 possessions.

On the boards, the Cats won the battle 27-20, including 10-7 on the offensive glass. However, the Cats converted their 10 second chance opportunities into 6 second chance points while Duke used their 7 second chances to score 14 second chance points. The second chance points kept Duke in the game from the opening tip of the half.

Duke had an efficiency of 0.52 ppp on its 33 first chance possessions and 2.0 ppp on its 7 second chance possessions. Kentucky had an efficiency of 0.912 ppp on its 34 first chance possessions but only 0.6 ppp on its 10 second chance possessions. The Cats grabbed 43.5% of its misses and limited Duke to only 29.2% offensive rebounding rate in the first half.

Second Half:

The Cats start the second half failing to advance their lead when Jamal Murray misses a pair of free throw attempts. After Duke trims the lead to 3 points, 36-33 on a 3 pointer, the Cats use 4 straight Duke turnovers to get an 11-3 run to close out the first segment of the second half and lead by 11, 47-36, at the under 16 media timeout. In the second segment, the teams traded baskets as the Cats maintained the 11 to 9 point lead until Allen hit a 3 pointer from the corner, his first points of the game, to trim the lead to 8, 53-45 at the under 12 media timeout. Duke will have the ball after the break.

In the third segment, the Cats continue to maintain their lead, extending it to 13 points, 59-46, but Duke hit a 3 pointer the lead back to 10, 59-49. However, a bank shot by Tyler Ulis extended the lead back to 12, 61-49 at the under 8 media timeout. The Cats will have the ball when play resumes.

In the fourth segment, the Cats score to move up by 14, but Duke gets easy baskets off a pair of UK misses to trim the lead back to 10 points. After Isaiah Briscoe makes 1 of 2 free throws, Duke's Plumley also makes 1 of 2 to keep the Blue Devils within 10 points, 64-54 with 5:20 remaining in the game. Duke burns its second time out after the free throw by Plumley. After the timeout, the Cats extend their lead to a game high 16 points on a 3 pointer by Jamal Murray. Duke trims the lead back to 14, 71-57 at the under 4 media timeout, with Alex Poythress set for a pair of free throws after the timeout.

In the final segment, Alex Poythress misses the first of his free throws, but makes the second. However, after back to back turnovers, Duke trims the lead to 11 points, 72-61, and Coach Calipari takes a timeout with 1:47 remaining in the game. Cats win by 11, 74-63.


UK scored its 74 points in a total of 68 possessions for the game, and Duke scored its 63 points on a total of 67 possessions.

Kentucky and Duke each grabbed 39 rebounds, and Kentucky won the battle of the offensive boards 17-15. Kentucky used its 17 second chance possessions to score 14 second chance points, and DUKE used its 15 second chance possessions to score 23 second chance points. DUKE had an offensive efficiency of 0.597 ppp on its 67 first chance possessions and 1.533 ppp for its 15 second chance possessions. UK had 0.882 ppp on its 68 first chance possessions and 0.824 ppp on its 17 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a strong 41.5%of its misses as offensive rebounds while DUKE was able to convert a strong 40.5% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.

UK hit poorly from the free throw line in this game, making 11-18 [61.1%]. DUKE made 14-23 [60.9%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 30-67 overall [44.8%] and- 3-10 from long range [30.0%]. For DUKE, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a weak 17-41 [41.5%] and from long range, DUKE hit 5-13 [38.5%].

The Cats committed 9 turnovers, one for every 7.5 possessions. The Cats forced 16 DUKE turnovers, one for every 4.2 possessions.

Next Game On Schedule: Friday night in Rupp, the Cats will face Wright State in the fourth regular season game of the 2015-16 season.

Submitted by Richard Cheeks


Submitted by Richard Cheeks


To Cats Return To Rupp Unbeaten To Fine Tune Their Game

Go Back
To Cats Put NJIT Away by 30 In Preparation For Encounter with Duke

Go Back
To Analysis Home Page

Copyright 2014
SugarHill Communications of Kentucky
All Rights Reserved