BIG BLUE FANS FOR
2015-16 Season Analytical Writings
The Cats gave the good fight against Texas A&M on Saturday, falling to the Aggies 79-77 in OT. This game featured one of the most bizarre endings ever for a UK basketball game. However, the injury that Derek Willis sustained to his ankle is probably more important for this team than the bizarre ending that turned a likely win into the eventual loss. Most concede that Derek Willis' insertion into the starting lineup was the trigger that started the surge back into the SEC race and into the national championship conversation. Now Derek Willis is out of action. No one in a position to know is saying whether Derek Willis will be able to return to action before the end of this season.
So far this season, Tyler Ulis has played through a hyperextended elbow, and a bad turned ankle, Skal Labissiere has not been the player Coach Calipari expected and asked him to be, and Alex Poythress injured his knee. Other players have stepped up including Derek Willis and Isaac Humphries. Now the injury to Derek Willis presents Coach Calipari and his cohorts another challenge. “Next man up” has been the theme, and as recently as Monday evening on his radio call in show, Coach Calipari was repeating the theme. He suggests that Mychal Mulder or Charles Matthews will respond to the call.
The Cats will face Alabama at Rupp Arena on Tuesday before heading out for the last road trip of the season, a critical two game swing through Nashville (Vanderbilt) and Gainesville (Florida). The critical goal for Alabama, beyond protecting the home court with a win, will be to find the answer to this most recent challenge in time to have the rough edges sanded down by Saturday's encounter with the Commodores.
On Saturday morning, word around the program suggested that Alex Poythress may be able to return to action in time for the Vanderbilt game. Last night, Coach Calipari said Alex Poythress practiced on Sunday and Monday, in limited action, and it is possible Alex may be available for the Alabama game on Tuesday.
The Cats remained in first place in the SEC after Saturday's loss because LSU fell at Tennessee. However, with Kentucky's loss, the race tightened up considerably, with Texas A&M, LSU, and South Carolina all just one game back. LSU and Texas A&M hold the tie breaker against the Cats, while the Cats have the tie breaker against South Carolina. Texas A&M is not likely to experience another loss, and will probably finish 13-5. Therefore, to secure the #1 seed in the SEC Tournament, the Cats must win out over these final 4 games. One loss to either Vanderbilt or Florida will be sufficient to end in a tie for first with the Aggies and the #2 seed. The possible combinations of UK wins/losses and wins/losses by LSU, Florida, and South Carolina are too many to explore here, but suffice it to say the final standings in the SEC are far from determined if the Cats lose more than one more game down the stretch.
Alabama brings a 16-10, 7-7 SEC record into this encounter with the Cats. The Cats record now stands at 20-7, 10-4 in the SEC. Each team will be coming off a loss on Saturday. Alabama fell to Mississippi State by 6 in Tuscaloosa. In recent weeks, the However, that loss came on the heels of a five game winning streak that included consecutive wins over #21 Texas A&M by 1, at #36 Florida by 6, and at #66 LSU by 7. This Alabama team also can claim wins over #10 Wichita State by 4, #23 Notre Dame by 1, and #53 Clemson by 1.
ALABAMA has played its 26 games at an average tempo of about 68 possessions per game, scoring 67.6 ppg (0.993 ppp) and allowing an average 67.1 ppg (0.989 ppp). ALABAMA has turned the ball over on 20.4% of its possessions while forcing turnovers on 18.4% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, ALABAMA has secured an offensive rebounding rate of 28.8%, and a defensive rebounding rate of 66.7%. The Alabama schedule has a strength of schedule of 0.6976 (#18).
In contrast, the Cats have averaged about 70 possessions per game, producing 78.8 ppg (1.130 ppp) and allowing 67.5ppg (0.963 ppp). The Cats have committed turnovers on 16.9% of its possessions and forced turnovers on 18.4% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, the Cats' rebounding rates have been 38.0% and 68.4% on the offensive and defensive ends. The Cats have a strength of schedule of 0.6850 (#21).
Based on this distribution, the analysis tips in favor of the Cats with a theoretical margin of 16 points, 78-62 in a game played at a pace of 69 possessions for the Cats and 69 possessions for Alabama. Pomeroy figures the Game in Kentucky's favor by 11 points, 73-62 at a pace of 65 possessions. Vegas opened with the Cats a 12 1/2 point favorite, and the Cats have moved to -13 ½ overnight.
Derek Willis is out with an ankle injury, and Alex Poythress' status for tonight remains uncertain as game time approaches. Coach Calipari did say in the pregame interview that he did not know if Alex Poythress would start tonight, come off the bench tonight, or not play at all, and seemed to suggest that decision would be Alex Poythress'. Coach Calipari starts Isaiah Briscoe, Marcus Lee, Tyler Ulis, Jamal Murray, and Isaac Humphries will get the first start of his college career.
Marcus Lee controls the opening tip, and Tyler Ulis teams up with Jamal Murray for a back door layup and one to take an early 3-0 lead. Alabama answers with a 3 pointer. The teams trade baskets to a 7-5 Alabama lead when Alex Poythress enters the game and gets back to back baskets in the paint to give the Cats a 9-7 lead at the under 16 media timeout. After the timeout, ‘Bama made 1 of 2 free throws and Alex Poythress then makes 2 of 2 from the line. Isaac Humphries returns to the game giving Alex Poythress a rest after lifting the team with 6 of their first 11 points. Then Tyler Ulis hits back to back shots from inside the paint to extend the lead to 7 points, 15-8. Alabama takes a timeout with 14:00 remaining. Over the balance of the segment, each team only adds 2 points to their total, and the Cats lead 17-10 at the under 12 media timeout with 10:38 remaining in the first half.
In a short 3 rd segment, Alabama trimmed the lead to 2 points on a 3 pointer from the corner, 17-15. However, Marcus Lee got a dunk on an assist from Isaiah Briscoe, and Jamal Murray made a 3 pointer following an offensive rebound to lift the Cats back on top by 7, 22-15, at the under 8 media timeout. Alabama has only made 4 of 16 shots, including 2-4 from long range. However, they have lived early from the free throw line, making 5-6. In the 4 th segment, the Cats are the only team to score, but the Cats on add 2 points to their lead, extending the lead to 9 points, 24-15 at the under 4 media timeout. After the break, Tyler Ulis will have a pair of free throws.
Cats lead at the half by 12, 33-21.
Kentucky scored 33 points on 29 possessions (1.14 ppp) while ALABAMA scored 21 points on 29 possessions (0.72 ppp). The Cats shot poorly in the first half making 11-29 (37.9%) including 1-6 (16.7%) from long range. ALABAMA shot the ball very poorly, 6-23 overall (26.1%) which included 2-5 (40.0%) from long range. From the line, the Cats were 10-13 (76.9%) while ALABAMA was 7-8 (87.5%). The Cats committed 2 turnovers, one for each 14.5 possessions, and the Cats forced ALABAMA into 6 turnovers, one for each 4.8 possessions.
On the boards, the won the battle 22-16, including a 9-4 advantage on the offensive glass that resulted in a 6-3 advantage in second chance points. ALABAMA had an efficiency of 0.62 ppp on its 29 first chance possessions and 0.75 ppp on its 4 second chance possessions. Kentucky had an efficiency of 0.93 ppp on its 29 first chance possessions and 0.667 ppp on its nine second chance possession. The Cats grabbed 42.9% of its misses and ALABAMA grabbed 23.5% of its missed shots in the first half.
Alabama opens play in the second half with a trip to the line, making 1 of 2. The teams traded baskets and the teams ended the segment with the same margin they had at halftime, UK by 12, 41-29. There is 14:41 remaining at the under 16 media timeout, and after the timeout, Jamal Murray will have a pair of free throws. In the second segment, the Cats extend their lead back to a game high 16 points, 49-33, at the under 12 media timeout. After the timeout, Jamal Murray will have 3 free throws.
In the third segment, the Cats extended their lead to a game high 22 points, but Alabama trimmed it to 15, before Jamal Murray hit a deep 3 pointer to move the Cats back on top by 18, 61-43, at the under 8 media timeout. In a short 4 th segment, the Cats move on top by 24, 72-48 with 4:38 remaining in the game. Alabama takes a timeout.
Cats win 78-53.
UK scored its 78 points on 61 possessions for the game, and ALABAMA scored its 53 points on 62 possessions.
The Cats controlled the Boards, 41-29, and the Cats won the battle on the offensive glass 15-6. Kentucky used its 15 second chance possessions to score 10 second chance points, and ALABAMA used its 6 second chance possessions to score 5 second chance points. ALABAMA had an offensive efficiency of 0.774 ppp on its 62 first chance possessions and 0.833 ppp for its 6 second chance possessions. UK had 1.115 ppp on its 61 first chance possessions and 0.667 ppp on its 15 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 39.5% of its misses as offensive rebounds while ALABAMA was able to convert 18.8% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit well from the free throw line in this game, making 22-28 [78.6%]. ALABAMA made 13-18 [72.2%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 27-59 overall [45.8%] and 2-10 from long range [20.0%]. For ALABAMA, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a 11-33 [33.3%] and from long range, ALABAMA hit 6-15 [40.0%].
The Cats committed 4 turnovers, one for every 15.2 possessions. The Cats forced 12 ALABAMA turnovers, one for every 5.2 possessions.
Next Game On Schedule: Saturday Evening against Vanderbilt at Nashville at 4:00 PM in the 29 th regular season and 16 th SEC game of the 2015-16 season .
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
A Player's Contribution To Final Scoring Margin
Submitted by Richard Cheeks