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2015-16 Season Analytical Writings
On Saturday night, the Kentucky Wildcats defeated a strong Arkansas Razorbacks team by 26 points to advance their SEC start to 3-0. However, as Vesper Lind pointed out to James Bond, there are 3-0 starts and there are 3-0 starts, and this is the latter. The Cats have opened their 2017 SEC season with wins of 23, 42, and 26 points. Tom Leach, near the end of the game on Saturday said he had quickly checked the records for the last time any UK team opened SEC play with three 20+ wins, and indicated it may have occurred at some time in the 1950s.
It is appropriate to document rare achievements of UK teams when they occur. On first blush, it appears that the Cats opened their 1956 SEC season in this manner with wins of 53 over Georgia Tech, 22 over Tulane, and 42 over LSU, all at Memorial Coliseum. However, the Cats opened their season on December 4, 1955 at LSU with a 10 point win. Therefore, 1955-56 is not such a start. The 1955 Cats did not start this way. Neither did the teams in the seasons of 1957 through 2016. However, it is notable that Dan Issel's 1969-70 team fell 1 point short of this accomplishment, beating Mississippi by 22, Mississippi State by 45, and at Florida by 19. In addition, two Pitino teams had similar starts in 1994-95 and 1995-96 in which his Cats fell short in 1995 by only winning at Florida by 16 in their third game and in 1996 by only winning at Mississippi State by 18.
Therefore, no Cats team has achieved what this team has done in its first 3 SEC games in any of the last 51 seasons. In 1953-54, the Cats posted their only undefeated season, 24-0. The UK history buffs all know that this team was a powerhouse that the NCAA found a “rule” to prohibit it from winning another NCAA title. That team opened its SEC season with wins over Georgia Tech by 52, Tulane by 51, and at Tennessee by 26. That team continued its rampage through the SEC with wins of 22 at Vanderbilt, 51 at Georgia Tech, 51 against Georgia, 32 at Georgia, 41 at Florida, 26 against Mississippi, 27 against Tennessee, 36 against Vanderbilt, 30 at Auburn, 25 at Alabama, and by only 13 points against LSU. By my count, that is 12 consecutive SEC games won by 20 or more points. What a team the Hagan, Ramsey, Tsioropoulos group were!!!!
The Cats did not play a schedule in 1953 due to a NCAA death penalty. For the record, no UK team from 1952 back to 1942 achieved this strong SEC start either.
Can these Cats continue winning by 20 or more points like the 1953-54 team did, or will its march through the 2017 SEC field in a somewhat less dominating manner? These Cats will have their next opportunity to put their fingerprints on UK basketball history and lore on Tuesday night when they take on Vanderbilt in Nashville.
VANDERBILT enters the game with a 8-7; 2-1 record. The Commodores lost games to #38 Marquette by 24 (Neutral), to #97 Bucknell by 3, to #15 Butler by 10 (Neutral), to #31 Minnesota by 4 (Neutral), at #58 Middle Tennessee by 23, at #34 Dayton by 3, and at #70 Alabama by 3. The Commodores' most impressive win this season has been over #59 Chattanooga by 2 in Nashville. Vanderbilt enters this game with an ANE of 0.115 points per possession against a strength of schedule of 0.0609 ppp (#25). The Cats enter this game with an ANE of 0.343 ppp against a strength of schedule of 0.0431 ppp (#51). The ANE analysis indicates a Kentucky win by 12 points, 81-69 at apace of 73 possessions. This would produce game efficiencies of 1.102 ppp and 0.939 ppp. Pomeroy sees this game in Kentucky's favor by 11 points, 85-74 at a pace of 73 possessions.
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Coach Calipari starts Edrice (BAM) Adebayo, De'Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Isaiah Briscoe, and Wenyen Gabriel.
Vanderbilt controls the opening tip and after running the shot clock down to the 5 seconds, miss a 3 pointer. The Cats move on top 9-0, but Malik Monk commits 2 early fouls and goes to the bench with 16:54 remaining. Right after, De'Aaron Fox commits his second foul with 16:43 and goes to the bench. With Malik Monk and De'Aaron Fox both out of action, the Commodores charge back into the game, pulling to within 1 point at 12-11, and at the under 16 media timeout, with 13:50 remaining, the Cats hold a 3 point lead, 15-12. In this opening 6 minutes, the Cats have made 7 or 9 shots, while Vandy has made 4-8, but Vandy also has made 3-3 from the free throw line while the Cats have not had a free throw yet.
When play resumes, Dominique Hawkins commits his second foul, and the team's 7 th foul, sending Vanderbilt into the bonus with 13:38 remaining. Vandy made both free throws, and a Vandy 3 pointer following an empty trip by the Cats lifts the Commodores to a 2 point lead, 17-15 at the under 12 media timeout. In the segment, the Cats missed all five of their shots and Vandy made 1 of 2 shots, the aforementioned 3 pointer. In the third segment, Coach Calipari sent Malik Monk and then De'Aaron Fox back into the game, each carrying two fouls, and the Cats' offense responded with a 10-2 run, including the last 8 points to move on top by 6, 25-19 with 8:50 remaining. Vandy takes a timeout. After the timeout, Vandy charges back into the game, outscoring the Cats 6-2 prior to the under 8 media timeout with the Cats clinging to a 2-point lead, 27-25, and Vandy will have a free throw to complete a 3 point play after the timeout.
In the fourth segment, the Cats move back on top by 6, 37-31, but Vandy hits a 3 pointer, and is fouled on their next possession to take the game to the under 4 media timeout with 2:17 remaining and the Cats up by 3, 37-34. However, Vandy will have a pair of free throws after this timeout. Cats lead by 4, 45-41 at the half.
The Cats scored 45 points on 36 possessions, 1.250 points per possession, and VANDERBILT managed their 41 points on 36 possessions, 1.139 ppp. The Cats made 52.9% (18-34) of their first half shots, including 1-5 (20.0%) from outside the arc. VANDERBILT managed to make 42.9% (12-28) of their first half shots, including 4-15 (26.7%) from outside the arc.
The Cats made 8-10 free throws (80.0%) and VANDERBILT made 13-17 (76.5%) in the first half.
The Cats committed 2 turnovers while forcing VANDERBILT to commit 4.
On the Boards, the Cats outrebounded the Commodores 19-15 in the first half, and the Cats had a 6-3 advantage on offensive rebounds. The Cats used its 6 second chance possessions to score 3 second chance point while Vandy used its 3 second chance possessions to score 2 points. The Cats secured 33.3% of their misses and allowed VANDERBILT to grab 18.8% of their misses as second chance opportunities.
The Cats open the second half with the starting five. The Cats start slow in the second half, and Vanderbilt moves back on top by 2 points, 53-51. However, the Cats respond with 6 straight points to move on top by 4, 57-53 at the under 16 media timeout with 15:37 remaining in the game. In the second segment, the Cats continue to build a lead, moving on top by 7 points, 62-55, at the under 12 media timeout. However, Vandy will have a pair of free throws after the break.
After making 1 of the 2 shots, Coach Calipari takes a timeout when Wenyen Gabriel fell to the floor under the Kentucky basket with the ball to protect the possession with 11:29 remaining. In the third segment, the teams move up and down the court 9 times, and the Commodores outscored the Cats 9-7 to trim the lead to 5, 69-64. Coach Calipari called a timeout with 6:54 remaining and the Cats in possession of the ball. In the fourth segment the game continues in the 3 to 5 point margin range, and at the under 4 media timeout, with 3:05 remaining, the lead stands at 5, 75-70, with Vandy scheduled to shoot free throws after the timeout.
After the timeout, Vandy makes both free throws to trim the lead back to 3 points. After Isaiah Briscoe makes a second chance basket, Vanderbilt hits a 3 pointer to trim the lead to 2 points. Isaiah Briscoe then gets another second chance basket to give the Cats a 4 point lead, 79-75 and Vandy takes a timeout with 1:52 remaining. Vandy hits another 3 pointer to trim the lead to 1 point. De'Aaron Fox scores from the baseline for a 3 point lead. Malik Monk hits a jumpshot from the elbow to give the Cats another 4 point lead following Vandy making 1 of 2 from the line. On the next possession, Vanderbilt gets a second chance basket to trim the lead to 2 points, and Vanderbilt takes their last timeout with 17.9 seconds remaining.
On the inbounds play, Vanderbilt fouls Malik Monk with 17.0 seconds remaining, sending Malik Monk to the line for the bonus. After Malik Monk makes both free throws, Coach Calipari uses his last timeout. Cats win 87-81.
No Calipari time in this game.
UK scored its 87 points on 75 possessions (1.160 ppp) for the game, and VANDERBILT scored its 81 points on 74 possessions (1.095 ppp).
Kentucky won the battle of the boards 40-34, and Kentucky won the battle of the offensive glass 10-5. Kentucky used its 10 second chance possessions to score 9 second chance points, and VANDERBILT used its 5 second chance possessions to score 4 second chance points. VANDERBILT had an offensive efficiency of 1.041 ppp on its 74 first chance possessions and 0.800 ppp for its 5 second chance possessions. UK had 1.040 ppp on its 75 first chance possessions and 0.900 ppp on its 10 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 25.6% of its misses as offensive rebounds while VANDERBILT was able to convert 14.3% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit well from the free throw line in this game, making 18-24 [75.0%]. VANDERBILT made 23-32 [71.9%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 34-67 overall [50.7%] and 1-9 from long range [11.1%]. For VANDERBILT , their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 17-29 [58.6%] and from long range, VANDERBILT hit 8-29 [27.6%].
The Cats committed 6 turnovers, one for every 12.5 possessions. The Cats forced 7 VANDERBILT turnovers, one for every 10.6 possessions.
Next Game On Schedule: Saturday afternoon, January 14, 2017 at 4:00 pm at Rupp Arena against Auburn in the 17 th regular season game and 5 th SEC game of the 2016-17 season.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks