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For many years, the NCAA has allowed teams to play up to 2 exhibition games against opponents from lower divisions of the NCAA or NAIA basketball. However, in an effort to raise disaster relief funds, the NCAA has made an exception for the 2017 exhibition season, allowing a third exhibition against a D1 opponent. Kentucky and Morehead have agreed to play for this purpose, and will do so on Monday, October 30 at Rupp Arena.
Over the past 8 seasons, the Cats have averaged a 42-point victory over its first exhibition opponent (97-55). In the 2017 opening exhibition game, Coach Calipari's young Cats handled their first test against a real opponent with some rough edges in route to another 42-point win, 103-62. Coach Calipari started five freshmen in this opening game. The roughest edges appeared in the form of multiple turnovers and a propensity toward fouling. Some of the more impressive aspects of the Cats' opening performance include a 60% offensive rebounding rate, and 73% from the free throw line.
For those same previous eight (8) seasons, the Cats have improved between their first and second exhibition games to a 63 point average margin (115-52). This improvement that Coach Calipari's teams have demonstrated over the last 8 seasons between the first and second exhibition games has been reliable and substantial. It is unclear how the bonus exhibition game, only 3 days after tonight's game, will affect the team's climb up the traditional learning curve. These exhibition games are about effort and improvement. The measuring sticks are the margins of victory and the degree of improvement between the first and second starts, and this year between the second and third starts.
Unlike prior seasons, the introduction of a D1 opponent into the exhibition game mix will be interesting to be sure. Based on how Morehead performed in the 2016-17 season, the ANE analysis projects a 28-point margin, 90-62.
Coach Calipari moves into the second exhibition game against Morehead with a starting lineup that includes 5 freshmen, Hamidou Diallo, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PJ Washington, Kevin Knox, and Nick Richards. Tai Wynyard, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Jemarl Baker are all out of action for this game due to various injuries.
Kentucky controls the opening tip, and misses its first shot attempt. Morehead wastes no time getting into the scoring column with a 3 pointer. The Cats answer with a 3 pointer if its own, and after Morehead eases back on top with a pair of free throws, the Cats score the next 7 to lead 10-5 at the under 16 media timeout. In the second segment, each team scored 6 points as the Cats maintained their 5 point lead, 16-11 at the under 12 media timeout.
In the third segment, Morehead trimmed the UK lead to 2 points, 18-16, but the Cats scored the next 7 points to extend their lead to 9 points, 25-16, at the under 8 media timeout. The Cats will have their first free throw opportunities after the timeout. After the timeout, the Cats continued their run to a 13-point lead, 29-16. However, Morehead made back to back baskets to trim the lead to 9 points, and Coach Calipari takes a timeout with 5:20 remaining in the first half. At the under 4 media timeout, the Cats lead by 12, 32-20. The Cats lead by 11, 39-28, at the half.
The Cats scored 39 points on 34 possessions, 1.147 points per possession, and Morehead managed their 28 points on 33 possessions, 0.848 ppp. The Cats made 46.7% of their first half shots, and 3 of 10 from outside the arc. Morehead shot very well, 10-18 (55.6%) in the first half, and managed to make 3 of 5 shots from long range (60.0%) and 7-13 from inside the arc.
The Cats made 8-9 free throws (88.9%) and Morehead managed to make 5-8 free throws.
On the Boards, the Eagles controlled the glass 15-10 overall, and the Cats had a 7-6 advantage on the offensive glass. The Cats secured 43.8% of their misses and Morehead grabbed 66.7% of their misses as second chance opportunities. The Cats committed 7 turnovers, one for each 4.9 possessions while Morehead committed 17 turnovers, one for each 1.9 possessions.
Morehead opens play in the second half, and battle to within 6 points, 40-34. The Cats managed to outscore the Eagles 5-4 over the balance of the segment to lead by 7, 45-38, at the under 16 media timeout. In the second segment, Morehead trimmed the lead to 2 points, 51-49, and the Cats have possession protecting a 3 point lead, 54-51, at the under 12 media timeout. In the third segment, the Cats scored the first 12 points to extend their lead to 15 points, 66-51 before Morehead stopped the Wildcat run with a 3 pointer, trimming the lead to 12 at the under 8 media timeout. After the timeout, the Cats will have a pair of free throws. In the fourth segment, the Cats extend their lead to a game high 19 points, 79-60. Morehead hits their 10 th 3 pointer of the game to trim the lead to 16 points, 79-63 at the under 4 media timeout. Cats win 92-67.
UK scored its 92 points in a total of 69 possessions (1.333 ppp) for the game, and Morehead scored its 67 points on a total of 69 possessions (0.971 ppp).
Morehead won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 30-25, and the Eagles won the battle of the offensive glass 14-11. Kentucky used its 11 second chance possessions to score 20 second chance points, winning the second chance points battle 20-12. Morehead had an offensive efficiency of 0.797 ppp on its 69 first chance possessions and 0.857 ppp for its 14 second chance possessions. UK had 1.043 ppp on its 69 first chance possessions and 1.818 ppp on its 11 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a strong 39.3%of its misses as offensive rebounds while Morehead was able to convert a very strong 51.9% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit very well from the free throw line in this game, making 26-32 [81.3%]. Morehead made 9-16 [56.3%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 30-55 overall [54.5%] and 6-16 from long range [37.5%]. For Morehead, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a strong 14-28 [50.0%] and from long range, Morehead hit an incredible 10-21 [47.6%].
The Cats committed 11 turnovers, one for every 6.3 possessions. The Cats forced 26 Morehead turnovers, one for every 2.6 possessions.
Next Game On Schedule: Friday night, again at Rupp Arena, the Cats will take on Centre College in the third and final exhibition game of the 2017-18 season
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks