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Last Friday evening, Coach Calipari emptied his bench in an impressive 103-61 domination of Thomas More in the Cats' first exhibition game. Last night, Coach Calipari emptied his bench again as the Cats disposed of D1 Opponent Morehead 92-67 in a rare 2 nd of 3 exhibition appearances. This Friday evening, Coach Calipari will lead his 2017-18 Cats into exhibition action for a 3 rd and final time against Centre College. As impressive as the first two contests against outside opponents were, I am confident that Coach Calipari has identified areas requiring work. I am equally confident that Coach Calipari will use practice sessions this week to shore up these areas, just as he has done over his first eight years at UK. Despite the apparent ease of these two exhibition wins, there are issues that Thomas More and Morehead exposed.
Against Thomas More, the 1.27 ppp offensive efficiency against Thomas More is only the sixth best in the nine first exhibition games, and the 0.80 ppp defensive efficiency is only the seventh best in Coach Calipari's nine years for the first exhibition game. The first exhibition performance yielded a game raw efficiency of 0.47 points per possession, which is only the seventh highest in all nine of Coach Calipari's tenure at UK in the first exhibition game. This reflects the very youthful composition of the 2017-18 squad, and highlights the warnings that Coach Calipari has been issuing on an almost daily basis this fall. This team appears to be lagging behind the development of the majority of Coach Calipari's UK teams.
Against Morehead, a rare D1 opponent for an exhibition game, the Eagles managed to expose the Cats in two very important areas. First, Morehead out rebounded the Cats 30-25, and the Eagles won the battle of the offensive glass 14-11. Second, Morehead may have exposed an inadequate perimeter defense, even this early in a season, as the Eagles managed to seemingly score at will from the perimeter, making 10-21 shots, accounting for 30 of their 67 points.
With Jarred Vanderbilt and Jemarl Baker out nursing injuries, Coach Calipari has fewer players at his disposal than he planned to have. Reports emerged last night that Jemarl Baker is out for at least 3 months, placing is functional availability for this season at least into question. However, recent news pertaining to Jarred Vanderbilt's injury has been more encouraging than initial reports, and Coach Calipari indicated last night that Jarred Vanderbilt will begin conditioning to return to action sooner than first thought. However, this encouraging news was tempered with a warning from Coach Calipari when he said “then we will see” about his status.
This Friday evening, Coach Calipari will send his team back into Rupp Arena for the third, and last exhibition, this time against Centre College for the last tune-up before beginning the 2017-18 basketball season against Utah Valley on November 10, 2017. I am confident that the Cats will again entertain us with a lopsided victory. However, I hope to see a stronger performance by these Cats against Centre (as compared to the previous eight second exhibition games) than the Cats posted against Thomas More.
Over the past 8 seasons, the Cats have averaged a 63 point victory over its second exhibition opponent (115-52) a statistically significant improvement over the average 43 point average margin (98-55) in the first exhibition opponents. This year's 42 point margin in the first exhibition was on par with the average margin for the first exhibition games. Based on the exhibition history and the Centre College statistical profile from 2016-17, the analysis indicates a 46 point margin, 107-61.
Coach Calipari moves into the third exhibition game against Morehead with a starting lineup that includes 4 freshmen and one sophomore, Quade Green, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PJ Washington, Kevin Knox, and Wenyen Gabriel. Jarred Vanderbilt, and Jemarl Baker are all out of action for this game due to various injuries. Hamidou Diallo, Sacha Killeya-Jones, Nick Richards, and Tai Wynyard will come off the bench.
Kentucky controls the opening tip, and and Quade Green makes a 3 pointer. The Cats move on top 5-0 before Centre scores its first basket. At the under 16 media timeout, the Cats lead by 7, 13-7. In the second segment, the Cats extend their lead to 23-10 at the under 12 media timeout. In the third segment, Centre uses a pair of 3 pointers to cut the Kentucky lead to 6 points, 28-22. The Cats score the last four points of the segment to lead by 10, 32-22, at the under 8 media timeout with 7:13 remaining in the first half. In the fourth segment, the Cats reassert their control in this game by outscoring Centre 10-2 to move on top by 18 points, 42-24 at the under 4 media timeout with 3:17 remaining in the first half. The Cats close out the first half by outscoring Centre 10-0 over the final 3+ minutes to lead by 28, 52-24 at the half.
Over the last 7+ minutes, the Cats outscored Centre 24-2.
The Cats scored 52 points on 37 possessions, 1.405 points per possession, and Centre managed their 24 points on 36 possessions, 0.667 ppp. The Cats made 61.3% of their first half shots, and 4 of 8 (50.0%) from outside the arc. Centre shot poorly, 9-30 (30.0%) in the first half, and managed to make 2 of 13 shots from long range (15.4%) and 7-17 from inside the arc.
The Cats made 10-15 free throws (66.7%) and Centre managed to make 4-4 free throws.
On the Boards, the Cats controlled the glass 27-9 overall, and the Cats had a 8-2 advantage on the offensive glass. The Cats secured 53.3% of their misses and Centre grabbed 9.5% of their misses as second chance opportunities. The Cats committed 6 turnovers, one for each 6.2 possessions while Centre committed 6 turnovers, one for each 6.0 possessions.
Centre opens play in the second half, and scores on a second chance possession. Centre battles the Cats through the opening segment, and trim the lead to 25, 59-34, at the under 16 media timeout. When play resumes, the Cats sprint out to a 29 point lead, 65-36, and Centre takes a timeout with 14:14 remaining. After the timeout, the teams trade baskets until the Cats get back to back scores to move on top by 31, and Centre takes another timeout with 12:05 remaining and the score 72-41. After extending the lead to 35 points, Centre scores 5 straight, and the overall play by the Cats turns very sloppy, prompting Coach Calipari to take a timeout with 8:18 remaining, the lead at 30 points, 79-49. In the fourth segment, the Cats move on top by 40, 96-56 at the under 4 media timeout with 3:15 remaining in the game. It's Calipari time with the Cats on top 99-61 and 2:33 remaining in the game. Cats win 106-63.
UK scored its 106 points in a total of 75 possessions (1.413 ppp) for the game, and Centre scored its 63 points on a total of 75 possessions (0.840 ppp).
Kentucky won the battle of the boards with a rebounding edge 52-17, and the Cats won the battle of the offensive glass 20-5. Kentucky used its 20 second chance possessions to score 28 second chance points, winning the second chance points battle 28-7. Centre had an offensive efficiency of 0.747 ppp on its 75 first chance possessions and 1.400 ppp for its 5 second chance possessions. UK had 1.040 ppp on its 75 first chance possessions and 1.400 ppp on its 20 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a strong 62.5% of its misses as offensive rebounds while Centre was able to convert a weak 13.5% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit poorly from the free throw line in this game, making 18-29 [62.1%]. Centre made 9-11 [81.8%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 40-65 overall [61.5%] and 8-14 from long range [57.1%]. For Centre, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 15-33 [45.5%] and from long range, Centre hit 8-27 [29.6%].
The Cats committed 15 turnovers, one for every 5.0 possessions. The Cats forced 15 Centre turnovers, one for every 5.0 possessions.
Next Game On Schedule: Friday night, again at Rupp Arena, the Cats will take on Utah Valley University in the first regular season game of the 2017-18 season
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks