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The three exhibition games, two against NCAA Division II opponents Thomas More and Centre Colleges, and D1 opponent Morehead are in the books. While the Cats took care of business posting wins of 42 and 43 against the two colleges, and 25 against Morehead, in each case the final margins fell 3 to 5 points short of the margins projected by pre-game ANE analysis. Further, this group did not demonstrate the level of improvement between the first and last exhibition games that previous Coach Calipari teams have shown us. Nevertheless, the Cats scored over 100 points in each of the D III games for the fourth consecutive pre-season.
The Cats do leave this exhibition season with one game's experience against a real D1 opponent, so when Mark Pope brings his Utah Valley University team into Rupp Arena on Friday night, these young Cats will have a better idea about how the D1 game differs from the D III opposition. Over their last 4 seasons, the Wolverines had one winning season (20-12 in 2013-14), two losing seasons (11-19 in 2014-15, 12-18 in 2015-16) and one break even season (17-17) last year. Former UK player, Mark Pope, is starting his third season as head coach of the Wolverines. Expectations surrounding the Wolverine program is for a winning record in 2017-18.
The 2016-17 season was strong enough to place Utah Valley in the middle of the Western Athletic Conference, headed by Cal. St. Bakersfield, New Mexico State, and Grand Canyon. In addition, Utah Valley earned a post season berth for the first time since their NIT appearance following the 2013-14 season. The Wolverines' offensive efficiency last season was only 1.01 ppp (240 th ) but Mark Pope's team had a better defense, 0.997 ppp (75 th ). Their most impressive win was by 13 points at #80 BYU. Their most inexplicable defeat came at the hands of #335 Chicago State at home by 9 points.
There are 16 players on the current roster, and all but three of these players have a previous school affiliation, suggesting Coach Pope has been actively working to shore up his roster with transfers from the likes of BYU, Xavier, Oklahoma, Kent State, and other locations. From last year's roster, the Wolverines lost guards Poydras, Young, and forward Bastien who collectively averaged 19.5 ppg and 7.0 rebounds per game, to graduation. In addition, Redshirt Freshman Davenport, Freshman Stutzman, and Freshman Yan from last season do not appear on the current roster. Eight new players supplement the eight returning players on the roster for this season. The roster includes three centers, 6-11 to 7-0 feet, 3 forwards, 6-6 to 6-11 feet, and ten guards, 6-2 to 6-7 feet.
The Adjusted Net Efficiency (ANE) analysis for this match up, based on pre-season estimates derived from each team's recent history, indicates a game played at a pace of 79 possessions, with the Cats winning by 27 points, 93-65. Pomeroy sees this game with UK having a 25-point advantage, 92-67 played at a pace of 77 to 78 possessions.
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Coach Calipari opens the season with Kevin Knox, PJ Washington, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Hamidou Diallo, and Nick Richards in the starting lineup. Sacha Killeya-Jones, Wenyen Gabriel, Quade Green, and Tai Wynyard will provide the primary bench help. Jarred Vanderbilt remains unavailable as the season opens.
So, the Cats are ready to open the 2017-18 basketball season in pursuit of #9 against Mark Pope's Second Chance U Wolverines.
The Cats control the opening tip, and Nick Richards scores in the lane. However, UVU scores just as quickly, and following a turnover on the Cats' second possession, UVU moves on top with a pair of free throws. The Cats catch up at 4-4, but UVU moves on top very quickly on their next possession, and maintain that lead, 6-4, at the under 16 media timeout. In the second segment, the Cats caught up at 10-10, but UVU scored the last 4 points of the segment to extend their lead to 4 points, 14-10, at the under 12 media timeout.
After the timeout, the Cats get a put back basket and one, but the Cats missed the free throw. After UVU answered to go up 16-12, and 18-14, Hamidou Diallo makes a 3 pointer, and then gets a fast break layup to give the Cats their second lead of the game. Coach Pope takes a quick timeout with 8:50 remaining, and the teams get to the under 8 media timeout with the score remaining 19-18 with 7:38 remaining. The Cats scored the next 4 points after the break to move on top by 5, 23-18, but UVU scored the last 9 points of the segment to lead by 4, 27-23, at the under 4 media timeout.
After the timeout, the Wolverines continue their 9-0 run, and extend it to a 16-2 run to lead 34-25. Coach Calipari takes a timeout to calm his freshmen in the face of the UVU attack. The Cats have not scored a basket for over 6 minutes, and are only shooting 28% in the half. Neither team can manage another score after the timeout, and the Cats trail by 9, 34-25, at the half.
The Cats scored 25 points on 36 possessions, 0.694 points per possession, and Utah Valley University managed their 34 points on 33 possessions, 1.030 ppp. The Cats made 21.9% of their first half shots, including 2-8 from outside the arc. Utah Valley University managed to make 40.0% of their first half shots, including 2-8 from outside the arc.
The Cats made 9-11 free throws (81.8%) and Utah Valley University managed to make 8-8 free throws (100.0%).
On the Boards, the Wolverines controlled the glass 25-17 overall, and UVU won the battle on the offensive glass 9-8. The Wolverines used its second chance possessions to outscore the Cats 6-2 on second chance points. The Cats secured 33.3% of their misses and allowed Utah Valley University to grab 50.0% of their misses as second chance opportunities.
The open the second half with a dry trip despite getting a second chance at the basket, and UVU gets a 3 point play on their first possession to move on top by 12 points. The Cats answer with 7 straight points with a 3 pointer and a dunk by Kevin Knox, and a steal and layup by Hamidou Diallo to trim the lead from 12 to 5 points. Coach Pope takes another timeout. After the timeout, the Cats get 4 more points, off turnovers to cut the lead to 1 point. The Cats take the lead on their second 3 pointer, this one by Wenyen Gabriel,of the second half, and Wenyen Gabriel extends the Cats' lead to 6, 43-37, with a jump hook in the lane. Coach Pope calls his third timeout with 15:30 remaining in the game.
At the under 4 media timeout, the Cats are holding to an 11 point lead, 63-52, and UVU has the ball. Cats win 73-63.
UK scored its 73 points in a total of 73 possessions (1.000 ppp) for the game, and Utah Valley University scored its 63 points on a total of 70 possessions 0.900 ppp).
UVU won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 39-38, but Kentucky won the battle of the offensive glass 18-16. Kentucky used its 18 second chance possessions to score 10 second chance points, and Utah Valley University used its 16 second chance possessions to score 8 second chance points. Utah Valley University had an offensive efficiency of 0.786 ppp on its 70 first chance possessions and 0.500 ppp for its 16 second chance possessions. UK had 0.863 ppp on its 73 first chance possessions and 0.556 ppp on its 18 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 43.9%of its misses as offensive rebounds while Utah Valley University was able to convert a strong 44.4% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit poorly from the free throw line in this game, making 16-23 [69.6%]. Utah Valley University made 12-18 [66.7%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 26-66 overall [39.4%] and 5-15 from long range [33.3%]. For Utah Valley University, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a strong 18-38 [47.4%] and from long range, Utah Valley University hit 5-18 [27.8%].
The Cats committed 14 turnovers, one for every 5.2 possessions. The Cats forced 20 Utah Valley University turnovers, one for every 3.5 possessions.
Next Game On Schedule: Sunday afternoon, again at Rupp Arena, the Cats will take on Vermont in the second regular season game of the 2017-18 season.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks