BIG BLUE FANS FOR
As the three exhibition games had warned, the current version of Calipari's Cats are lagging behind their counterparts from the last 8 years in the early going. Last night, the Cats fought from behind to post a 10-point victory over Mark Pope's Utah Valley Wolverines, but the final 10-point margin is somewhat deceiving because within a minute into the second half, the Cats found themselves trailing Pope's Second Chance chargers by 12 points, 37-25. Coach Calipari then directed his team to use a 2-3 zone defense, a move that Coach Calipari publicly loathes.
The 2-3 zone paid large and immediate dividends as the data shown in the following Table illustrates. From 19:26 in the second half to 15:37 in the second half, the Cats turned that 12-point deficit into a 6 point lead with a 18-0 run. During that run of 9 possessions, the Cats were 8-8 including 2-2 from the 3 point arc with 1 turnover. The Wolverines missed 3 shots from the floor, both free three attempts, and committed 5 turnovers. If the statistics from this 4-minute segment of the game are removed from the final game statistics, the Cats were in huge trouble against Utah Valley, as also shown in the bottom three rows of the same Table.
The final 15:37, the teams fought on nearly equal terms with the Cats outscoring the Wolverines 30-26, not exactly overwhelming a lesser opponent who was supposed to surrender in the face of the 18-0 onslaught!!! Rather, Coach Pope appears to have used a pair of timeouts during the run to instruct his second chance troops about how to attack the Cats' 2-3 zone, and his players were quick studies.
Oh what difference a little experience with real games can make in how one can or should view game outcomes. During the second exhibition against Morehead, this team found itself in a battle, leading only by 2 points midway through the second half. Yes, the Cats did “turn it on” and win the game by over 20 points, but last night Morehead lost its season opener at Xavier by 52 points, 101-49. This UK team has major issues it must resolve if it is going to be competitive in the SEC this season, let alone compete for a national championship in a serious manner. Furthermore, there is little time early in this schedule for practice between games, and tomorrow afternoon, the Cats must take to the Rupp Arena court again, this time to face Vermont in its season opener.
The 2016-17 season was strong enough to place Vermont at the top of the American East Conference with a 29-6 overall record, and 16-0 in the AEC. Vermont also won the AEC post season tournament before losing to #19 Purdue in the NCAA first round by 10 points. In addition, Vermont has established itself as having winning records in each of the last 4 seasons (22-11 in 2014; 20-14 in 2015; 23-14 in 2016; and 29-6 in 2017). The Catamounts' offensive efficiency last season was 1.11 ppp (62 nd ) and its defense was 0.994 (73 rd ). Their most impressive win was by 11 points at #112 Harvard. Their most inexplicable defeat came at the hands of #159 Northeastern at home by 2 points. Vermont was a very consistent and sound basketball team in 2017.
There are 16 players on the current roster, and 12 of these players return from last season's team. Vermont also played three exhibition games this season, handling Concordia by 28, 92-64, Saint Michaels's by 49, 102-53, and D1 Boston University by 19, 87-66. For the record, Boston University opened its season last night with a 6 point loss to #140 Northeastern, and has a Pomeroy early season rating of #234 this morning as compared to Morehead's #270.
The Adjusted Net Efficiency (ANE) analysis for this match up, based on pre-season estimates derived from Vermont's recent history, and Kentucky's win over Utah Valley indicates a game played at a pace of 74 possessions, with the Cats winning by 7 points, 77-70. Pomeroy sees this game with UK having a 16-point advantage, 82-66 played at a pace of 71 possessions.
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Coach Calipari opens second game of the season with Nick Richards, Kevin Knox, PJ Washington, Quade Green, and Hamidou Diallo in the starting lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Sacha Killeya-Jones, Wenyen Gabriel, , and Tai Wynyard will provide the primary bench help. Jarred Vanderbilt remains unavailable as the season opens.
The Cats control the opening tip, and the Cats fail to get a shot off before the shot clock expired. Vermont scores easily on a drive into the lane. The Cats miss a 3 pointer. The Cats take their first lead at 3-2, and move on top by 7, 11-4, at the under 4 media timeout with only 14:10 remaining in the first half. After the Cats moved ahead by 9, 13-4, the Catamounts scored the next 9 points to tie the score, 13-13. The Cats got a basket from Wenyen Gabriel to move back on top by 2 at the under 12 media timeout with only 9:22 remaining in the first half.
In an abbreviated segment, Vermont moves back into a 1 point lead with a 3 pointer, but the Cats respond with back to back baskets to lead by 3 points, 19-16 at the under 8 media timeout, with 7:35 remaining. In the fourth segment, the Cats extend their lead to 8 points, 28-20, at the under 4 media timeout.
In the final segment, the Cats move on top 36-24 with 1:11 remaining on the Cats' first second chance basket and their first 3 pointer of the game. Vermont takes a timeout. Neither team scores over the final minute and the Cats take a 12 point lead, 36-24, to the locker room.
The Cats scored 36 points on 36 possessions, 1.000 points per possession, and Vermont University managed their 24 points on 36 possessions, 0.667 ppp. The Cats made 45.2% of their first half shots, including 1-5 from outside the arc. Vermont University managed to make 31.3% of their first half shots, including 3-13 from outside the arc.
The Cats made 7-9 free throws (77.8%) and Vermont University managed to make 1-2 free throws (50.0%).
On the Boards, the Cats controlled the glass 21-15 overall, and Kentucky won the battle on the offensive glass 3-2. Each team got 2 second chance points. The Cats secured 18.8% of their misses and allowed Vermont University to grab 10.0% of their misses as second chance opportunities.
The Cats open the second half with a basket to move on top by a game high 14 points. The teams play on even terms to 47-33 when Vermont takes a timeout with 16:27 remaining in the game. After the timeout, Vermont scores 5 unanswered points, and Coach Calipari takes a timeout with 15:32 remaining and the lead now in single digits, 47-38. In the second segment, the teams battled back and forth with the lead moving between 9 and 11 points. At the under 12 media timeout, the Cats lead by 11, 57-46.
In the first 8 minutes of the second half, Vermont has made 6-6 from inside the arc, 3-5 from outside the arc, and 1-2 from the line. That is 9-11 from the floor. The Kentucky defense has been matador style as the Catsmounts' guard find their way through the lane to the basket. In the third segment, the Catamounts trimmed the lead to 7 points and trail by 9 at the under 8 media timeout. However, Vermont will be shooting the bonus from the line after this timeout.
In the fourth segment, Vermont trims the UK lead to only 4 points, 65-61, and the Cats are clinging to a 6 point lead, 69-63, at the under 4 media timeout with 3:59 remaining and Vermont in possession. After the break, Vermont makes its 9 th 3 pointer of the game to cut the lead to only 3 points. Kevin Knox answers with a 3 pointer from the left corner. Vermont's 10 th 3 pointer cuts the lead back to 3 points. The Cats turn it over, and Vermont has the ball with 1:23 to play, down 3. Vermont takes a timeout.
After each team missed on 3 point attempts, the Catamounts get the ball with 42 seconds remaining. Vermont goes to the line for a pair of free throws with 28.7 remaining, and misses them both, but the Cats fail to secure the rebound. Vermont calls a timeout with 17 seconds left. When Vermont sets up for their in bounds play, Coach Calipari takes a timeout. Vermont misses a 3 point shot, and the ball goes out of bounds with 5 seconds remaining. The officials are looking at the monitor to determine which player touched the ball last before going out of bounds. The officials award possession to Vermont with 5 seconds, under their basket. Another miss, and PJ Washington is fouled on the rebound with 0.4 seconds left. PJ Washington makes 1 of 2 and the Cats win 73-69.
UK scored its 73 points in a total of 68 possessions (1.074 ppp) for the game, and Vermont University scored its 69 points on a total of 65 possessions (1.062 ppp).
Kentucky won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 36-27, and Kentucky won the battle of the offensive glass 8-6. Kentucky used its 8 second chance possessions to score 10 second chance points, and Vermont University used its 6 second chance possessions to score 4 second chance points. Vermont University had an offensive efficiency of 1.000 ppp on its 65 first chance possessions and 0.667 ppp for its 6 second chance possessions. UK had 0.926 ppp on its 68 first chance possessions and 1.250 ppp on its 8 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 27.6%of its misses as offensive rebounds while Vermont University was able to convert 17.6% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit well from the free throw line in this game, making 18-23 [78.3%]. Vermont University made 7-13 [53.8%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 26-56 overall [46.4%] and 3-9 from long range [33.3%]. For Vermont University, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a strong 16-29 [55.2%] and from long range, Vermont University hit 10-29 [34.5%].
The Cats committed 10 turnovers, one for every 6.8 possessions. The Cats forced 7 Vermont University turnovers, one for every 9.3 possessions.
Next Game On Schedule: Tuesday night in Chicago for the Champions Classic against #4 Kansas for the third regular season game of the 2017-18 season.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks