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Regardless of the reason, i.e. the Cats gave an usually strong effort or Kansas' game was lacking, it is clear that the closeness of the Cats' loss to the Jayhawks is an anomalous outcome for the Cats when compared to how these same Cats competed in the other three games of this young season. On Friday night, the Cats' effort against a much weaker ETSU Buccaneer squad was more akin to the lackluster wins over Utah Valley and Vermont than the close loss to #4 Kansas. This roller coaster team took another sharp drop in game 4 after the thrilling rise the team gave the Big Blue Nation in game 3.
The game against ETSU followed what is becoming a familiar script. The Cats fell behind the Buccaneers by 10 points, 18-8, at the second media timeout. Yes, the Cats did reverse trend following the under 12 media timeout, and moved into their first lead at 26-25 and led by 2 points, 32-30 at the under 4 media timeout. However, the halftime lead was only 6 points, 36-30. In the second half, The Cats expanded the lead to a game high 22 points with 1:15 remaining in the game, but the Cats also allowed ETSU to trim 5 points from the lead before the final buzzer, 78-61.
The ETSU experience reinforced the Cats' struggles on the boards, allowing the Buccaneers to to grab 19 offensive rebounds, a whopping 41.3% of their missed shots, that produced 13 second chance points. In addition, the Cats' efficiency at the free throw line, which had been a strength through the pre-season, and the first two games, continued to slid off the charts. In the first two games against Utah Valley and Vermont, the Cats made a combined 34-46 from the line (73.9%). Against Kansas, their efficiency slipped to 12-18 (66.7%) which in and of itself is not sufficient to sound off the alarms. However, against ETSU, the Cats missed their first 10 attempts, among which were several front ends of bonus opportunities, and only made 3 of their final 5 attempts down the stretch of the game.
It is very tempting to rationalize the overall performance against ETSU by pointing out that IF the Cats had made 70% of its free throw opportunities, they would have had 18 or 19 attempts, and made 12 or 13 free throws instead of the 3 that now resides in the box score for this game. Those additional 9 or 10 points would have, could have, indeed should have increased the net game efficiency for this encounter with the Buccaneers from a paltry 0.22 ppp to an impressive 0.35 ppp. However, the team's performance is what it is, and a game raw net efficiency of 0.22 ppp at Rupp against this ETSU team is and will remain paltry.
Please understand my point. I am expressing continuing concern about how this team is starting the season. I am not throwing this team into the trash can and dismissing the remainder of the 2017-18 basketball season as futile with regard to a legitimate chase for #9. However, it is clear that this team continues to lag behind their previous counterparts of the Calipari Era.
On Monday night, the Cats will entertain Troy at Rupp Arena in the fifth game of this young season. Troy will enter the game as the #162 rated team at Pomeroy, and frankly that ranking may be extremely generous. Troy has lost to #223 North Dakota by 3 on a neutral court, and at #209 Hawaii by 5 in OT. The Trojans defeated #348 (out of 351) Arkansas Pine Bluff by 24 on a neutral court. Last Thursday, Troy easily handled Non-D1 Brewton Parker by 35 at home. Last season, Troy finished the season at #137 with a 22-15 record. They finished 6 th in the Sun Belt Conference (10-8). However, Troy finished the season by winning 10 of their last 12 games including four straight in the Sun Belt post season tournament to win the Sun Belt's automatic NCAA. Duke ended their dream finish in the first round by 22 points.
The Trojans' winning record in 2016-17 is their first winning season since 2010. It appears that this team is probably more akin to its 2011 through 2016 teams that finished between #250 and #287 in the final Pomeroy ratings.
The Adjusted Net Efficiency (ANE) analysis for this match up, based on early season experience for each team, indicates a 17 point Kentucky win over Troy in a game played at 77 possessions, 84-67. Pomeroy sees this game with Kentucky having a 21-point advantage, 84-63 played at a pace of 71 possessions.
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Coach Calipari will start Nick Richards, Kevin Knox, PJ Washington, Quade Green, and Hamidou Diallo in the starting lineup for the fourth game in a row. 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 score on a layup. Troy answers with a basket. Kevin Knox hits an 18 foot jump shot to lift the Cats back on top. The team play on even terms to 8-8 and then the Cats score the last 6 points of the segment to lead by 6, 14-8, at the under 16 media timeout with 14:53 remaining. In the second segment, each team only managed to score 2 points on 5 possessions, making the score 16-10 at the under 12 media timeout.
In the third segment, the Cats extended their 6 point lead to 10 points, 23-13, at the under 8 media timeout. In the fourth segment, the Cats manage to lead by 12 points at one time, and hold an 11 point lead, 30-19, at the under 4 media timeout. The Cats take a 16 point lead into the locker room, 41-25.
The Cats scored 41 points on 37 possessions, 1.108 points per possession, and TROY managed their 25 points on 36 possessions, 0.694 ppp. The Cats made 43.2% of their first half shots, including 1-4 from outside the arc. TROY managed to make 29.0% of their first half shots, including 1-14 from outside the arc.
The Cats committed 4 turnovers in the first half while Troy committed 3 turnovers.
The Cats made 8-13 free throws (61.5%) and TROY was 6-9 (66.7%) from the line in the first half.
On the Boards, the Cats dominated with a 32-17 advantage including a 10-2 advantage on the offensive glass. However, the Cats only produced 5 second chance points from its 10 second chance possessions and Troy scored 3 on its 2 second chance possessions. The Cats secured 40.0% of their misses and allowed TROY to grab 8.3% of their misses as second chance opportunities.
Kentucky opens play in the second half and score. However, four turnovers in the first segment shadowed 3-4 shooting and allowed Troy to trim the 16 point halftime lead to 15 points, 51-36 at the under 16 media timeout. In the second segment, the Cats move back on top by 17, 59-42, at the under 12 media timeout and the Cats will have the ball after the break.
After the Cats move on top by 21, 63-42, Troy takes a timeout with 9:51 remaining. After the timeout, Troy stops the UK run with a 3 point basket, and the Cats lead by 19, 66-47 at the under 8 media timeout. In the fourth segment, the Cats only score a pair of free throws, and Troy cuts the lead to 9 points, 68-59 at the under 4 media timeout with 2:57 remaining in the game.
Cats hang on to win by 8, 70-62.
UK scored its 70 points on 72 possessions (0.972 ppp) for the game, and TROY scored its 62 points on 71 possessions (0.873 ppp).
Kentucky won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 53-30, and Kentucky won the battle of the offensive glass 15-6. Kentucky used its 16 second chance possessions to score 11 second chance points, and TROY used its 6 second chance possessions to score 7 second chance points. TROY had an offensive efficiency of 0.775 ppp on its 71 first chance possessions and 1.167 ppp for its 6 second chance possessions. UK had 0.819 ppp on its 72 first chance possessions and 0.733 ppp on its 16 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 38.5% of its misses as offensive rebounds while TROY was able to convert 13.6% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit poorly from the free throw line in this game, making 15-23 [65.2%]. TROY made 12-16 [75.0%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 26-56 overall [44.1%] and 3-9 from long range [33.3%]. For TROY, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a strong 19-37 [51.4%] and from long range, TROY hit 4-27 [14.8%].
The Cats committed 16 turnovers, one for every 4.5 possessions. The Cats forced 6 TROY turnovers, one for every 11.8 possessions.
Next Game On Schedule: Wednesday night at Rupp Arena against Fort Wayne for the sixth regular season game of the 2017-18 season.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks