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It is now official. This is the poorest start by a Calipari coached UK team. All of the Calipari teams have won at least 4 of the first five games, and five of his teams finished the first five games without a blemish. Yes, this team has won four of its five starts. Yes, the overall strength of the opponents this season has been the second toughest of the Calipari Era, with the 2010-11 Cats having to face a slightly more difficult array of opponents than this team has faced. However, this team's adjusted net efficiency (ANE) after five games is the lowest of the Calipari Era, and the next lowest (2009-10) is significantly higher.
I will leave the explanation for the lackluster start to the basketball minds among us. It matters little to me if the reason is youth, selfish play, or some other exemplary explanation. All I need to understand is this team is not playing basketball at the high level the Big Blue Nation has grown accustomed, and expects. Coach Calipari has been warning anyone who cares to listen that this would be the case for weeks, indeed months, and now it is clear that if this team does not correct the various issues that are impeding its progress soon, it will lose many games.
Of course, there is time to fix this, but frankly, the clock is running.
On Monday, the Cats reverse the usual script. Kansas and ETSU each outscored the Cats by 10 points in the first 5 to 8 minutes before the Cats corrected course and played better basketball. On Monday, the Cats fiddled through the first half, used the first 10 minutes of the second half to build a 21 point lead, 63-42, with 9:51 remaining, forcing Troy to take a timeout. Over the last 9:51, Troy outscored the Cats 20-8 to close the margin to 8 points at the end of the game. Kentucky's game over that 9:51 was marked by poor shooting and a rash of turnovers.
On Wednesday night, the Cats will entertain Fort Wayne at Rupp Arena in the sixth game of this season. Fort Wayne will enter the game as the #152 rated team at Pomeroy. Two years ago, Fort Wayne finished 24-10, and competed in the post season. Last season, the Mastodons finished 20-13 with a post season appearance. This season, Fort Wayne has started their season 3-1 with wins over #348 Delaware State by 14 and at #168 Illinois Chicago by 16. The Mastodons lost at #108 Oakland in their season opener. The third win came at the expense of non D1 Defiance by 55 points.
The Adjusted Net Efficiency (ANE) analysis for this match up, based on early season experience for each team, indicates a 22 point Kentucky win over Fort Wayne in a game played at 78 possessions, 89-67. Pomeroy sees this game with Kentucky having a 20-point advantage, 85-65 played at a pace of 73 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 fifth 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 score from the baseline by Hamidou Diallo
IUPFW hits a 3 pointer in response. The Cats open hitting 8 of their first 10 shot, but they cannot establish a significant lead because Fort Worth hit 4 of 7 3 point shots in the opening segment. At the under 16 media timeout, the Cats lead by 3, 17-14 with 14:29 remaining in the first half. In an abbreviated second segment, the Cats made both of their shots, but could not extend their lead, and lead by 4, 23-19, at the under 12 media timeout, but Fort Wayne will have a pair of free throws after the break.
After the timeout, Fort Wayne converted both free throws, and following an offensive foul by the Cats, Fort Wayne moves into the lead on their 6 th 3 pointer of the game. Following another Cat Turnover, Fort Wayne move up by 3 points, 26-23 on another pair of free throws. After a third consecutive turnover, Fort Wayne adds to their lead with 1 of 2 from the foul line. The Cats finally stop turning the ball over and score 6 straight points to regain the lead, 29-27, at the under 8 media timeout. In the fourth segment, the Cats turn it over 4 more times, for a game total of 9, and the Cats cling to a 1 point lead, 36-35 when Coach Calipari takes a timeout with 4:20 remaining.
After the timeout, called to stop the turnover parade, did not good at all as the Cats turn it over on their next two possessions, allowing Fort Wayne to regain the lead. The Cats finally stop committing turnovers and score the final 9 points of the half to take an 8 point lead to the locker room, 45-37.
The Cats scored 45 points on 37 possessions, 1.216 points per possession, and FORT WAYNE managed their 37 points on 36 possessions, 1.038 ppp. The Cats made 70.4% of their first half shots, including 3-7 from outside the arc. FORT WAYNE managed to make 37.5% of their first half shots, including 8-22 from outside the arc.
The Cats committed 11 turnovers in the first half while Fort Wayne committed 3 turnovers.
The Cats made 4-4 free throws (100.0%) and FORT WAYNE was 5-6 (83.3%) from the line in the first half.
On the Boards, the Cats dominated with a 19-7 advantage including a 3-2 advantage on the offensive glass. The Cats produced 6 second chance points from its 3 second chance possessions and Fort Wayne scored 2 on its 2 second chance possessions. The Cats secured 37.5% of their misses and allowed FORT WAYNE to grab 11.1% of their misses as second chance opportunities.
Kentucky opens play in the second half and extend their 9-0 run at the end of the first half to 15-0 to take a 14 point lead, 51-37 before Fort Wayne scored. At the under 15 media timeout, the Cats lead by 14, 56-42. In the second segment, the Cats extend their lead to a game high 22 points, 65-43, but when the Cats commit a turnover on a possession with a chance to extend that lead to 24 points, and allow Fort Wayne an easy basket at the other end, Coach Calipari takes a timeout with 12:40 remaining. I think the purpose of the timeout is to remind his players that it is time to extend their lead, not time to relax and get selfish as they did over the last 10 minutes of their last game against Troy. The Cats made their first 7 free throws in this game, but PJ Washington has missed 4 in a row, and the Cats continue to lead by 20, 65-45 at the under 12 media timeout.
At the under 8 media timeout, with 6:50 remaining in the game, the Cats lead by 29 points, 78-49, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will have a pair of free throws after the timeout. With a 30 point lead, it is Calipari time, 79-49, with 6:50 remaining. Fort Worth quickly hits back to back 3 pointer around another UK turnover to cut the lead to 24 points, and Coach Calipari takes a timeout with 5:55 remaining. Calipari missed a 3 pointer, and committed a turnover, and Fort Worth scored 5 more unanswered to cut the lead to 19 points. Wenyen Gabriel then missed a pair of free throws, and Nick Richards commits a foul, sending Fort Wayne to the line. Calipari time ends, at least for now. At the under 4 media timeout, the Cats lead by 21, 83-62, and PJ Washington will be at the line after the break with 2:44 remaining in the game.
Cats win by 19, 86-67.
UK scored its 86 points on 71 possessions (1.211 ppp) for the game, and FORT WAYNE scored its 67 points on 70 possessions (0.957 ppp).
Kentucky won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 44-21, and Kentucky won the battle of the offensive glass 12-7. Kentucky used its 12 second chance possessions to score 16 second chance points, and FORT WAYNE used its 7 second chance possessions to score 4 second chance points. FORT WAYNE had an offensive efficiency of 0.900 ppp on its 70 first chance possessions and 0.571 ppp for its 7 second chance possessions. UK had 0.986 ppp on its 71 first chance possessions and 1.333 ppp on its 16 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 46.2% of its misses as offensive rebounds while FORT WAYNE was able to convert 17.9% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit poorly from the free throw line in this game, making 15-24 [62.5%]. FORT WAYNE made 7-14 [50.0%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 33-55 overall [60.0%] and 5-11 from long range [45.5%]. For FORT WAYNE, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a strong 12-23 [52.2%] and from long range, FORT WAYNE hit 12-37 [32.4%].
The Cats committed 16 turnovers, one for every 4.4 possessions. The Cats forced 10 FORT WAYNE turnovers, one for every 7.0 possessions.
Next Game On Schedule: Sunday night at Rupp Arena against Illinois-Chicago for the seventh regular season game of the 2017-18 season.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks