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This Wednesday, the Cats went toe to toe with LSU for 30 minutes, playing from behind much of the game, before securing a lead that they would not relinquish. While the Cats' margin over the last 10 minutes fluctuated between 1 and 6 points, the Cats always found a response on their offensive end each time the Tigers trimmed the lead to a single possession. PJ Washington and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander were instrumental in this effort, especially down the stretch. The win at the Maravich Assembly Center lifted the Cats to a 2-0 start in their SEC Championship defense, and sets the stage for Saturday night's encounter in Knoxville against Coach Barnes' Tennessee Volunteers.
Tennessee presents something of an enigma. The Volunteers completed their non-conference schedule 9-2, and according to Pomeroy, Tennessee's non-conference schedule has been rugged with a SOS of 0.071 ppp (#28). The losses came at the hands of #4 Villanova by 9 points on a neutral court, and #15 North Carolina by 5 in Knoxville. However, Tennessee has a 2 point win over #1 Purdue in OT on a neutral court to its credit. This non-conference record was sufficient to lift them into the top 15 (ANE) as the Volunteers prepared to start their SEC season. Two games into the SEC, the Volunteers are 0-2, losing at #13 Arkansas by 2 in OT and to #33 Auburn by 10 in Knoxville the past Tuesday night.
Coach Barnes is in his third season leading the Tennessee program. In 2016, his tam finished 15-19 and last year his Vols finished 16-16. Tennessee had been 16-16 in 2015 when Donnie Tyndall coached them after finishing 24-13 under Cuonzo Martin's leadership in 2014. The Tennessee brain trust, as oxymoric as that sounds, probably view this season as the year Coach Barnes breaks through and returns Tennessee basketball to the prominence they enjoyed during the ill fated Bruce Pearl years.
Therefore, when the Cats enter Thompson-Boling on Saturday night, they will encounter a Tennessee team led by a Tennessee coach who together face a must win game if they want to remain in the conversation about this year's SEC championship race because they must take to the SEC road for three of their next four games.
TENNESSEE has started this season with a 9-4 record and an ANE of 0.224 ppp (#19) after having played a schedule strength of 0.092 ppp (#5).
The Cats will arrive in Knoxville ranked #37 with an ANE of 0.183 ppp after having played a schedule with a schedule strength of 0.040 ppp (#59). The ANE analysis has the Volunteers favored by 4 points, 76-72 in a game played at a pace of 75 possessions. Pomeroy has the Volunteers favored by 3, 73-70 with a pace of 70 possessions.
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Coach Calipari will start Quade Green, Nick Richards, Kevin Knox, PJ Washington, and Hamidou Diallo. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Wenyen Gabriel, and Tai Wynyard will provide the primary bench help. Jarred Vanderbilt remains unavailable.
The Volunteers control the opening tip and turns the ball over. The Cats covert at the other end with a lob to Nick Richards. Tennessee gets on the board with a pair of free throws. Hamidou Diallo picks up two quick fouls and retires to the bench with 18:15 remaining. The Volunteers hit a 3 pointer to go on top by 3. PJ Washington responds with a basket on the baseline, and he will have a free throw after the under 16 media timeout with a chance to tie the score with a 3 point play. PJ Washington completes the 3 point play. Over the balance of the segment, the teams traded scores to 9-9 and then the Cats scored 7 straight to move on top 16-9. Tennessee scored just prior to the under 12 media timeout to trim the UK lead to 5 points, 16-11, and after the break, the Volunteers will have a free throw to complete a 3 point play, which they do convert.
Following a miss by the Cats, Tennessee cuts the lead to 1 point with their second 3 pointer of the game. The Cats respond with 5 straight of their own to move on top by 6, 21-15, forcing a Tennessee timeout with 9:05 left. After the Volunteers timeout, Wenyen Gabriel hit his third 3 pointer of the game, and second 3 pointer of this segment, to extend the Cats' lead to 9 points, 24-15, at the under 8 media timeout.
In the first 12+ minutes of the game, the Cats have made 9 of 17 shots including 3-6 from long range (Wenyen Gabriel all 3) against 5-15 shooting by Tennessee. With 7:08 remaining, Kevin Knox committed his second foul, and he also goes to the bench. In the fourth segment, the Volunteers trimmed the Kentucky lead to 3 points, 28-25 at the under 4 media timeout, and Tennessee will have the ball when play resumes following a phantom charging foul on Sacha Killeya-Jones at the end of the segment. Tennessee gets a pair of free throws to trim the lead to 1 point. In the final segment, the Cats outscored the Volunteers 9-4, to take an 8 point lead to the locker room, 37-29.
The Cats scored 37 points on 33 possessions, 1.121 points per possession, and TENNESSEE managed their 29 points on 34 possessions, 0.853 ppp. The Cats made 55.6% of their first half shots, including 4-8 from outside the arc. TENNESSEE managed to make 33.3% of their first half shots, including 4-10 from outside the arc.
The Cats committed 7 turnovers in the first half while TENNESSEE committed 8 turnovers.
The Cats made 3-4 from the line (75.0%) and Tennessee made 9-9 from the line (100.0%).
On the Boards, the Cats controlled the boards with a 15-14 advantage, but Tennessee won the offensive glass 3-2. The Cats converted its 2 second chance possessions into 5 points and Tennessee used its 3 second chance possessions to score 6 points. The Cats secured 15.4% of their misses and allowed TENNESSEE to grab 18.8% of their misses as second chance opportunities.
Kentucky opens the second half with Hamidou Diallo committing his 3 rd foul of the game, and going to the bench. Tennessee uses its first possession of the second half to get a basket and trim the lead back to 6 points. After the Cats commit their second turnover of the half, Tennessee gets a run out basket to cut the lead to 4 points, and Coach Calipari takes a timeout with 19:01 remaining in the game. After the timeout, the Cats commit a third consecutive turnover, and Tennessee makes them pay, cutting the lead to 2 points, 37-35. PJ Washington stops the Tennessee run, but Tennessee scores again, and following the Cats' 4 th turnover of the segment, Tennessee ties the score at 39-39 with 17:35 remaining.
Following a foul against a Tennessee player, the Tennessee bench protested the call, and the results in technical fouls assessed against each bench. After the melee the Cats scored to move on top 41-39, but Tennessee answered with a 3 pointer to regain the lead. Kevin Knox lifted the Cats back into a 1 point lead at the under 16 media timeout, 43-42, but Tennessee will have a pair of free throws following the timeout.
At the under 12 media timeout, Tennessee leads by 2 points, 49-47, and will have free throws after the break. Hamidou Diallo has fouled out, and Wenyen Gabriel has 4 fouls. Tennessee continues its second half dominance, extending their lead to a game high 10 points, 60-50 before the Cats cut it to 8 on a driving layup by Quade Green. After a defensive stop, the cats get fouled to send the game to the under 8 media timeout, and Quade Green will have a pair of free throws after the break, with an opportunity to trim the Tennessee lead to 6 points.
In the second half, Tennessee has dominated the Cats 31-15. After Tennessee scores to push its lead to 11, 68-57, Coach Calipari takes a timeout with 4:17 remaining.
Cats lose 76-65.
UK scored its 65 points on 66 possessions (0.985 ppp) for the game, and TENNESSEE scored its 76 points on 66 possessions (1.152 ppp).
Tennessee won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 37-30, and Tennessee controlled the offensive glass 12-8. Kentucky used its 8 second chance possessions to score 10 second chance points, and TENNESSEE used its 12 second chance possessions to score 16 second chance points. TENNESSEE had an offensive efficiency of 0.909 ppp on its 66 first chance possessions and 1.333 ppp for its 12 second chance possessions. UK had 0.833 ppp on its 66 first chance possessions and 1.250 ppp on its 8 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 24.2% of its misses as offensive rebounds while TENNESSEE was able to convert 35.3% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit poorly from the free throw line in this game, making 10-16 [62.5%]. TENNESSEE made 18-24 [75.0%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 24-52 overall [46.2%] and 7-19 from long range [36.8%]. For TENNESSEE, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a strong 17-33 [51.5%] and from long range, TENNESSEE hit 8-22 [36.4%].
The Cats committed 16 turnovers, one for every 4.1 possessions. The Cats forced 12 TENNESSEE turnovers, one for every 5.5 possessions.
Next Game On Schedule: Tuesday night at Rupp Arena against Texas A&M for the sixteenth regular season game and fourth SEC game of the 2017-18 season.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks