Triumphant Cats Return To Rupp For Rematch With Vanderbilt

Two and a half weeks ago, the shorthanded Cats visited Nashville to take on Vanderbilt, and escaped with a hard fought 7 point road win, 74-67. With 30 seconds remaining, the Cats were clinging to a 4 point lead when it turned the ball over to Vanderbilt and then fouled Riley LaChance on a three point shot. LaChance is shooting over 83% from the foul line this season, and with three attempts coming, many believed he would step to the line and make all three, and if not all three, at least 2 of the 3, to reduce the 4 point margin to either 1 or 2 points with 30 seconds left. To make matters seem even more dire, the Cats had missed 3 of their last 6 free throw attempts, illustrating a path for Vanderbilt to get the upset win on their home court.

However, LaChance missed all three attempts, and the Cats sealed the victory by 7.

After escaping Nashville with the tenuous win, the Cats headed to Columbia, South Carolina, still shorthanded. Even though the Cats lost to the Gamecocks, Jarred Vanderbilt made his debut as a Wildcat, and impressed many with his defensive prowess and board work. Yes, the team's performance at South Carolina was one of the poorest of this season, and yes, the team returned to Rupp to face Florida, and lost its second in a row, and first at Rupp this season, the team's level of performance in that second loss was slightly stronger overall than it had been at South Carolina. In beating Mississippi State at Rupp, with the roster returned to full strength with Quade Green's return to action, the team registered back to back ANE improvements for only the second time this season with a trip to top 10 West Virginia on cue.

This past Saturday, the Cats participated in the 2018 Big12-SEC challenge against #10 West Virginia in Morgantown. The Cats entered this game a double digit underdog, which is the second largest pre-game line deficit of the Calipari era. The first half of the game simply reinforced the Cats' underdog status as the Cats fell behind by 17 points, 38-21 due to a 16-2 run in 4:14 from the 7:32 media timeout to the final media timeout of the first half with 3:18 remaining. The Cats did come alive offensively in the last 3:18, but trailed at the half by 15 points, 48-33.

The second half was a different story. In the first 3 minutes, West Virginia pushed their lead back to the game high 17 points twice, the last at 54-37 with about 17 minutes left in the game. The Cats then started a run of 25-4 over a span of about 5 minutes to move into a 4 point lead, 62-58. However, West Virginia hit back to back 3 pointers and a basket off a pair of UK turnovers to flip the lead back to West Virginia, 66-62, at which time Coach Calipari called a timeout with 7:56 left in the game. Nick Richards made four straight free throws to tie the score again, at which time the team sparred with the margin ranging between UK by 2 points to a tie for the next 4 ½ minutes at the under 4 media timeout. After the timeout, Kevin Knox made a pair of free throws to give the Cats another 4 point lead, 72-68. West Virginia ties the score at 74-74 with a 3 pointer with only 1:10 left in the game. The Cats close out the game with the final 7 points.

Is this a turn around? There is no question that the Cats turned the tables on the Mountaineers at halftime, Saturday night. However, in a note of caution, this is but one game out of the 21 games played thus far. Look at the game-to-game ANE values for this team using the following link:

I think there are arguments on both sides. First, it is one game (WVU) and the comeback has happened 3 times in UK basketball history (a 1 in 1000 occurrence), so I would not hang my hat on this single game. However, look at the trend in the game-to-game activity since Vanderbilt's arrival on the court. 3 straight games showing significant improvement. Offensively, Vanderbilt seems to be a train wreck, but defensively, and on the boards, the man is making a mark, more in each game than the last from my view.

Many people have been saying for months that when Vanderbilt returns to action, it would make a difference, and I admit, I was not one of those people, and you can color me doubtful on that front. However, the results are what they are, and I am impressed and watching this very closely.

In 2012, the team struggled more than most remember through the first half of the season, and starting with its 21st game, they took the quality of their play to a new level that they sustained for the final 20 games, and that new level carried that team to a championship. I described that as a “surge” by the 2012 team. Last night was this team's 21st game. Are we beginning to witness this team's surge, on top of the arrival of Vanderbilt?

This is very possible. I will be watching the next three games for the following:

1. Does this team man handle a very bad Vanderbilt team at Rupp, or do they dance around with the Commodores to a lackadaisical win?
2. Does this team go to Missouri and control the game and environment as they did in the second half at West Virginia, or will they be a shrinking violet?
3. Does this team deliver a measurable payback to Tennessee when they come into Rupp, of will they allow the Vols to have their own way with them like they did in Knoxville a few weeks ago?

In my opinion, these next 3 games will be instrumental in answering the big question about whether we are watching a corner turning process.

The Cats now return to Rupp Arena with heightened expectations and self-esteem to face that very same Vanderbilt group that nearly beat the Cats a mere 17 days ago. Since that first encounter, the Cats and the Commodores have been 2-2, 1-2 in the SEC. Vanderbilt beat LSU in Nashville, and lost at Mississippi State and at Tennessee. The ‘Dores beat TCU by 3 in Nashville in Saturday's Big12-SEC Challenge.

Vanderbilt has played with an ANE of 0.091 ppp (#86) after having played a schedule strength of 0.100 ppp (#3). The Cats are ranked #31 with an ANE of 0.188 ppp after having played a schedule with a schedule strength of 0.086 ppp (#9). The ANE analysis has the Cats favored by 11 points, 78-67 in a game played at a pace of 70 possessions. Pomeroy has the Commodores favored by 10, 77-67 with a pace of 66 possessions.

Use the following link to see how other UK fans handicap this game at 247Sports, The Cats Pause message board:

You can participate in the score prediction contest at 247Sports at the following link:

Game Summary:

Coach Calipari will start Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Nick Richards, Kevin Knox, Wenyen Gabriel, and Hamidou Diallo. PJ Washington sustained a knee injury in the West Virginia game, and is not in the starting lineup tonight. Jarred Vanderbilt, Quade Green, Sacha Killeya-Jones, and Tai Wynyard will provide the bench help.

The Vanderbilt controls the opening tip and gets the first basket of the game at the hoop. The Cats answer with a second chance 3 point play by Nick Richards, and following a Vanderbilt miss, Nick Richards gets to the line again to give the Cats an early 5-2 lead. PJ Washington entered the game, and got a second chance basket to give the Cats a 7-2 lead with 15:48 remaining. Vanderbilt takes a timeout. After the timeout, Vanderbilt outscores the Cats 9-3 in the second segment to lead 11-10 at the under 12 media timeout with 10:55 remaining on the clock and Vanderbilt in possession.

In an abbreviated third segment, the Cats managed to score 4 points in 4 possessions, and move back on top by 1 point, 14-13 at the under 8 media timeout with 7:51 remaining and the Cats in possession following Vanderbilt's 4 th turnover. In the 4 th segment, the Cats move on top by 4 points twice, the last at 23-19, but Vanderbilt scores the last 7 points of the segment to take their biggest lead of the game, 3 points, 26-23, forcing Coach Calipari to take a timeout with 3:45 remaining in the first half.

Through the first 16 minutes, the teams are playing his game at a pace of ab out 60 possessions. Vanderbilt has made 11-24 including 3-7 from long range while the Cats are 9-23, and 1-5. After the timeout, the Cats fail to score, and Vanderbilt hits their second 3 pointer in a row by LaChance to move up by 6, 29-23. After Hamidou Diallo missed his second of two free throws, Nick Richards fouls on the rebound and Vanderbilt makes both at the other end for a 7 point lead. Hamidou Diallo then misses 1 of 2 free throws again. After the Cats trim the Vanderbilt lead to 4, 31-27, Vanderbilt turns the ball over to the Cats with 15 seconds left. An offensive foul by Wenyen Gabriel gave Vanderbilt the ball with 8 seconds, and Wenyen Gabriel fouled a Vanderbilt player at the buzzer, allowing Vanderbilt to go to the locker room with a 6 point lead, 33-27.

The Cats scored 27 points on 30 possessions, 0.900 points per possession, and VANDERBILT managed their 33 points on 31 possessions, 1.065 ppp. The Cats made 37.0% (10-27) of their first half shots, including 1-5 from outside the arc. VANDERBILTmanaged to make 44.4% (12-27) of their first half shots, including 4-10 from outside the arc.

The Cats committed 5 turnovers in the first half while VANDERBILT committed 6 turnovers.

The Cats made 6-11 from the line (54.5%) and VANDERBILT made 5-7 from the line (71.4%).

On the Boards, Kentucky won the rebounding battle 19-17, and the Cats won the offensive rebound battle 7-4, yielding a 7-3 advantage on second chance points. The Cats secured 35.0% of their misses and allowed VANDERBILT to grab 25.0% of their misses as second chance opportunities.

Second Half:

Kentucky opens the second half with a bucket to trim the lead back to 4 points, 33-29, but Vandy owns the rest of the opening segment of the second half and moves on top by 11, 42-31 at the under 16 media timeout. LaChance committed his 4 th foul in the opening segment and had to return to the Vanderbilt bench. The Cats turn it over on the inbounds play, and Vanderbilt gets a 3 point play at the other end to lead by 14, 45-31. Then, Sacha Killeya-Jones hits a jump shot, and following a Vanderbilt missed shot, Quade Green hits a 3 pointer from the left corner to trim the Vanderbilt lead back into single digits, 9 points, 45-36. Vanderbilt takes a quick timeout with 14:47 left in the game. Following a Vanderbilt turnover, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander makes a 3 point play to trim the lead to 6 points. Following another Vanderbilt turnover, Jarred Vanderbilt gets fouled and makes 1 of 2 free throws to trim the 14 point Vanderbilt lead to 3 points. Vanderbilt makes a basket and draw a foul at the under 12 media timeout to extend their lead to 5, and will have 1 free throw after the timeout to complete a 3 point play.

The free throw is good, and Vanderbilt leads by 6 points, 50-44, with 11:47 left in the game. At the under 8 media timeout, Vanderbilt maintains a 7 point lead, 59-52, and will be at the line for 1+1 after the break. The Cats keep clawing their way back into the game, and cut the Vanderbilt lead to 4 points, 63-59, and Vanderbilt takes a timeout with 4:55 left in the game. Vandy makes a 3 pointer to extend their lead to 7, 66-59, at the under 4 media timeout with 3:48 left in the game.

The Cats score 6 in a row, as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander takes over the game for the Cats, and the defense gets a couple of stops, to trim the Vanderbilt lead to 1 point, 66-65, and Vanderbilt takes its last timeout with 1:15 remaining. LaChance gets a layup with 1:00 left. The Cats turn the ball over and Vanderbilt gets a layup to go up by 5, 70-65. A pair of free throws by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander trims the lead to 3 points. LaChance misses the front end, and Quade Green makes a layup to trim the lead to 1 point with 8 seconds left.

The Cats foul again with 6 seconds, and Coach Calipari burns his last timeout prior to the shots. Vandy makes the first, misses the second, and on the rebound, Vanderbilt fouls Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who will get two free throws to tie the game, 71-71. We have overtime.

To begin the overtime, the Cats control the tip and score. After the Cats go up by 4, 75-71, Vanderbilt surges back into the lead at 78-77. The Cats regain the lead, and win by 2, 83-81.


UK scored its 83 points on 73 possessions (1.137 ppp) for the game, and VANDERBILTscored its 81 points on 73 possessions (1.110 ppp).

Vanderbilt won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 37-36, and both teams battled on the offensive glass for 10 rebounds. Kentucky used its 10 second chance possessions to score 11 second chance points, and VANDERBILT used its 10 second chance possessions to score 5 second chance points. VANDERBILT had an offensive efficiency of 1.041 ppp on its 73 first chance possessions and 0.500 ppp for its 10 second chance possessions. UK had 0.986 ppp on its 73 first chance possessions and 1.100 ppp on its 10 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 27.0% of its misses as offensive rebounds while VANDERBILT was able to convert 27.8% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.

UK hit well from the free throw line in this game, making 20-27 [74.1%]. VANDERBILT made 16-23 [69.6%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 29-64 overall [45.3%] and 5-14 from long range [35.7%]. For Vanderbilt, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a strong 19-34 [55.9%] and from long range, VANDERBILT hit 9-25 [36.0%].

The Cats committed 9 turnovers, one for every 8.1possessions. The Cats forced 15 VANDERBILT turnovers, one for every 4.9 possessions.

Next Game On Schedule: Saturday afternoon at Missouri at 2:00 pm for the 23 rd game of the season and the 10 th SEC game of 2018

Submitted by Richard Cheeks



Submitted by Richard Cheeks




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