BIG BLUE FANS FOR
The 2017-18 Basketball season is moving toward a conclusion. The Cats have completed their non-conference schedule 11-2, and finished the first 9 SEC games 6-3. There are 9 SEC games remaining for the Cats between today, February 3, and the end of the regular season one month from today on March 3 when the Cats close out the season at Florida. Five of these final nine games will be on the road with four games at the friendly confines of Rupp Arena.
After this game at Missouri, the Cats will have an opportunity for payback against the Volunteers at Rupp before they travel to Texas A&M and Auburn. The Cats then play at Rupp against Alabama before travelling to Arkansas. The final three games will include back to back home games against Missouri and Mississippi before closing out the regular season at Florida.
This final 9 game sequence if fraught with danger for the Cats. Pomeroy's current ratings project a 3-6 finish, and the ANE projects a 4-5 finish. In order to avoid this type of finish heading into the post season, the Cats simply must elevate the quality of its play from the level that has defined the first 22 games. Post-season hopes are uncertain because if this team finishes 4-5 or even 3-6, the Cats will play its way toward the NCAA bubble on selection Sunday.
So it is time for this team to fish or cut bait.
Following the huge win at West Virginia a week ago, the entire Big Blue Nation wanted to believe these Cats had turned an important corner in Morgantown in the second half. However, as the Cats' performance in their next game last Tuesday against Vanderbilt at Rupp showed, the West Virginia game was simply another outlier on the high end, followed by an outlier on the bottom end. This pattern has occurred several times already this season. For example, following an impressive win against UIC (game 7) the team turned in a clunker against Harvard (game 8), as was also the case for the games against Virginia Tech (game 10) to UCLA (game 11), the games Louisville (game 12) to Georgia (game 13), and now the games West Virginia (game 21) to Vanderbilt (game 22).
Following the West Virginia, it seemed very possible that this team had actually turned the corner, but I cautioned that the answer to this riddle must wait for the results of the next three games and suggested the following criteria:
The Cats failed the first of these three tests, and tomorrow they will take test #2.
Missouri began this season with high hopes, built around its 5* freshman Michael Porter. However, when Porter had to stop playing this season due to injury, the high flying hopes for the Tigers deflated, and moved down considerably. After cruising through the non-conference part of their schedule 10-3, the Tigers have hit on hard times in the SEC, losing five of their first 9 conference games. In the non-conference, however, the losses occurred to #80 Illinois by 6 points on a neutral court, to #12 West Virginia by 4 on a neutral court, and at #56 Utah by 18 points. The Tigers' most impressive non-conference win has been over #85 St. Johns by 8 on a neutral court. In the SEC, Missouri claims a win over #9 Tennessee by 4, and at #78 South Carolina by 11 points, two of the three teams that have defeated the Cats in SEC play this season. Missouri and Kentucky both fell to #26 Florida by 2 points on their home courts.
Missouri's 14-8 record has produced an ANE of 0.181 ppp (#35) by playing a schedule with a strength of 0.081 ppp (#16). The Cats' 17-5 record has produced an ANE of 0.181 ppp (#34) by playing a schedule with a strength of 0.084 ppp (#14). These teams are almost mirror images of each other through 22 games. The ANE analysis gives the edge to Missouri on the strength of the home court advantage of 4 points, 74-70, in a game played at a pace of 71 possessions.
Pomeroy has the Missouri favored by 2, 71-69 with a pace of 65 possessions. Vegas opened today with Missouri a 2 point favorite.
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:
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 may be available, but it will be a game time decision.
The Kentucky controls the opening tip and Hamidou Diallo makes a layup to get the scoring started. Missouri responds with a 3 point play. After the Cats move back on top 5-3, Missouri regains the lead with its second 3 point play by Puryear. The second 3 point play was on a second chance possession. The Cats get a lob dunk by Nick Richards to move on top 7-6 at the under 16 media timeout, and have possession following Missouri's third turnover of the opening segment. Jarred Vanderbilt makes a pair of free throws to extend the Cats' lead to 3 points, 9-6, but Missouri ends the segment with a 7-0 run to regain the lead by 4 points 13-9 at the under 12 media timeout with 10:48 remaining on the clock.
After making their 3 of their first 6 shots in the game, the Cats have missed their next 6 shots. After the timeout, Missouri makes another 3 pointer to move into a 7 point lead, and extend their run to 10-0 before the Cats stop the run with an elbow jump shot by Sacha Killeya-Jones. Jarred Vanderbilt adds a pair of free throws to trim the lead to 3, 16-13, at the under 8 media timeout. The early pace of this game is in the low to mid 60s. In the 4 th segment, the Cats managed to trim the lead to 2 points, 20-18, but Missouri scored the next 6 points to move on top by a game high 8 points, 26-18, forcing Coach Calipari to take a timeout with 3:49 left in the first half.
The Cats fail to score again in the first half, and trail by 10, 28-18 at the half.
The Cats scored 18 points on 32 possessions, 0.562 points per possession, and MISSOURI managed their 28 points on 32 possessions, 0.875 ppp. The Cats made 20.0% (6-30) of their first half shots, including 0-10 from outside the arc. MISSOURI managed to make 39.1% (9-23) of their first half shots, including 2-12 from outside the arc.
The Cats committed 6 turnovers in the first half while MISSOURI committed 8 turnovers.
The Cats made 6-11 from the line (54.5%) and MISSOURI made 8-14 from the line (57.1%).
On the Boards, Kentucky won the rebounding battle 22-21, and the Cats won the offensive rebound battle 10-5, but Missouri had a 7-2 advantage on second chance points. The Cats secured 38.5% of their misses and allowed MISSOURI to grab 29.4% of their misses as second chance opportunities.
Missouri opens the second half with a missed 3 pointer, and Hamidou Diallo gets to the line where he trims the lead to 8 with a pair of free throws. After Missouri turns the ball over on its second possession, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander makes a fall away jumper from inside the lane to trim the lead to 6, 28-22. The Cats force another turn over, and capitalize on the free possession with a basket to trim the lead to 4, 28-24. Following a flagrant foul on Missouri, the Cats made free throws and scored on the next possession to trim the lead to 1 point, 33-32. But, Missouri responded to the challenge with 8 straight points to move on top by 9, 41-32, forcing a Kentucky timeout with 15:03 remaining in the game. In the second segment, Missouri regains control of the game and extends its lead back to the 10 point lead it held at the half, 44-34 at the under 12 media timeout, and the Tigers have the ball.
In the third segment, Missouri extended their lead to a game high 14, 52-38, and lead by 12, 52-40 at the under 8 media timeout. In the fourth segment, the Cats manage to trim the lead back to 10 points, 56-46 at the under 4 media timeout, but in the process squandered multiple opportunities to cut even deeper into the lead with rushed shots, turnovers, and a missed front end of the bonus.
The Cats' comeback try falls short today, and the Cats fall to Missouri by 9, 69-60.
UK scored its 60 points on 69 possessions (0.870 ppp) for the game, and MISSOURI scored its 69 points on 68 possessions (1.015 ppp).
Kentucky won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 40-36, and Kentucky controlled the offensive glass 20-7. Kentucky used its 20 second chance possessions to score 11 second chance points, and MISSOURI used its 7 second chance possessions to score 12 second chance points. MISSOURI had an offensive efficiency of 0.838 ppp on its 68 first chance possessions and 1.714 ppp for its 7 second chance possessions. UK had 0.71 ppp on its 69 first chance possessions and 0.550 ppp on its 20 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 40.8% of its misses as offensive rebounds while MISSOURI was able to convert 25.9% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK made 16-23 (69.6%) from the free throw line in this game. MISSOURI made 24-33 [72.7%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 21-67 overall [31.3%] and 2-20 from long range [10.0%]. For Missouri, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a strong 12-18 [66.7%] and from long range, MISSOURI hit 7-23 [30.4%].
The Cats committed 12 turnovers, one for every 5.8 possessions. The Cats forced 20 MISSOURI turnovers, one for every 3.4 possessions.
Next Game On Schedule: Tuesday evening at Rupp Arena against Tennessee at 7:00 pm for the 24 th game of the season and the 11 th SEC game of 2018
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks