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When the Cats went to Arkansas on Tuesday evening, they started the game by falling into a deep early hole, down 11-0 before the first media timeout occurred. Subsequent to this near disastrous start, the Cats owned the Hogs, outscoring them on their court by 24 points, 85-61 for a huge 13 point road win over Arkansas. Including the 0-11 start, the game was the second strongest overall effort by this UK team all season, and the most complete game since they dismantled Louisville at Rupp in late December.
The win lifted the Cats in the current SEC standings, but more significantly, it positioned the Cats for a strong season finish with two of their last 3 games at Rupp before seeking to finish at Florida with a chance to win one of the four precious double byes for the upcoming SEC Tournament. The win at Arkansas has set the table, and now the Cats must take care of business against Missouri by showing continued improvement. Then the Cats will have one last tuneup opportunity this coming week when Ole Miss comes to Rupp for the Cats' “senior” night before the final show down against the Gators on March 3.
The SEC standings have a 6-team log jam in 3 rd place with 8-7 records with 3 games to play. Kentucky is in this group, as are two of their last three opponents, Missouri and Florida. The others in this group are Arkansas, Alabama, and Mississippi State, each of whom the Cats have beaten and would own the tiebreaker. This means the Cats have the ability to win one of the double bye positions without relying upon help from any other team by finishing the season 3-0 from here, but a loss in these final three games will probably leave the Cats outside the top four spots after applying the relevant tie-breakers to the final standings.
On February 3, Missouri defeated the Cats 69-60 in Columbia. Since that initial meeting, the Tigers won their next 3 games, but over the last week, Missouri has lost twice, at LSU by 1 and at home to Mississippi by 3 in OT. Reports in the press earlier this week indicate that doctors have released freshman Phenom Michael Porter Jr. to play, and he may make an appearance against the Cats on Saturday in Rupp Arena. For the Cats, their loss at Missouri was the first loss that eventually grew into the infamous 4 game losing streak before the Cats righted their ship against Alabama a week ago and handled the Hogs with some ease in Fayetteville last Tuesday.
Missouri's 18-10, 8-7 record has produced an ANE of 0.178 ppp (#36) by playing a schedule with a strength of 0.092 ppp (#23). The Cats' 19-9, 8-7 record has produced an ANE of 0.182 ppp (#33) by playing a schedule with a strength of 0.109 ppp (#8). The ANE analysis gives the edge to Kentucky by 6 points, 75-69, in a game played at a pace of 71 possessions. Pomeroy has the Kentucky favored by 5, 73-68 with a pace of 66 possessions. Vegas opened today with Kentucky a 5 point favorite.
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For the fourth consecutive game, Coach Calipari will start Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Nick Richards, Kevin Knox, Wenyen Gabriel, and Hamidou Diallo against Missouri. PJ Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt, Sacha Killeya-Jones, and Quade Green represent the experienced bench tonight.
The Missouri controls the opening tip and they commit a turnover. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is fouled on the fast break opportunity before getting off a shot. The Cats turn it over on its first two possessions allowing Missouri to move on top 3-0, and then 5-2 before a 3 pointer by Hamidou Diallo ties the score at 5-5 at the under 16 media timeout with 15:14 left in the first half, and the Cats in possession of the ball. In the second segment, the Cats built on the 3-0 run that ended the first segment to move into a lead, 16-8. However, Missouri rushed back into a tie, 16-16 at the under 12 media timeout with 10:45 on the clock. After the break, the Cats will have free throws.
PJ Washington missed the front end of the bonus, and Missouri moves back into the lead, 18-16. After Missouri works to get on top by 3 points, 24-21, the Cats go back on top, 26-24, and Missouri takes a timeout with 7:22 left in the first half. A pair of free throws by PJ Washington, a jump shot basket from the free throw line by Quade Green, a steal by Quade Green followed by a 3 pointer by Wenyen Gabriel lifts the Cats into a 7 point lead, 33-26 at the under 4 media timeout. The Cats continue to extend their lead to 10 points, 41-31. After Missouri trims 1 points from the lead at the charity stripe, the Cats close the scoring in the first half with their 8 th 3 pointer on only 10 attempts to lead by 12, 44-32 at the half.
The largest lead of the first half was the 12 point halftime margin for the Cats and 3 points by Missouri. There were 5 ties and 3 lead changes.
The Cats scored 43 points on 31 possessions, 1.419 points per possession, and MISSOURI managed their 32 points on 31 possessions, 1.032 ppp. The Cats made 56.0% (14-25) of their first half shots, including 8-10 from outside the arc. MISSOURI managed to make 40.7% (11-27) of their first half shots, including 6-18 from outside the arc.
The Cats committed 5 turnovers in the first half while MISSOURI committed 5 turnovers.
The Cats made 8-11 from the line (72.7%) and MISSOURI made 4-8 from the line (50.0%).
On the Boards, the Cats won the rebounding battle 19-11, but the Cats had a 5-4 advantage on the offensive glass. Kentucky won the second chance points 3-2. The Cats secured 41.7% of their misses and allowed MISSOURI to grab 22.2% of their misses as second chance opportunities.
Missouri opens the second half and turns it over with a steal by Kevin Knox who makes a layup to extend the Cats' lead to 14 points. After trading baskets, the Cats move on top by 17, 58-41, and Missouri takes a time out with 15:01 left in the game. In the opening segment, the Cats made 7 of 10 shots, and rebounded 2 of their 3 missed shots. In the second segment, the Cats add 1 point to their lead, 18, 60-42, at the under 12 media timeout.
At the under 8 media timeout, the Cats lead stands at 22 points, 69-47. At the under 4 media timeout, the Cats are maintaining their lead at 20 points, 78-58.
The Cats win by 21 points, 87-66.
UK scored its 87 points on 65 possessions (1.338 ppp) for the game, and MISSOURI scored its 66 points on 67 possessions (0.985 ppp).
Kentucky won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 36-31, but Missouri controlled the offensive glass 13-9. Kentucky used its 9 second chance possessions to score 7 second chance points, and MISSOURI used its 13 second chance possessions to score 12 second chance points. MISSOURI had an offensive efficiency of 0.806 ppp on its 67 first chance possessions and 0.923 ppp for its 13 second chance possessions. UK had 1.231 ppp on its 65 first chance possessions and 0.778 ppp on its 9 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 33.3% of its misses as offensive rebounds while MISSOURI was able to convert 32.5% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK made 21-28 (75.0%) from the free throw line in this game. MISSOURI made 14-22 [63.6%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 28-51 overall [54.9%] and 10-16 from long range [62.5%]. For Missouri, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 11-27 [40.7%] and from long range, MISSOURI hit 10-31 [32.3%].
The Cats committed 9 turnovers, one for every 7.2 possessions. The Cats forced 12 MISSOURI turnovers, one for every 5.6 possessions.
Based on the venue and each teams' ANE at the time of this game, the 21 point win by the Cats was a "B+" game by the Cats and produced a game ANE of about 0.4 ppp as shown in the table below for this game.
Next Game On Schedule: Tuesday night against Mississippi at Rupp for the 30 th game of the season and the 17 th SEC game of 2018
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks