2018-19 Season Analytical Writings

Cats Venture Away From Rupp Again To Face North Carolina

The Cats will take a pre-Christmas trip to the windy city to face the North Carolina Tarheels in this year's version of the CBS Champions' Classic. The Cats have won all 8 games they have played in the friendly confines of Rupp and have lost both times Coach Calipari has escorted them to other locations to compete. Next, the Cats will play three in a row away from Rupp: North Carolina in Chicago, Louisville at the YUM, and at Alabama to open the 2019 SEC season.

The first two road trips provided losses to #1 Duke and #61 Seton Hall, the two strongest opponents thus far on this schedule. #10 North Carolina will displace Seton Hall as the second strongest opponent this season. While North Carolina is not quite as strong as #1 Duke, the Tarheels are much stronger than #61 Seton Hall. For this reason, this game provides the Cats an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the magnitude of improvement they have achieved since that 34 point loss to Duke in Indianapolis.

The Cats have been improving from their very weak first five games. After five games, the Cats' ANE stood at 0.095 points per possession (ppp). This is the weakest ANE 5 of the Calipari Era, a fact that I have pointed out frequently. Based on the prior 9 seasons, this slow start does not bode well for the Cats' finish this season.

However, the results of games 6 through 10 may be telling a different story about this team's potential and ceiling. The average ANE 6-10 for games 6 through 10 has been 0.240 ppp, and the Cats have posted single game ANE values above the championship threshold of 0.3 ppp twice in the last four games. This rising trend for the ANE admittedly is above the trend curve suggested by the ANE 5 value this season based solely on the historical data.

At the end of November, as the Big Blue Nation anticipated the December schedule, I pointed out that the level of competition in December would put this team to the test, and with the OT loss to Seton Hall at MSG, the Cats have already stumbled once. It was my view after Thanksgiving that the Cats would need to traverse its December schedule with no more than 1 loss to indicate the type of improvement that would be consistent with preseason expectations for this team. I continue to hold the view that this team needs to finish the first 12 games with no more than 2 losses. Therefore, this encounter with North Carolina and next week's trip to Louisville take on much greater importance.

Last Saturday, the Cats responded to the end of the fall semester and the onset of Camp Cal with a strong 27-point win over #165 Utah, 88-61. However, as impressive as this win was, the Cats rode an outstanding offensive performance to the final margin while allowing Utah to win the battle of the boards. On the defensive end, but for the 18 Utah turnovers, Utah would have finished much closer to the Cats at the final buzzer.

#10 North Carolina brings its 8-2 record into this game with an ANE of 0.283 ppp at a pace of 79 possessions per game against a schedule that currently ranks #51 (0.053 ppp). The Tarheels' losses have been to #41 Texas by 3 points on a neutral court and at #6 Michigan by 17 points. North Carolina's most impressive win this season has been over #7 Gonzaga by 13 last Saturday in Chapel Hill.

#35 Kentucky also brings an 8-2 record into this game with an ANE of 0.171 ppp at a pace of 71.4 possessions per game against a schedule that currently ranks #304 (-0.043 ppp). The ANE analysis provides North Carolina with an 8-point advantage on a neutral court, 85-77 in a game played at a pace of 80 possessions. Pomeroy projects a 4-point North Carolina win, 85-81, at a pace of 75 possessions.

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Game Summary:

Coach Calipari stays with the starting lineup that delivered the 27 point win over Utah, with Ashton Hagans, Reid Travis, PJ Washington, Keldon Johnson, and Tyler Herro to start the 11 th game of this season. Immanuel Quickley, Nick Richards, E. J. Montgomery, and Jemarl Baker will come off the bench.

North Carolina controls the opening tip and North Carolina loses the ball on a steal and layup by Ashton Hagans. The Cats take the early lead, and lead by 4 (8-4) and 3 (12-9) but North Carolina takes their first lead on a second chance basket, 13-12, at the under 16 media timeout with 14:38 left to play. In a short second segment, the Cats pull even at 15-15, and Reid Travis is fouled, sending the game to the under 12 media timeout, after which Reid Travis will have a pair of free throws with a chance to ease the Cats back into the lead.

In the third segment, UK moved into the lead, and held the lead through the entire segment, leading by as many as 6 points (26-20 last) and by 3, 26-23 at the under 8 media time out with 6:50 left in the first half. However, during the segment, Ashton Hagans turned an ankle, and the trainers took him to the locker room during the time out. In the fourth segment, the teams played on even terms, and the Cats maintain the 3 point lead, 30-27, at the under 4 media timeout with 3:50 left and the Cats in possession with a short shot clock.

The Cats begin to pull away in the last segment of the first half, going on top by 8, 37-29. When Ashton Hagans makes another steal and North Carolina fouls him as he goes to the basket, North Carolina takes a timeout with 1:17 left. Ashton Hagans converts at the line to extend the Cats' lead to 10 points, 39-29. The Cats move on top by a game high 11 when Reid Travis makes 1 of 2 from the line following another North Carolina turnover. North Carolina trims the lead to 9, 40-31, at the half.

The Cats scored 40 points on 45 possessions, 0.889 points per possession, and NORTH CAROLINA managed their 31 points on 43 possessions, 0.721 ppp. The Cats made 43.8% of their first half shots, including 4-15 from outside the arc. NORTH CAROLINA managed to make 42.4% of their first half shots, including 2-5 from outside the arc.

The Cats made 8-12 free throws (66.7%) and NORTH CAROLINA made 1-2 (50.0%).

On the Boards, the Cats controlled the glass 21-18 overall, and Kentucky controlled the offensive glass 2-1. Kentucky earned an advantage on second chance points of 3-2. The Cats secured 10.5% of their misses and allowed NORTH CAROLINA to grab 5.0% of their misses as second chance opportunities.

Second Half:

North Carolina opens the second half with another turnover, and Keldon Johnson hits a 3 pointer to give Kentucky its largest lead of the game, 12 points, 43-31, but North Carolina rode 4-9 shooting, including 2-3 from outside the arc to trim the lead to 6 points, 47-41 at the under 16 media timeout, and North Carolina will have a pair of free throws after the break. North Carolina trims the lead to 4 on the free throws, but the Cats extend the lead back to 9 points, 54-45. Then with under 12 minutes left, North Carolina makes a 3 point shot to trim the lead back to 6, and Coach Calipari is assessed with a technical foul as the game moves to the under 12 media timeout with 11:53 left in the game.

North Carolina made 1 of the 2 technical free throws to trim the Cats' lead to 5 points. Over the balance of the segment, the Cats played with a 7 to 10 point lead, and lead by 8, 66-58 at the under 8 media timeout with 7:04 left in the game. In the fourth segment, the Cats continue to play from a 6 to 10 point lead, and lead by 10, 75-65, at the under 4 media timeout with 3:44 left and the Cats in possession.

The Cats turn the ball over 3 times in this final segment as they try to protect a 10 point lead. After the third turnover allows North Carolina to cut the lead to 8 points, Coach Calipari takes a timeout with 59 seconds left and the score 77-69. North Carolina fouls Reid Travis, and Reid Travis misses the front end, but the Cats get an offensive rebound and take a time out with 46 seconds. After a foul, Keldon Johnson made only 1 of 2, and at the other end Keldon Johnson fouls out giving North Carolina a 3 point play to trim the Kentucky lead to only 6 points, 78-72 with 41 seconds left.

Cats close out the scoring with a pair of free throws and defeat the Tarheels 80-72


UK scored its 80 points on 82 possessions (0.976 ppp) for the game, and NORTH CAROLINA scored its 72 points on 83 possessions (0.867 ppp).

Kentucky won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 43-33, and Kentucky won the battle on the offensive glass 10-5. Kentucky won the second chance point battle 11-10. NORTH CAROLINA had an offensive efficiency of 0.747 ppp on its 83 first chance possessions and 2.000 ppp for its 5 second chance possessions. UK had 0.842 ppp on its 82 first chance possessions and 1.100 ppp on its 10 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 26.3%of its misses as offensive rebounds while NORTH CAROLINA was able to convert 13.2% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.

UK hit poorly from the free throw line in this game, making 15-22 [68.2%]. NORTH CAROLINA made 11-16 [68.8%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 28-63 overall [44.4%] and 9-26 from long range [34.6%]. For NORTH CAROLINA, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 20-45 [44.4%] and from long range, NORTH CAROLINA hit 7-19 [38.8%].

The Cats committed 18 turnovers, one for every 4.6 possessions. The Cats forced 17 NORTH CAROLINA turnovers, one for every 4.9 possessions.

Next Game On Schedule: Saturday afternoon at Louisville in the Cats' first true road game of the season and the twelfth regular season game of the 2018-19 season.

Submitted by Richard Cheeks

Submitted by Richard Cheeks


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