2019-20 Season Analytical Writings

Cats Strut Back From MSG Wearing the #1 Mantle
Will Have 5 Weeks and 7 Games To Fine Tune, Starting with EKU

The Cats cleared a huge hurdle at the MSG on Tuesday night. Other than a 2 point lead in the opening minute of the game, Kentucky never trailed the Spartans on Tuesday night after moving on top 5-4 after the first two scoring possessions of the game. These Cats played with the toughness that Coach Calipari has spent the preseason period insisting that this team must have.

#1 vs #2 collisions are rare in college basketball, and for a #1 vs #2 to occur for the first game of the season is so rare that this is only the second time in about 50 years. Michigan State was the preseason #1 team with a veteran team that finished last season in the Final Four. This Kentucky team controlled the pace of the game with strong defense, and played in the lead with confidence and effectiveness.

Prior to the season, Pomeroy projected UK as a favorite in 30 of the 31 regular season games, with this opening game encounter as the one game in which UK was not the favored team. As the Cats return to Lexington, having dethroned #, the BBN's expectation that the basketball world will confer the new #1 status to these Cats. Looking ahead, the Cats are in a very strong position to hang on to the #1 ranking for a long time.

Yes, the Cats will play their usual, highly competitive schedule again this season, but the next seven opponents are in the category often called cupcakes. Starting five weeks from Saturday, the Cat's enter the heart of their non-conference schedule by facing in order Georgia Tech, Utah, Ohio St., and Louisville. Then the Cats enter what is shaping up to be a brutal SEC run on January 4, 2020.

The Cats have 5 weeks and 7 games to iron out any wrinkles it has in its game, allow the players to climb up their personal learning curves, and to meld into a team. The hard work occurs during practice sessions between these game, and the games provide coaches the opportunity to identify the wrinkles and address them in practice. The first opponent in this phase of the season will be EKU.

EKU also opened its season on Tuesday night when it beat #288 Chattanooga by 11 points, 79-68, in a game played at a 81 possession tempo. Following their win, EKU stands at #260 in Pomeroy's ranking with an ANE of -0.149 points per possession (ppp). The Cats enter this game with an ANE of 0.290 ppp. In my opinion, this game should happen at a tempo of about 72 possessions with the Cats winning by 34 points, 90-56.

Game Summary

Coach Calipari juggles the starting lineup again with E. J. Montgomery out with an injury sustained during the game Tuesday. Tonight, Calipari starts Immanuel Quickley, Ashton Hagans, Nate Sestina, and Kahlil Whitney. Tyrese Maxey, Johnny Juzang, and Keino Brooks will come off the bench tonight. E. J. Montgomery joins Dontaie Allen remains on the disabled list.

EKU controls the opening tip. The Cats have not controlled an opening tip in any of their first 4 games this season. EKU misses on their first attempt, and Nick Richards commits a turnover on the Cats' first possession. EKU committed turnovers on their next four possessions while the Cats race to a 12-0 lead at the under 16 media timeout. In the second segment, EKU breaks into the scoring column with a 3 point play, and the Cats extend their lead to 13, 18-5, at the under 12 media timeout. Nate Sestina will have a pair of free throws after the break.

In the third segment, the Cats added 2 more points to their lead, leading by 15, 25-10, at the under 8 media timeout with 7:17 left in the first half. In the fourth segment, the Cats scored the first 7 points and extended their lead to 20, 35-15, at the under 4 media timeout with Immanuel Quickley set to attempt free throws after the media timeout.

In the final segment, the Cats turn the ball over on three straight possessions and EKU makes them pay with 8 straight points to trim the 22 point lead to 14, forcing Coach Calipari to take a timeout with 2:37 left in the first half. The Cats respond to Coach Calipari's timeout with 7 straight points to put the Cats on top 44-23.

The Cats take a 21 point lead to the locker room at the half, 46-25.

The Cats scored 46 points on 42 possessions, 1.095 points per possession, and Eastern Kentucky managed their 25 points on 43 possessions, 0.581 ppp. The Cats made 51.6% (16-31) of their first half shots, including 1-6 (16.7%) from outside the arc. Eastern Kentucky made 9-33 (27.3%) shooting in the first half and only managed to make 4-16 shots from long range (25.0%) and only 5-17 (29.4%) from inside the arc.

The Cats made 13-18 free throws (72.2%) and Eastern Kentucky managed to make 3-4 (75.0%) free throws.

On the Boards, the Cats won the battle 28-12 and Cats won on the offensive glass 8-3. The Cats used its 8 second chance possessions to score 4 points and EKU could not convert any of its 3 second chance possessions into points. The Cats grabbed 47.1% of their missed shots while EKU only rebounded 13.0% of its missed shots. The Cats committed 11 turnovers, one for each 3.8 possessions while Eastern Kentucky committed 12 turnovers, one for each 3.6 possessions.

Second Half:

EKU opens the second half with a missed shot. During the opening segment of the second half, the Cats extend their lead to 32 points, 60-28, at the under 16 media timeout. In the second segment, the Cats moved on top by 37, 66-29, but back to back 3 pointers by EKU trimmed the lead to 31 and Coach Calipari calls another timeout to stop the Colonel run with 12:46 left in the game. After the time out, Tyrese Maxey makes a pair of free throws and the Cats lead by 33, 69-35, at the under 12 media timeout with Ashton Hagans set for a pair of free throws after the break.

In the third segment, the Cats allowed EKU to climb back to within 30 points on another pair of 3 point baskets, 71-41, but the Cats closed the segment with a 6 point run to lead 77-41 at the under 8 media timeout with 6:57 left and Tyrese Maxey with 1 free throw to complete a 3 point play after the break. In the 4 th segment, the Cats extend their lead to 39, 84-45, at the under 4 media timeout.

Cats win 91-49


UK scored its 91 points in a total of 83 possessions (1.096 ppp) for the game, and Eastern Kentucky scored its 49 points on a total of 85 possessions (0.576 ppp).

Kentucky won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 54-25, and the Cats won the battle of the offensive glass 12-4. Kentucky used its 12 second chance possessions to score 9 second chance points while EKU did not score on any of their 4 second chances. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 36.4% of its misses as offensive rebounds while Eastern Kentucky was able to convert 8.7% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.

UK hit poorly from the free throw line in this game, making 21-32 [65.6%]. Eastern Kentucky made 9-11 [81.8%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 34-62 overall [54.8%] and 2-14 from long range [14.3%]. For Eastern Kentucky, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 8-31 [25.8%] and from long range, Eastern Kentucky hit 8-33 [24.2%].

The Cats committed 18 turnovers, one for every 4.6 possessions. The Cats forced 21 Eastern Kentucky turnovers, one for every 4.0 possessions.

Next Game On Schedule: Tuesday night against Evansville in the third game of the 2019-20 regular season.

Submitted by Richard Cheeks


Submitted by Richard Cheeks


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