2019-20 Season Analytical Writings

Cats Continue To Develop
Cats Now Face Walter McCarty's Evansville

In game 1, the Cats were tough enough to hold off a strong group of Spartans to lay claim to the #1 spot on the college basketball totem pole. This past Friday, the Cats put the pedal to the metal from the opening tip to the final buzzer and took a bunch of Colonels apart for an impressive 42-point win over our neighbors from Richmond. On Tuesday night, former Wildcat star Walter McCarty will bring his Evansville Purple Aces into Rupp to see if he can find the keys to slow down this hot set of Wildcats.

Just as two games do not define a season, neither does one game performance by any player define that player. However, these single game player eruptions serve to illustrate how strong (or weak) the components of the team can be. Against Michigan State, Tyrese Maxey emerged on one of the biggest stages against a legitimate final four opponent and turned in one of the strongest freshman debuts in Kentucky basketball history. Against EKU, Junior Nick Richards had perhaps his best game ever as a Wildcat.

Both individual game performances are most welcome to the Big Blue Nation. However, these individual performances are peaks, and where there are peaks, there are also valleys. For me, the more encouraging observations from these first two games are the steady, reliable contributions to the team's efforts by Nate Sestina, Immanuel Quickley, Kahlil Whitney, and Ashton Hagans.

Yes, Big Blue Fans, the season is still in its infancy, and the basketball landscape will change as infants mature basketball players for March Madness and the run toward Championship Monday. There is no way to know today who will remain standing at midnight on April 6, 2020, but our Wildcats have started their 2019-20 journey in an impressive manner.

The Cats now stand at 2-0 with an Adjusted Net Efficiency (ANE) of 0.35 points per possession (ppp) against a schedule strength of +0.073 ppp (MSU and EKU). This ANE is worthy of the #1 ranking. The Cats' average tempo has been in the upper 70s possessions per game due to the 82-possession tempo of the EKU game. Evansville opened its season on Saturday with a 4-point (79-75) home win over #157 Ball State. That game produced an ANE of 0.027 ppp against a schedule strength of -0.027 ppp. While the Cats have the highest ANE in the land, Evansville's ANE ranks #164.

Based on the limited data from 1 or 2 games for these teams, an ANE analysis indicates this game will have a tempo of 76 possessions with the Cats prevailing by 30 points, 89-59.

Game Summary:

E. J. Montgomery is still out with an injury sustained during the game last Tuesday. Tonight, Calipari starts Immanuel Quickley, Ashton Hagans, Nate Sestina, Nick Richards, and Kahlil Whitney. Tyrese Maxey, Johnny Juzang, and Keino Brooks will come off the bench tonight. E. J. Montgomery and Dontaie Allen remain on the disabled list.

Kentucky controls the opening tip for the first time this season.. The Cats miss on their first possession. After EVANSVILLE misses on their first attempt, Immanuel Quickley makes a 3 point play. The Cats lead at 5-2, and 8-5. However, Nick Richards commits his 2 nd foul with 15:58 left in the first half and Evansville scores to trim the UK lead to 1 point, and will have an opportunity to complete the 3 point play after the under 16 media timeout.

The Aces complete the 3 point play, and after two turnovers and three missed shots by the Cats, Evansville takes their first lead of the game, 10-8. Johnny Juzang pushes the Cats back into a 1 point lead with his first basket as a Cat, a 3 pointer. Ashton Hagans commits his second foul with 12:15 left. At the under 12 media timeout, Evansville has the ball with the score tied at 13-13 and two Wildcats in mild foul trouble. The Cats are shooting the ball very poorly in the early going and have committed 6 turnovers in 16 possessions.

In the third segment, Evansville moves on top of the Cats with 3-6 shooting while the Cats only made 1 basket in 3 shots, missed a pair of free throws, and committed 2 more turnovers, 8 for the game as the Aces move on top by 4 points, 20-16 at the under 8 media timeout.

The first 12+ minutes of this game have been a nighmare for a team that should be able to get this win while sleep walking. After the timeout, Evansville adds 2 more points to its lead, and Nate Sestina commits his 2 nd foul. On the next possession, Evansville gets 3 shots at the basket and converts on the 3 rd attempt to move on top by 8, 24-16. Coach Calipari takes a timeout with 5:54 left in the first half. After the timeout, the Cats trim the Aces' lead from 8 to 2 points, 24-22, at the under 4 media timeout.

Cats trail at the half, 34-30.

The Cats scored 30 points on 38 possessions, 0.789 points per possession, and Evansville managed their 34 points on 36 possessions, 0.944 ppp. The Cats made 34.6% (9-26) of their first half shots, including 2-7 (28.6%) from outside the arc. Evansville made 12-31 (38.7%) shooting in the first half and only managed to make 4-16 shots from long range (25.0%) and a strong 8-15 (53.3%) from inside the arc.

The Cats made 10-12 free throws (83.3%) and Evansville managed to make 6-7 (85.7%) free throws.

On the Boards, the Cats won the battle 20-18 and both teams grabbed 5 offensive rebounds. The Cats used its 5 second chance possessions to score 6 points and EVANSVILLE used its 5 second chances to score 7 second chance points. The Cats grabbed 27.8% of their missed shots while EVANSVILLE only rebounded 25.0% of its missed shots. The Cats committed 11 turnovers, one for each 3.5 possessions while Evansville committed 7 turnovers, one for each 5.1 possessions.

Second Half:

EVANSVILLE opens the second half with a 3 point basket to move on top by 7 points. The Cats and Aces play an extended opening session with the Aces maintaining a 5 to 7 point lead and a 5 point lead, 44-39, at the under 16 media timeout with 13:43 left in the game. In a short second segment, the Cats catch up at 46-46 on a 3 point basket by Tyrese Maxey, and Nate Sestina draws a foul taking the game to the under 12 media timeout with 11:17 left in the game.

Nate Sestina makes his free throws to give the Cats their first lead since they led 16-15 midway through the first half, but the lead was short lived as Evansville scored a 3 pointer to move back on top. For the rest of the 3 rd segment, the Cats played from behind until Nate Sestina tied the score again at 53-53, but Evansville moved back on top with another 3 point shot. Coach Calipari takes a timeout with 7:13 left in the game and the Cats down 3 points, 56-53.

After the timeout, the Cats miss a 3 point shot at the end of the shot clock, and with the clock stoppage, the under 8 media timeout occurs with the score still 56-53, but the possession belongs to Evansville after this timeout. In the 4 th segment, Evansville continues to play with a lead of 3 to 6 points. The Cats trim the lead to 4, 61-57, at the under 4 media timeout, and Ashton Hagans will have a pair of free throws with a chance to trim the lead to 2 points after the timeout.

Ashton Hagans missed the first free throw and made the second to trim the lead to 3 points. The Cats could draw no closer than 3 over the final segment. Evansville has the ball with 45 seconds left, up 3, 65-62, and turn the ball over on a shot clock violation. The Cats score with 8 seconds left to trim the lead to 1 point, 65-64. Coach Calipari uses his last timeout with 8 seconds left.

Cats fall for the first time this season to Evansville, 67-64.


UK scored its 64 points in a total of 71 possessions (0.901 ppp) for the game, and Evansville scored its 67 points on a total of 69 possessions (0.971 ppp).

Evansville won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 39-35, and the Aces won the battle of the offensive glass 11-8. Kentucky used its 8 second chance possessions to score 11 second chance points while EVANSVILLE used its 11 second chances to score 12 points. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 22.2% of its misses as offensive rebounds while Evansville was able to convert 28.9% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.

UK hit well from the free throw line in this game, making 20-25 [80.0%]. Evansville made 12-13 [92.3%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 20-53 overall [37.7%] and 4-16 from long range [25.0%]. For Evansville, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 14-30 [46.7%] and from long range, Evansville hit 9-30 [30.0%].

The Cats committed 13 turnovers, one for every 5.4 possessions. The Cats forced 14 Evansville turnovers, one for every 4.9 possessions.

Next Game On Schedule: Monday night against Utah Valley in the fourth game of the 2019-20 regular season.

Submitted by Richard Cheeks


Submitted by Richard Cheeks


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