2019-20 Season Analytical Writings

Cats Take On Auburn With SEC Regular Season Title on the Line

On the first day of February, the Cats lost to Auburn 75-66 in Auburn, Alabama, and on the last day of February, these team meet again, this time in Rupp Arena. Since that loss, the Cats have run the table with seven consecutive wins while Auburn needed overtime to win its next three consecutive games before dropping back to back games at Missouri and at Georgia.

As a result, the Cats enter Saturday's rematch protecting a 2 game lead over Auburn with only 3 games remaining on the regular season schedule. No one else in the SEC can overtake the Cats in the regular season since Florida, playing with 5 SEC losses, handed LSU their 5 th SEC loss on Wednesday this week. Therefore, any combination of one UK win and one Auburn loss over the next 3 games will deliver the SEC regular season championship to the Cats, and with a win on Saturday, the race will be over.

In the alternative, a loss to Auburn on Saturday will send the race into the final week of the season with Auburn one game behind with two games to play. On the final Saturday, Kentucky must travel to Florida and Auburn must travel to Tennessee. The complexity of that possibility leaves little doubt that the Cats need to take care of business this Saturday, and then play out the final two games only to further sharpen its game leading into the post season.

AUBURN brings its 24-4, 11-4 record into the Saturday afternoon's encounter with the Cats. Since beating the Cats four weeks ago, Auburn has struggled. The game before beating the Cats, Auburn needed 2 overtimes to put #98 Mississippi away, and in the three games after beating Kentucky, Auburn needed an overtime period in each of these games to win at #39 Arkansas by 3, beat #37 LSU by 1, and beat #46 Alabama by 4. Then Auburn dropped their last two road games, at #89 Missouri by 12 and at #96 Georgia by 10. The Tigers have won their last two game, both at home over #59 Tennessee by 7 and #98 Mississippi by 9. Auburn's average ANE over these seven games since they beat the Cats has been 0.14 ppp.

In contrast, the Cats' average ANE since the Auburn loss has been an nice 0.26 ppp. Kentucky brings a seven-game winning streak into this game. After losing at #36 Auburn, the Cats have beaten #50 Mississippi State by 8 (0.21 ppp Game ANE), #59 Tennessee by 13 (0.41 ppp Game ANE), #157 Vanderbilt by 14 (0.29 ppp Game ANE), #98 Mississippi by 5 (0.11 ppp Game ANE), #37 LSU by 3 (0.29 ppp Game ANE), #34 Florida by 6 (0.23 ppp Game ANE), and #152 Texas A&M by 9 (0.24 ppp Game ANE), which is an average ANE of 0.26 ppp over these last seven games.

AUBURN's season ANE of 0.190 ppp against a schedule strength of 0.083 ppp and an average tempo of 70.6 possessions per game. Kentucky's season ANE of 0.210 ppp against a schedule strength of 0.079 ppp at an average tempo of 68.8. The ANE analysis based on these season profiles points to an 5 point Kentucky win, 74-69 in a game played with 70 possessions. However, based on the way each of these teams have played since their first meeting, the Cats figure to be about 12 points better than Auburn at the present time.

It is intuitively clear than not all 5-point games are created equal. The quality of any win depends upon the final margin, the strength of the opponent, and the venue of the game.

The table provides tools to evaluate this game's final margin considering the relevant factors. This table separates game outcomes into three ranges, red, tan, and green. Over the years, Calipari's strongest teams play more of their games in the green range than in the red range over the course of the season. Conversely, Calipari's weakest teams play more of their games in the red than in the green range. A game ANE moves toward the red zone with smaller margins (or losses) and toward the green zone with larger margins.

Game Summary:

Coach Calipari starts Tyrese Maxey, E. J. Montgomery, Nick Richards, Immanuel Quickley, and Ashton Hagans against AUBURN. Johnny Juzang, Nate Sestina and Keion Brooks will come off the bench.

Kentucky controls the opening tip and the Cats miss and Nick Richards commits his first foul and Auburn drains its first shot, a 3 pointer from the left corner. The Cats pull even on 3 of 4 from the line on their next 2 possessions sandwiched around an Auburn turnover. After Auburn goes back on top by 3, 8-5, the Cats take their first lead, 9-8, but it was short lived as Auburn drained back to back 3 point baskets, their 3 rd and 4 th of the game on 4 attempts, and a layup with a foul taking the game to the under 16 media timeout with 14:10 left and Auburn leading by a game high 7 points, 16-9. In addition, Auburn will have 1 free throw to complete a 3 point play to potentially extend their lead to a game high 8 points, 17-9 after the break. Auburn missed the free throw. With 13:20 left in the first half, Nick Richards commits his second foul. Then E. J. Montgomery commits a foul, and Auburn moves ahead by 9, 18-11 with a pair of free throws from the line. Auburn leads by 9, 20-11, at the under 12 media timeout.

After the time out, Kentucky gets a baseline jump shot basket by Nate Sestina on the inbounds play, and after an Auburn turnover, Immanuel Quickley gets a pair from the line to trim the Auburn lead to 5, 20-15. Following an Auburn miss from 3 point range, Wiley commits his second foul with 10:29 left and Nate Sestina trims another 2 points from the Auburn lead. The Cats pull to within 1 point to complete an 8 point run, stopped by Auburn's 5 th 3 point basket of the game. Immanuel Quickley and Tyrese Maxey each score to tie the score at 23-23, and Immanuel Quickley is fouled on a drive to the basket at the under 8 media timeout with the score still tied, and Immanuel Quickley will be at the line for 2 shots after the break. The two free throws ease the Cats to their biggest lead of the game, 2 points, and following a missed 3 point attempt by Auburn, the Cats extend that lead to 4 points, 27-23 with 6:56 left in the first half. Then when Auburn misses the front end, the Cats extend their lead to 6, 29-23. Auburn missed another 3 point attempt, and Tyrese Maxey is fouled on the rebound, making both to extend the lead to 8, 31-23 and complete a 12-0 run, and a 20-3 run from the 20-11 deficit. After the Cats go back up by 8 points, 33-25, Auburn drains another 3 point basket an gets a layup to trim the Kentucky lead to 3, 33-30, at the under 4 media timeout with 3:32 left in the first half and the Cats in possession.

The Cats move on top by 7, 37-30, and again at 40-33 after each team makes a 3 point basket. Auburn trims the Kentucky lead to 5 on pair of free throws with 39.3 seconds left, and Coach Calipari takes a timeout. The Cats miss, and Auburn takes a timeout with 4 seconds left and will inbounds the ball from beneath their basket. Auburn scores on the inbounds play and the Cats lead by 3, 40-37 at the half.

The Cats scored 40 points on 33 possessions, 1.212 points per possession, and AUBURN managed their 37 points on 33 possessions, 1.121 ppp. The Cats made 48.3% of their first half shots, including 1-4 from outside the arc. AUBURN managed to make 42.9% of their first half shots, including 7-18 from outside the arc.

The Cats committed 1 turnover in the first half to 6 turnovers by AUBURN.

The Cats made 11-12 free throws (91.7%) and AUBURN made 4-6 (66.7%).

On the Boards, Auburn controlled the glass with a 17-15 advantage, and Auburn controlled the offensive glass with a 5-3 margin. The Cats and Tigers each scored 4 second chance points. The Cats secured 20.0% of their misses and allowed AUBURN to grab 29.4% of their misses as second chance opportunities.

Second Half:

Kentucky opens the second half with a basket by Immanuel Quickley, and Auburn shoots an air ball out of bounds from the 3 point line. The teams go after each other for 5 ½ minutes before the under 16 media timeout finds the Cats on top by 5, 51-46 with 14:32 left in the game and the Cats in possession. After the Cats move on top by 7, 53-46, Auburn charges back to within 2 points, 55-53 at the under 12 media timeout with the Cats in possession and 11:15 left in the game.

After the timeout, the Cats commit their 6 th turnover of the game. However, Auburn cannot cut the lead missing from 3 and missing on the second chance from point blank range. Auburn fouls Immanuel Quickley on a 3 point shot, and the Cats ease back on top by 5, 58-53. Auburn answers with a 3 point play to pull within 2 points again. After Nick Richards is fouled on an offensive rebound, he makes 1 of 2 from the line to ease the lead back to 3, 59-56 at the under 8 media timeout and the Cats in possession. The teams each make a pair of free throws before Nick Richards commits his 4 th foul with 7:22 left in the game. Again, Auburn cannot reduce the lead as Ashton Hagans steals the ball and scores to extend the lead to 5. After an Auburn miss, Nate Sestina is fouled on a rebound, but Nate Sestina missed both free throw attempts and the lead remains 5, 63-58 with 6:20 left in the game.

At the under 4 media timeout, the Cats are clinging to a 5 point lead, 67-62, and Auburn will have free throws after the break as Immanuel Quickley committed his 4 th foul of the game on a rebound after a missed 3 point attempt by Auburn. There is 3:26 left in the game. Auburn made both free throws to trim the lead to 3 points. Tyrese Maxey scores on a drive to extend the lead back to 5 points, and following an Auburn rebounding foul, Nick Richards eases the lead to 7 points, 71-64 with 2:40 remaining on the clock.

Cats win 73-66.


UK scored its 73 points on 68 possessions (1.074 ppp) for the game, and AUBURN scored its 66 points on 69 possessions (0.957 ppp).

Kentucky and Auburn each grabbed 38 rebounds, but aub won the battle of the offensive glass 10-7, which produced a 12-5 advantage for Auburn on second chance points. AUBURN had an offensive efficiency of 0.783 ppp on its 69 first chance possessions and 1.000 ppp for its 12 second chance possessions. UK had 1.000 ppp on its 68 first chance possessions and 0.714 ppp on its 5 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 21.2%of its misses as offensive rebounds while AUBURN was able to convert 27.9% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.

UK hit well from the free throw line in this game, making 27-33 [81.8%]. AUBURN made 13-22 [59.1%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 22-52 overall [42.3%] and 2-13 from long range [15.4%]. For AUBURN, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 13-27 [48.1%] and from long range, AUBURN hit 9-34 [26.5%].

The Cats committed 7 turnovers, one for every 9.7 possessions. The Cats forced 10 AUBURN turnovers, one for every 6.9 possessions.

Next Game On Schedule: Tuesday night against Tennessee at Rupp in the Cats' thirtieth regular season game, the 17 th game of the 2020 SEC season, and the final game at Rupp for this season.

Submitted by Richard Cheeks



Submitted by Richard Cheeks


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