Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Kentucky 88 - 50 Lipscomb (No. 2,097)

No, I didn't forget -- I've just been really busy.

On Saturday, the Cats picked up their third consecutive easy win -- an 88-50 win at Rupp Arena against an overmatched team from Lipscomb.  Once again, they did slightly better than Ken Pomeroy had expected -- he had the Cats winning 87-61.  Once again, their defense was particularly good.  In fact, Ken Pom now has the Cats at number 10 in the country in defensive efficiency -- last year's team was ninth in this category.  But the Cats are number 22 in offensive efficiency -- last year's team was number 2.

What's the deal with UK's offense?  Looking at the numbers, a few things stand out.  Last year, the Cats were 21st in the country in offensive rebounding percentage -- this year they are 123d.  Last year, the Cats were 47th in the country in free throw attempts/field goal attempts -- this year they are 113th.  Last year, the Cats were 67th in the country in free throw percentage (72.3 percent) -- this year they are 299th (63.1 percent).

It will not be easy to improve these numbers.  Last year's team had a front line of Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist, and Jones -- so it's not surprising that they got a lot of offensive rebounds and spent a lot of time at the line.  This year's team doesn't have that same talent up front.  On the other hand, I do think the new guys are becoming more aggressive, and I could see them getting better as the year goes on.  The free throw problem appears to be chronic, as this group includes a lot of guys who miss free throws.  They put up a very typical 16-26 from the line on Saturday.  In particular, we need Goodwin (currently shooting 65.3 percent from the line) and Noel (53.9 percent) to get better, as they are two of the Cats most likely to be fouled.

On the other hand, it was nice to see Kyle Wiltjer break out of his slump by going 7-9 from three-point range.  The Cats won't lose very many games where Kyle Wiltjer is hot from the outside.  He's shooting 41.4 percent from behind the arc now, which is a little bit behind his pace from last year (43.2 percent).  I'm sure that at least part -- if not all -- of that difference is that Wiltjer is getting more defensive attention this year.

Anyway, Pomeroy thinks that the numbers add up to a UK team that is number 13 in the nation, that is likely to go 23-8 overall and 14-4 in the SEC.  Given how poorly the Cats played against Notre Dame and Baylor, it is encouraging that their numbers still justify such good expectations.  The rest of the country has forgotten about the Cats -- they're still not ranked by the AP -- but if they keep improving, they will be very dangerous in March.

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