Monday, January 28, 2013

Kentucky 75 - 70 Louisana St. (No. 2,103)

Every time I try to get out, they pull me back in.

I didn't want to watch UK again after the debacle at Alabama, but there I was, same as usual, back in front of my TV on Saturday.  Here were my thoughts:

1.  The Cats are slowly getting better.  Alex Poythress played his best game of the year on Saturday -- 6-9 from the field, 8-10 from the line, 20 points, 12 rebounds, and only three fouls.  Noel had another solid game -- 4-5 from the field, 8 rebounds, 6 blocks, and only one foul.  As a team, the Cats out-rebounded LSU 39-26 -- the second consecutive game in which they've had a solid lead in that critical category.

2.  Goodwin and Harrow continue to struggle.  Together, they went 10-23 from the field, 6-11 from the line, and they had only 3 assists compared to six turnovers.  Goodwin did have 5 rebounds, so we'll hope that keeps up.

3.  Despite their relatively weak guard play, UK shot 61 percent from two-point range (25-41) and held LSU to only 39.5 percent (17-43) inside the arc.  UK missed their usual raft of free throws, but they still went 19-28 from the line, while LSU went 12-15.  So UK outscored LSU by 16 points from 2-point range, and by seven points at the line.  In other words, if the teams had been even remotely close in their three-point scoring, this would have been an easy win for the Cats.

4.  But UK's woes from three-point range continued.  They made only 2-11 three-point shots for the game.  In six SEC games, the Cats have made only 31.8 percent of their three-point shots -- in large part because Goodwin and Harrow have combined to make only 5 of 34 attempts (14.7 percent).  Remarkably, neither of these players has made a three-pointer since the Cats played Texas A & M.  In UK's last four games, Goodwin and Harrow have gone 0 for 15 from three-point range.  Meanwhile, LSU was hot from outside -- they made 8-20.  You're going to run into hot teams from time to time, even in the SEC, and it's good that the Cats were able to win a game where they were outscored so badly from behind the arc.

5.  I should also note that UK was the victim of one of the worst bits of officiating you will ever see.  With 6:22 left in the game, the Cats were up 65-54 and Nerlens Noel had just stolen the ball from LSU.  The Cats brought the ball down floor, and set up their offense, and an LSU draped himself over Julius Mays in a pretty blatant foul.  If Mays had gone to the line, as he should have, he could have put UK up 13, and the game would have been pretty much over.  But this is the SEC, where the officials tend to bring their own sense of justice to the proceedings.  Not only did they refuse to call the foul on LSU, they decided that Mays's desperate efforts to hang onto the ball represented a deliberate attempt to harm the LSU defender.  LSU got two free throws (which they made) and the ball, which they used to score two more points.  Suddenly, the score was 65-58 with 5:42 left, and LSU was inspired for a late-game charge.

6.  There is no doubt that this bit of officiating -- of a type with which we fans are so familiar -- rattled the Cats, and they struggled down the stretch.  In fact, they did not make another field goal for the rest of the game -- their last 10 points all came on free throws.  But adversity is part of life in college basketball, and they have to get better at dealing with it.

7.  My goal is for UK to take third place in the SEC, and we're still on pace to achieve that mark.  In fact, we're tied with Alabama and Missouri at 4-2, and together those teams are 1-4 on the road.  It's also fair to note that Louisville is 4-3 in the Big East, that Duke is 4-2 in the ACC, that UNC is 3-3 in the ACC, and that Minnesota is 3-4 in the Big 10.  Conference play is hard.  But the Cats have a brutal week ahead.  Ken Pomeroy gives them only a 39 percent chance against Ole Miss on Tuesday, and he says there's almost an 18 percent chance that they lose to both Mississippi and Texas A & M this week.  Plus our offense is not very good.  Here are UK's offensive efficiency numbers for the last four years in SEC play (these numbers are points per 100 possessions):

2010:  107.9
2011:  109.9
2012:  120.4
2013:  103.2

And here are the defensive numbers (points allowed per 100 possessions in SEC play):

2010:  94.0
2011:  98.4
2012:  93.5
2013:  97.9

As you can see, this team's defense is not close to the lock-down version we had in 2010 or 2012.  That's not surprising, and it is encouraging to see that they're actually doing a little better than the 2011 team so far.  But they are far behind that 2011 team on offense.  That team made 38.5 percent of its three-point shots and 73 percent of its free throws in SEC play -- this year's squad is at 31.8 percent and 65.0 percent, respectively.

Nevertheless, we still have a lot to play for, and we'll know a lot more after we see how this group does at Oxford and College Station.


  1. Per 6: True.

    6a: And it's a jive basketball conference. Always has been.

    You are a true-blue fan, Go Heath. Rock on.

  2. You keep saying that the SEC is a jive conference, but I really don't know what you mean by that.

  3. It's an awful basketball league. As you said, "this is the SEC, where the officials tend to bring their own sense of justice to the proceedings."

  4. You should have to watch ACC basketball for a couple of years. You will long for the honesty and integrity of SEC officials.

    1. I don't care about the SEC relative to the ACC. I care about UK, and I've always felt that the SEC has been worse for UK than it has been good for UK in terms of men's basketball, at least.

    2. Well, I couldn't disagree more with you there. If you want to be a great basketball power, you want to be the best team in your league. It's almost impossible to win multiple national titles if you're constantly losing recruits to other schools in your conference. Being in the SEC has allowed UK to be the best basketball program in a big-time conference. That's a huge advantage. Compare our position to that of schools like NCSU and Indiana, who were great powers but who fell way behind the rest of their leagues, and wandered in the wilderness for decades as a result.

      I think you're still thinking of the SEC as it was in the 1980's. That was a bad time for the conference, as it rarely sent teams to the final four and won no national titles from 1979 to 1993. But since 1993, the SEC has won the national title in 1994, 1996, 1998, 2006, 2007, and 2012. We also had SEC teams play for the title in 1995, 1997, and 2000. So the league has been quite strong for about 20 years now. And as the money keeps pouring in from football, it should get even better.

    3. I would also say that the problems that afflicted UK basketball in the 1980's were not, in my opinion, the result of being in the SEC.

    4. All I know is that about five times a season, I watch some UK game and come out believing that we just got totally hosed. And those games are always SEC games. That tie-goes-in-favor-of-the-team-that's-behind mentality that you talked about in the original post is usually at work.

    5. And you know it's true. Just last season, you and I were on the phone and you admitted how absurd it would be if Alabama football had to start playing in an SEC the equivalent of what UK basketball has to endure.

    6. I agree that the SEC officiating is bad, but I still think UK comes out ahead by being in the SEC.