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Kentucky CAN win without draining three-pointers – their defense proves that

We’ve heard it time and time again this season: this is one of John Calipari’s best shooting teams. But in the first half against Kansas, that wasn’t very evident. The Cats entered the locker room at halftime 0-8 from behind-the-line. And Calipari was not happy.

“I told them at halftime… You can’t be 0-for-8, guys,” Cal said after the game. “You don’t have to make them all – you just can’t miss them all. You have to make a couple.”

They got the message. The Cats went 4-10 from the three in the second half. Although Calipari called that “the difference in the game,” he still wanted to see more.

“We’ve got guys that either are in the lodge, in class or in the craft center. They are one of three. They live in the practice facility,” Calipari said. ‘”They probably take 5,000 shots, maybe more, a week. Why would you be tentative shooting the ball? You deserve to make shots.”

5,000 shots a week? Sounds about right to Keldon Johnson.

“We stay in the gym. Late night, before practice, after practice. Then we come back after practice and work out,” Johnson said. “Everybody pretty much just stays in the gym.”

Considering the Cats were shooting 33 percent from the floor and zero percent from the three-point line at half, it’s impressive Kansas only had a 3-point lead. That’s where defense came in to save the day.

“Guys are going to have off-nights shooting. We didn’t hit really any jump shots in the first half and it was still a 3-point game,” Reid Travis said. “So you just have to credit defense and just grinding it out. We’re showing we can win in multiple ways. You don’t have to hit the three a lot to win… it’s been good to show we can win it in different aspects of the game.”

Against the Jayhawks, the Cats attempted 18 three-pointers. While Calipari obviously wants more from his “best shooting team,” he knows that’s not all they can do to win games. In a perfect world, Calipari says this team is attempting between 20 and 23 treys per game.

“We’re a good post-up team; we’re a good driving team,” Cal said. “You don’t need to rely on just jacking threes. But, if you leave us alone, if you trap the post, if you collapse your defense, we’re good enough to make those shots.”

At the beginning of the season, defense was one of the major weaknesses of this year’s roster. Duke delivered a 118-point beating, and the Cats struggled to come back. But over the last couple of weeks, something changed. In four of the last five games, Kentucky has held their opponent’s shooting percentage to 40 percent or less; they’re now 7-0 this season when that happens. Kansas shot 36.5 percent from the floor. In five of the last six games, UK’s opponent has scored 61 points or less. And, according to Kansas head coach Bill Self, one player in particular impacted that in Saturday’s matchup.

“They are good defensively. I thought [Tyler] Herro is really an underrated defender in my eyes, from what I saw,” Self said. “I thought he did a good job on [Lagerald] Vick, really good job. I thought he denied him the ball. We tried to fake-screen him a few times and do some different things, and he always seemed to get through it. I think he’s a very active, very good player.”

When asked about the defensive changes from a few months ago until now, both Travis and Johnson pointed to increased communication. But for Calipari, it’s more about confidence.

We’re able to guard the ball. When we went to the Bahamas, we could not guard the ball, but we were playing teams that we could run through,” Calipari said. “When you come back and you can’t guard the ball, you’re getting smooshed [and] you have no confidence, so now your team looks like a team that has no confidence. When you have defensive confidence, that bleeds into your offense.”

Moral of the story? Kentucky CAN win games, even close ones down the stretch, without draining every single three-pointer – even if they are Calipari’s best shooting team.


Article written by Maggie Davis

24 responses to “Kentucky CAN win without draining three-pointers – their defense proves that”

  1. DelrayCat

    This all begins and ends with Hagans.
    Teams with a ball-dominant point guard will have a hard time beating us if he stays out of foul trouble.
    And his tenacity is starting to spread to the others.
    With Richards guarding the rim and Ashton patrolling the perimeter with our other long wing defenders guarding the 3…and with a big bad bruiser down low to block everyone out….cats are tough.

    1. henderblue

      That’s exactly right Delray. Starts on the defensive end and starts with Hagans. He’s been a difference maker. Go Cats!!

    2. Ridge Runner

      Absolutely Delray.

  2. Thetruthshallsetbennyfree

    This is why I was saying if WVU could cause turnovers on Tennessee the way they did Hagans will be a nightmare.

  3. RondoTheDonThough

    Maggie, will you go on a date with me?

    1. bigbluebanana

      Dude? Again with the terrible cringe?

    2. runningunnin.454

      Still no luck? I can’t believe it…here, tell her this,
      “If you like pina coladas, and getting caught in the rain….
      I’m the love that you’ve looked for, write to me, and escape”.

    3. henderblue

      If you’re not into yoga, and you have half a brain…

    4. Ridge Runner

      Hender… Maggie seems to be the one with a whole brain.

    5. IrishCat

      I really hope this guy is trolling. In that case it’s just REALLY weird. If he’s not, whoa, this is creepier than creepy.

    6. runningunnin.454

      Hah, I intentionally left that line out; that might be a deal breaker for her.

    7. henderblue


    8. Bluebloodtoo

      Seems almost desperate, but that doesn’t make it creepy.

  4. 4everUKblue

    Anyone remember this comment?

    KYCat4EVER December 1, 2018 at 7:42 pm | Permalink
    Whatz up Bluebalz, I agree with you 100%! SPOT ON!

    By the way…
    Why did UK hire Rupp?
    Why did UK hire Hall?
    Why did UK hire Sutton?
    Why did UK hire Pitino?
    Why did UK hire Smith?

    NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS… not NBA lottery picks….

    Unfortunately, Coach Cal has had more NBA draft picks than any UK Coach…which tells everyone he can recruit…

    But he can’t coach it! PERIOD!

    Unfortunately, we at UK are stuck in a TUBBY SMITH syndrome, while some of our own BBN are buying Calipari but getting Calamari

    1. 4everUKblue

      This is the guy who shook Rupp’s hand many times and kissed Bigolblue/slater/combatmedic’s ass even more times.

    2. 4everUKblue

      And btw 4everUKblue, I don’t remember Sutton ever winning a championship at UK or anywhere else. Might want to do a little more research next time before you comment.

    3. 4everUKblue

      And btw *KYCat4EVER , I don’t remember Sutton ever winning a championship at UK or anywhere else. Might want to do a little more research next time before you comment.

    4. henderblue

      That dude seems to have disappeared

  5. UKLugo

    We didnt take the lead and create separation on Saturday until we started hitting 3s. Our defense and bigs kept us close until we were able to get things going a little bit from the perimeter. Sure we CAN win without perimeter shooting– against bad teams. We wouldnt have won Saturday without it and if we are going to win it all or get to the Final4 we will need 3pt production.

    1. CATandMONKEY

      Have to have multiple threats from outside to open up the middle. We have the threats and agree that the deep ball is needed against better teams.

      Speaking of:
      What about Hagan’s with a couple nice jumpers?

    2. Ridge Runner

      Cat&Monkey.. Yes, can you imagine Hagans with that on a routine basis? I yi yi…

  6. Jiminy Crickets

    This team turned from OK to really good when Hagans began hitting shots. What was killing us was stall ball, Hagans couldn’t drive because people sagged on him, quickley could shoot, but he couldn’t drive or defend. When Hagans began hitting outside shots, the offense opened up, when that happened Hagans is nearly ungaurdable on offense, and is relentless on defense, and everyone is buying in more. Hagans is the difference on both ends of the floor. As far a needing 3s, no good team needs to hit a bunch of 3s to win, but winning against Kansas without Azabuike at Rupp without 3s is great, but the cars need to shoot 35% from 3 if they plan on cutting nets. In the tournament timeouts are longer, teams slow it down, less and less transition, if you can’t play in the half court and hit open shots, you don’t advance.

    1. runningunnin.454

      Neither team shot well; they’re lucky they were playing each other. They both played solid defense…maybe that was it.

  7. Bluebloodtoo

    This game only proves that kansas was weak on the interior. We shouldn’t have needed threes for this game.