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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

It has been more than a week since that fateful day in Lexington. That day when 24,000 piled into Rupp Arena to watch history. That history, however, would not please the Big Blue faithful as the Baylor Bears stopped a 55-game home winning streak dead in its tracks. And so began a phase of questioning the coaching, second-guessing the passion of the team, and in the case of some rabid fans, pestering the players themselves.

Since then Kentucky has won back-to-back games by a combined 60 points while holding those two opponents to 33 percent shooting. With a new sense of urgency from the coaching staff, along with the reemergence of point guard Ryan Harrow, the Cats seem to be back on their winning ways.


The Best of Times

Part of what has helped this team succeed is its exceptional shooting ability. Coach Calipari hasn’t always had the best shooters on his squads, rather the best slashers or lobbers or finishers. This team is different, though. It has a lot of all that. Kentucky is shooting 50 percent as a team from the field. A remarkable figure through the first nine games, which has seen the team face some stiff competition. The national leader in field goal percentage is Gonzaga at 52.7 percent. The Cats rank 10th in the country in that statistic.

How are those points being scored so efficiently? For starters, Alex Poythress struggles to miss shots. For a guy to be second on the team in points scored and still post a 69 field goal percentage, that is pretty amazing. For comparisons sake, Anthony Davis shot 63 percent last season, and half of those were lobs to the basket. It is likely Poythress’ numbers go down, but as for now he is playing incredibly well.

What’s more is all five guys are averaging double-figures, with Willie Cauley-Stein coming off the bench scoring more than seven per game. Throw Ryan Harrow back into the mix and this team could go two deep off the bench, all capable to go off on any given night.

The shots aren’t falling yet, but Julius Mays and Kyle Wiltjer have the stroke; they just need to find it more consistently. Combined they are just 33-for-92 from behind the arc, good for 36 percent. Once they become more dependable from the perimeter — which we should expect them to do — Kentucky will have an even easier time with Nerlens Noel and Poythress in the paint.


The Worst of Times

The biggest and most noticeable detriment to this team so far has been the rebounding, or lack thereof. It is no secret that winning the rebounding battle often goes a long way to winning the game, and through the early part of this season, the Cats are not getting the job done. Although, as of late against some of the weaker teams on the schedule, they have done what they needed to do — but there is always room for improvement.

Perhaps the first sign of trouble came right off the bat against Maryland in the regular season opener. Kentucky came away with the victory but was completely owned on the glass, giving up 23 offensive rebounds to the Terrapins. Since then, Kentucky has failed to win the rebounding battle in two of its three losses.

At just 37 rebounds per game, the Cats rank in the 100’s nationally. With a 6-foot-10 center capable of blocking shots to the roof and another 7-footer on the bench, there is no excuse to not be dominating the boards every night. The question comes down to toughness. Coach Calipari has been stressing being mentally tough on every possession in practice — it is something these young Cats are learning on the fly.

Article written by Stuart Hammer

B.S. Broadcast Journalism from the University of Kentucky. @StuartHammerKSR

15 Comments for It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

  1. Hmmmm
    2:38 pm December 11, 2012 Permalink

    And what does this have to do with Louisville?

  2. John Ellis
    2:41 pm December 11, 2012 Permalink

    First of all, these are 18 year old kids and the idiots who attack them directly via social media need to get a life. Nerlans and WCS are 18 year olds and don’t have the bulk to bang yet, so like Terence Jones Poythress will need to take that on as he’s built for rebounding. They will get there, probably next year if they don’t go to the NBA prematurely in a weak draft year, but hey UK is rebuilding. They just need time and you can only hurry nature so much. Poythress if he develops that every minute focus and solves the rebounding problem along with his great scoring skills could be the best player in the country. But maybe next year. Harrow is now in November form, he’s going to be very good. It would be good for Cal to do some Tubby recruiting too, solid, cement types, who ground the high-flying talents and stick around for more than one year. This team could use a Chuck Hayes. Not that there are a lot of them.

  3. Mike roberts
    2:42 pm December 11, 2012 Permalink

    They havent played anyone

  4. UK Fan
    2:48 pm December 11, 2012 Permalink

    Can’t rebound; can’t shoot. Two reasons why if not improved, this team will not distinguish itself.

  5. bigbluejon
    2:51 pm December 11, 2012 Permalink

    I could argue that this team is not exceptional at shooting, but rather the worst shooting team Calipari has had here. 33% from Wiltjer and Mays simply won’t cut it. And did you watch the past 3 games?? We missed like 1,000 layups from 2ft out. This is not a great shooting team.

  6. jpo
    3:01 pm December 11, 2012 Permalink

    I kind of like the underdog role every now and then, let’s embrace it this season.

  7. btowncatfan
    3:08 pm December 11, 2012 Permalink

    Maybe Cal could hire BCG as a consultant to teach this team some toughness.

  8. Steve
    3:11 pm December 11, 2012 Permalink

    I like how the most vocal portion of Kentucky’s fanbase is the portion that knows the least about basketball. “33% from Wiltjer and Mays simply won’t cut it.” They shoot 36 percent, not 33, and Wiltjer’s slump (which after Saturday, he may be slipping out of) brings that number down considerably. “We missed like 1,000 layups from 2ft out.” Excellent analysis. Just excellent.

    I have watched the last 3 games…Outside of the Baylor game, which was an anomaly, we have shot 56% and 49% from the field. Just awful shooting performances.

  9. LittleSistaof the poor
    3:24 pm December 11, 2012 Permalink

    Well when they beat a quality opponent again we can say they back to winning ways. The last couple opponents the Harrison twins togehter could probaly beat them . I hate these type post.

  10. Al's IndiCats
    3:50 pm December 11, 2012 Permalink

    This isn’t a typical Cal/UK team to say the least. If you recall both Knight and Teague couldn’t make a layup if someone breathed on them on their way to the basket. This team will be just fine.
    I also agree that someone harrasses an 18 year old needs to take a LONG look at hisself in the mirror. I wonder if they give 110% everyday at their place of employment?

  11. Big Whoop
    5:11 pm December 11, 2012 Permalink

    UK is shooting 54.3% from inside the arc and 37.8% from outside the arc. Their Effective FG% is 54.9% which isn’t bad. Now, compare these numbers to UL…51.7% from inside the arc, 31.4% outside the arc. The Cards have an Effective FG% of 50.2% UL has lost one game to Duke while UK has suffered 3 loses including one to Duke. Duke is a better 3 point team than either the Cards or the Cats. They hit 40% beyond the arc.

    UK is not losing because of shooting and they aren’t losing because of rebounding. UK averages 10.6 ORB, UL 16 ORB and Duke 9.5 ORB.On the defensive end, the Cats average 26.9 DRB, UL 24.3 DRB and Duke 26.2. The conlusion here is that rebounding is not the issue either.

    Here’s why UK and UL both lost their respective games (UL 1, UK 3). Since both have played Duke, the Blue Devils season stats can be compared although these numbers don’t match the sctual head to head game numbers: FT Rate%: Duke 44.8%, UK 38.6%, UL 31.9%; FT made: Duke 170 of 225 (75.6%) , UK 126 of 199 (63.3%), UL 123 of 181 (68.0%).

    Duke beat UK with 3 point shooting. Duke beat UL at the line plus with 3 point shooting. UL out-rebounded Duke by five. Duke out-rebounded the Cats by 1. Duke is undefeated, UL has lost one and UK has lost 3 games.

    UK’s biggest problem is five guys out there not looking for their fellow players on offense and an inability or refusal to defend the three. Which problem will be solved before the UL game?

    Our numbers look great when we play the patsies, cupcakes and sisters of the poor. Funny thing is, great numbers also come to the other major conference schools when they play the same kind of teams. UK’s numbers drop significantly when they play the Power Conferences’ schools.

    This isn’t coaching, it is about attitudes on the floor. When they decide to play together at both ends, THEN they will become a good to really good team.

  12. UK Freshmen
    6:00 pm December 11, 2012 Permalink

    “Since then Kentucky has won back-to-back games by a combined 60 points while holding those two opponents to 33 percent shooting. With a new sense of urgency from the coaching staff, along with the reemergence of point guard Ryan Harrow, the Cats seem to be back on their winning ways.”

    Wake up. The last two teams on the schedule couldn’t beat a good high school team. Kentucky’s strength of schedule is currently a pitiful 38th. Simply awful. How do the fans justify the Rupp ticket prices against these lousy teams?

  13. UK Freshmen
    8:47 pm December 11, 2012 Permalink

    How do I justify breathing?…..What a waste of air.

  14. How Do You Justify?
    7:17 am December 12, 2012 Permalink

    Uk Freshmen-What a beacon of intelligence you are! Since when do fans have to “justify” the prices they pay for tickets? You have yet to make a sensible post on this Board.

  15. don
    11:29 am December 12, 2012 Permalink

    I would like to see more improvement for the team going forward. I wish Goodwin would keep his head up when driving the lane to create fewer charges against better teams. I wish Wiltjer would work harder inside. I wish the bigs would box out better rather than just trying to get blocks. I wish Harrow would not get rattled by the coach and play through his instruction. I would like to see Goodwin shorten his drive and pop some close jumpers instead of running into the defence, to keep them off balance.