Road games are tough no matter the opponent, just ask North Carolina. While Kentucky has struggled early in the team’s three true road games against Indiana, Auburn and Tennessee this season, they have found success late. In the last ten minutes of each game, UK has outscored their hometown opponent by a count of 20 – 10, on average. In every single game the Cats have erased margins of more than eight points and come back to win or, in Indiana’s case, lose by only one.
The most interesting part of this stat is that UK doesn’t have the depth that one would associate with late surges. The top six for Kentucky usually log more minutes per person than the opposing team’s top six. Against Tennessee, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague and Anthony Davis played 39, 38 and 35 minutes respectively. Those are all higher than the minute leader for the Vols, Cameron Tatum, who played for 34 minutes.
So far, the Cats have shown a more impressive will to win when the game enters crunch time. While the early game struggles are inexplicable, there always ends up being one or two players (MKG usually involved) who put the team on their shoulders and carry them to victory. It’s unclear whether this advantage emerges from the talent gap making itself obvious or there truly is a determination factor involved, but outside of one flukey shot in Bloomington, the Cats have done well for themselves on the road.
The next road test will come at Georgia in about a week. The Bulldogs got spanked by Alabama in Athens to start their conference slate, so hopefully Kentucky can mirror that success and put the home team away early. I’m tired of all these close games.