Plenty has been said about Kentucky’s biggest weakness from last night: the rebounding effort wasn’t there for long stretches, and Alex Len and Co. capitalized by grabbing a ridiculous number of boards. On the plus side though, 3-point defense, through the first half at least, was phenomenal. The Terps got hotter in the second half, and still only finished at 15.8% from outside.
How can we expect the solid 3-point defense and rebounding struggles to translate against the Blue Devils? Well, let’s do the bad news first.
(1) Unlike their ACC counterparts, the Blue Devils live on the 3-ball. Five of their six players that got >20 minutes in their season opener shot three or more 3-pointers, and the team as a whole made 45.8% of them. Guards Tyler Thornton and Seth Curry went 3-6 and 3-7, respectively. The Cats did a good job holding Maryland to a low percentage, but this was a team whose strength is scoring inside, not outside (they only shot 34% outside last year). Cal will have to maintain the defense’s high level through the coming week going into Atlanta in order to keep up the good work
(2) Meanwhile, we might have a little better time on the glass. Against the Georgia State Panthers, Duke nabbed a total of 30 rebounds, with 5 of those being on the offensive end. The Panthers, by the way, pulled down 31 (9). You have to hope that Noel, WCS, and Poythress can rebound better than RJ Hunter, James Vincent, and Rashaad Richardson, right? Part of running your offense on the exterior is that you leave yourselves vulnerable to being outrebounded, as Duke displayed last night.
So what does this mean for Kentucky on the defensive end? It means they’ll have to extend to the outside to get in the faces of their shooters, and outmuscle the “Ho-humlees” on the glass when their good defense causes shots to clang off the iron. If we can outrebound the Devils, even by a little bit, and hold them to between 33 and 40% from outside, I like our chances. We made some mistakes against Maryland, but rest assured Cal will use the tape to his advantage in breaking down the Blue Devils.