Games cannot be purely explained by stats, but after every game (especially a loss to Loserville) the box score can easily tell us what the Cats need to improve on. Yesterday’s game was a roller coaster, finding it difficult to pinpoint exactly where
the referees UK went wrong, but there were a few lopsided statistics that jump off the page when comparing the two teams.
Points in Transition
Nothing was more annoying then watching UK’s freshman attempt to throw high-arching cross-court passes against the speedy Louisville defense. The typical result was Russ Smith streaking down the court for an easy layup. The Cards outscored the Cats in the fast break 20-2 (Last year UK only lost the battle 10-4). What was more frustrating is how easy these points came by. Chane Behanan was rocking the cradle in the open floor. Russ Smith would get the ball at the UK free throw line and outrun 4 UK players for an uncontested layup. The icing on the cake was Behanan’s dunk in the final minute that put the game out of reach. UL may be the best team in the country running the floor, but when Kyle Wiltjer or Julius Mays can make them earn their points from the free throw line, they would let them get the dunk/layup. PUT THEM ON THE FLOOR! I don’t want to be a poor sport, but even 80% free throw shooting Russ Smith was only 3-6 from the line.
Free throws, free throws, FREE THROWS
Any idiot watching the game could’ve told you if the Cats hit their free throws, it’s a different ball game. Cal teams traditionally aren’t good from the line, especially at the beginning of the year. The Freshman looked shaky, specifically Willy Cauley-Stein. He started and played more minutes than he has all year, but for a stretch the guy was doing everything right except knocking down his foul shots. I felt bad for the poor guy: he got an ‘And-1’ call taken away, only to miss both free throws AND an extra free throw after Louisville committed a lane violation. He missed lane violation free throws on two separate occasions. The Cats finished shooting 47.8% from the line, leaving 12 points on the board. Cal’s teams have always lived and died by the free throw, how they improve from the line will determine their success.
The referees whistles were blown early and often, providing bad calls for each side to complain about today. The most impactful of foul calls happened with 8 minutes left. The Cats were down 17 with 8 minutes to go when Gorgui, Russ Smith, and Peyton Siva all had 4 fouls. UK took the opportunity to put together a run and make it a ball game. This morning I was surprised today to find that even though the number of fouls helped UK climb back into the game, they both committed an equal amount of fouls (21). Even though both teams were hacking away, it is only a good thing if you can turn those fouls into points. Louisville had six more points from the free throw line, once again explaining how UK let this crazy comeback fall short.