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Beating Arkansas in Bud Walton? Better Get Back in Transition.


In five short hours, Kentucky will put their four game win streak on the line when they march into Bud Walton Arena to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks. The home of the Hogs has been a house of horrors for John Calipari in his first two visits as Kentucky’s head man. Not only did the 2011 Final Four squad lose in Bud Walton to an Arkansas squad that finished with thirteen losses on the year, but the Nerlens-less Cats from last year were pummeled in Fayetteville by a 13-point margin. While the 2011 loss to John Pelphrey’s Hogs occurred for a number of reasons, blame for last year’s loss to Mike Anderson’s team can be attributed to one factor alone – Kentucky’s eighteen turnovers.

It’s no secret that Mike Anderson wants his team to force turnovers. In fact, since 2002 when he began coaching at UAB, his teams have been ranked within the national top-10 in defensive turnover percentage nine times. This season is no different from the historical trend as the Razorbacks are ranked 6th nationally in turnover percentage. Obviously, this style of defense can wreak havoc on the opposing offense, but it’s also instrumental in setting up easy transition buckets on the offensive end of the floor. The numbers back this up as well. As indicated by the table below, when Arkansas forces a steal and decides to shoot in transition (within ten seconds of the possession), a shot attempt at the rim will occur nearly 75% of the time – a recipe for efficiency as evidenced by their 71% field goal percentage at the rim in transition.

While forcing turnovers to get easy offensive run-outs is the Mike Anderson way, there’s another, more overlooked way to get even more offensive opportunities – defensive rebounding. In terms of defensive rebounding, the Hogs are only pulling down 65.8% of available boards – good for 271st nationally. This won’t strike fear into an offensive rebounding juggernaut like Kentucky, but there is some cause for concern here. This low ranking is mainly due to the fact that Anderson has most of his players release to the other end of the floor for an easy run-out while the big men battle for boards. Obviously, because of this, the Hogs aren’t pulling down too many defensive boards, but they are getting easy offensive opportunities when they do pull one down. As the table below indicates, when Arkansas pulls down a defensive board and decides to shoot in transition (within ten seconds of the possession), 41% of their attempts come at the rim with 56% accuracy. The combination of transition shots after rebounds and turnovers combine for 28.4% of Arkansas’ total field goal attempts – good for 33rd nationally.


Via Hoop-Math. All stats from transition. (Transition defined as within 10 seconds of a possession.)

Naturally, field goal percentage at the rim after rebounds isn’t as high as its steal counterpart due to the sheer number of defenders already back on the other end of the floor, but they’re still getting easy buckets as a result. When you pair these percentages with Kentucky’s shaky transition defense (75.9 FG% allowed at the rim after a steal and 74.2 FG% allowed at the rim after a rebound), you have a recipe for easy buckets on offense.

As for tonight, I don’t anticipate Arkansas having too many run-outs after defensive rebounds as Kentucky is an absolute titan on the offensive glass. However, I do anticipate the Hogs to get a number of easy points after steals as the Cats struggle in that offensive category – as evidenced by our 183rd ranking in offensive turnover percentage. In order to minimize the risk, Julius Randle must look to pass when double and triple teamed in the post. Additionally, passes from James Young and the Harrison twins cannot be lazy or telegraphed as the Arkansas guards and wings will feast upon the opportunity. If these problems persist, it’ll be difficult to come out victorious tonight. However, if Kentucky can limit Arkansas’ transition opportunities by cutting out turnovers, there’s a very real opportunity for a marque road victory in one of college basketball’s most underrated venues.

Article written by Jonathan Schuette

9 Comments for Beating Arkansas in Bud Walton? Better Get Back in Transition.

  1. Hogsbreath
    4:07 pm January 14, 2014 Permalink

    Lets not forget that Cal also had a very talented Memphis team that got upset in the tournament by Missouri coached by Mike Anderson a few years ago. And then of course there was Tubby and UAB when we lost to a 9 seed as the #1 #1 seed. Tough system to prepare for. If we can win this game with our guards that are more strong than they are fast (nice way of saying slow) . . it will be our best win of the year IMO.

  2. bung
    4:20 pm January 14, 2014 Permalink

    yep…fast breaks are very effective…and since all you need are rebounds and quick passing ( not foot speed) we should score a bunch of our own to negate theirs…but we don’t…

  3. M
    4:22 pm January 14, 2014 Permalink

    Anyone know who the refs are? Wonder how they’ll call the hugging?

  4. rickshelton
    4:24 pm January 14, 2014 Permalink

    No clue what will happen tonight. That is why I love college sports. I wouldn’t be surprised with a double-digit win either way though Kentucky has kept it close even when they are playing poorly. Kinda expect the Hogs to jump out to an early lead and have the Cats get it close at the half. Then…. can’t wait!!!

  5. GoinHoggin
    4:35 pm January 14, 2014 Permalink

    Money is on the Hogs. Cats opened -2.5 now +1. Not surprising. I wonder when the last time UK was ranked all season but had four games this early where they were dogs?

  6. Mark
    4:40 pm January 14, 2014 Permalink

    Cats by 6

  7. Bob
    4:55 pm January 14, 2014 Permalink

    This would by far be an better win for the Cats than winning anyone of the 3 loses .Arkansas is an very solid team and add in there house you have problems. Games such as tonight will be where Kittens mature alittle more into Cats .Kentucky guard play will be the most important role in an win tonight control the pace of the game , solid passes,scoring, and getting back in transition as stated..With an almost perfect game it will be an hard fought win should the Cats win.I was talking to an older Fl. fan today at the animal vet and dicussing Fl. vs Aek. game.We both agree that some big mouth sports personal always state the SEC is an weak conference in Basketball . Send either one of the top 5 teams in the nation down to Bud Walton tonight to play Ark. and see how weak this team is. I think this is going to be an great year for Kentucky and the SEC. Our weakest teams are one/two players short of an powerful team and there is 4/5 SEC teams can could play with any team in the nation .I futhermore think we are starting to see other players other than the 7 stepping up and putting something in the kitty for Kentucky. By march this team could be an 11/12 man deep team .This game tonight. GO BIG BLUE !!!

  8. HackRichards
    4:57 pm January 14, 2014 Permalink

    YEP I have been wondering all year if the Twins were just SLOW or just LAZY. I realize that this is the first time in their careers they have had to get back on defense. This is mid season though and should have improved by now. We’ll see tonight won’t we?

  9. yargamel
    5:50 pm January 14, 2014 Permalink

    I think the twins have just never been taught how to play as the last man back. There is no excuse for running along-side an opposing player as a point guard on a rebound-initiated fast break since 90% of the time, you are the closest guy to your own basket, but they do this every single game. Anyone who has played point guard has had how important it is for you to slow the ball down drilled into them since they started playing, so I’m not sure what’s going on with Andrew. You’ve got to get between the ball and the basket–not run beside a guy when it’s a 2v1 scenario. It drives me crazy.