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Free throws prove to be the difference again in Tournament exit

In the waning minutes of Kentucky’s loss to Auburn, the anti-John Calipari crowd began to buzz on social media. Fans were frustrated and for good reason. For the second consecutive year, the Cats were knocked out of the tournament by a team that they were better than.

When looking back at the eight losses a John Calipari-led Kentucky team has had in the NCAA tournament, a common thread stuck out: free throws. This afternoon was no different. The Cats missed nine free throws (12-21), making under 60% for the entire game.

If you take the eight combined losses, Calipari’s teams made 104 of their possible 171 free throw attempts for just over 60%. 

2010 vs. West Virginia: 16/29

2011 vs. UConn: 4/12

2014 vs. UConn: 13/24

2015 vs. Wisconsin: 9/10

2016 vs. Indiana: 15/19

2017 vs. North Carolina: 12/19

2018 vs. Kansas State: 23/37

2019 vs. Auburn: 12/21

Other than the game against Wisconsin (not going back there) and the loss to Indiana, free throw shooting in games Kentucky’s lost under Calipari has been atrocious. In fact, if you take those two games out, where the Cats were a combined 24-for-29 (82.8%), UK would be 80-142 for 56.3%.

When looking at UK’s opponents, you can see the difference almost immediately. In those same eight games, opposing teams were 127-172 for 73.8%. 

2010 West Virginia: 23/34

2011 UConn: 9/11

2014 UConn: 10/10

2015 Wisconsin: 18/22

2016 Indiana: 17/23

2017 North Carolina: 18/26

2018 Kansas State: 14/22

2019 Auburn: 18/24

In other words, opponents have only taken two more free throws than Kentucky, but have made 23 more. Fans want to look somewhere to point blame. Look no further than right here.

Fans obviously can’t expect teams to make every free throw, but the difference these stats show is staggering. Perhaps the most important part of all of this? You can’t necessarily put the blame on John Calipari – he is not the one struggling at the free throw line.

Article written by Sam Gormley

Follow me on Twitter @GormleyKSR; "The Whitest Man in the World"-JRock

77 Comments for Free throws prove to be the difference again in Tournament exit

  1. calicat5
    10:03 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

    No, but why in the hell is that not the #1 area of concern and action every single practice?

    • syrin23
      10:04 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      Cal has said this very clearly before. They DO NOT work on FT’s because they only have 20 hours a week to practice, and they need to work on team concepts and defense which is likely legit. He expects players to work on it on their own.

    • bbn606
      10:47 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      I’ve yet to see an offensive concept by his teams. Perhaps they could take some that time and work on free throws. Shucks, sixth grade girls can make foul shots and that’s not to take away from those girls.

    • KYCat4EVER
      11:14 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      LOL… Coach Cal is COACH ONE Dimensional!

    • KC UK Cat
      10:09 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      I’d love to have seen Herro try and get to the line in the second half. But yes I agree, the free throws have to get better in the tourney.

    • Bruce Dickinson
      10:32 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      He did have a three that he shot that any other time would have been a foul, but it wasn’t called.

    • Ridge Runner
      10:44 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      Even something small as you never leave practice until you shoot x-amount of free throws at the end.

    • WatchutalkinboutWillis
      10:56 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      This was literally the worst they shot FTs all year. You can’t blame that on anything other than the players shooting.

    • Trinity45
      8:50 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

      When you have mostly freshmen you have to spend allot of time working on things you don’t with a veteran team. That is why we fail at the small simple things like FT’s and making silly turnovers that kill us.

    • Lip Man 1
      12:22 pm April 1, 2019 Permalink

      The good news about the future change in NBA draft status will be that Cal will have the time to work on free throws. Having more guys staying for two and three years means they will already have a grasp on the offense and defense. Cal won’t have to spend quite as much time teaching that material.

      Therefore time will be freed up for the fundamentals like free throw shooting.

      No more excuses Cal.

  2. syrin23
    10:03 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

    Carry it out to the Memphis years too. It’s a trade mark of a Calipari coached team.

    • Rod Crandler
      10:12 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      This exactly. Freshmen revert and fold under the pressure of the tournament

    • 4everUKblue
      10:22 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      Just like dUKe’s freshmen did.

    • kuhlkat
      1:57 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

      Cost him the 2008 title

  3. Matt10
    10:06 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

    The real issue is you’ve got a team of mostly freshmen in high stress situations without experience. No amount of coaching will fix this.

    • Cokely53
      10:18 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      How about we count the free throws we hit in the games we won?? Quit being lazy and taking away credit from these kids. Both the Wofford and Houston games were high stress situations and freshman found a way to win. They hit 85% of free throws against Wofford and 73.7% against Houston but all you want to do is point out the one we lost. Yeah today was horrible and frustrating but PJ wasn’t a freshman and neither is Reid Travis but they were the ones who shot the worst from the line. Quit blaming it on one and dones

    • makeitstop
      10:27 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      All true.

    • Mbivinsuk007
      10:44 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      I agree 100%.. I have been saying it for years I’m beyond over these 1 and 2 year players please get kids that will stay 3 and 4 years.. It’s been proven you not winning Championships with Freshman.. There’s a reason why there is only 1 FAB 5 team ever…

    • ibescootch
      7:11 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

      Hahahahaha! The Fab 5?! You do realize they didn’t win a championship either, right?

    • 4everUKblue
      10:53 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      Great plan but think about what you’re saying Mb. Look at the veteran teams NOVA had that won two and then check out Jay’s record and ask yourself if you’d be ok with this record, and it does not include the early exit this season.

      2004 Seasons: NIT
      04–05 Season: Sweet Sixteen
      05–06 Season: Elite Eight
      06–07 Season: First Round
      07–08 Season: Sweet Sixteen
      08–09 Season: Final Four
      09–10: Second Round Upset
      10–11: Second Round Upset
      11–12: Losing Season
      12–13: Return to the Tournament
      13–14: Second Round Upset
      14–15: Second Round Upset
      15–16: National Champions
      16–17: Second Round Upset
      17–18: Second National Championship

    • 4everUKblue
      10:54 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      Compare that to Cal’s and he has one more title, the rest of his resume pales in comparison.

  4. sportsbird66
    10:10 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

    They are young.

  5. SGD
    10:12 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

    Free throws? How about your supposed point guard with 7 turnovers and can’t shoot a jump shot at all? He is really a lousy point guard. Herro was a total no show on offense. P J choked on foul shots again. I’m sure Cal said they were young, but that is his standard line for being a lousy in game coach.

    • 4everUKblue
      10:23 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      You have no idea what you’re talking about so why not just STFU!

    • makeitstop
      10:26 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      Rupp said once, “point guard? I don’t need a guy who can’t score.” Hagans is a nice kid, good skill, bright future if he’s smart. He had a crap game at a terrible time (ask RJ Barrett about that) and it cost us but any one of the million misses would’ve taken him off the hook and we’d be saying “Hagans has to play better to beat UVa.” Truth is we were not going to beat UVa bc they will not beat themselves. They’re smart, disciplined athletes not great athletes. They don’t take fake classes – lookin at u UNC. (I was in a class w Ralph Sampson, real class, hard class, smart guy.) IF Keldon had the good sense to come back and IF Hagans is reasonably smart (jury out) they can make big jumps next year like PJ. Herro will be a POY candidate. Smart smart kid w high basketball IQ. Terrible shooting game but did what he was asked. These kids can be very very good next year. But Nick… not going to happen. No fire in the belly. Move on and move up.

  6. makeitstop
    10:19 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

    A monkey can hit free throws. U don’t need to spend practice time on it, get some technical help and go do it on ur own. Seriously. I’ve walked out in a suit, cold, at halftime and hit the FT in front of several thousand people. It’s 10 feet high, 15 feet, same in every gym. U can do it cold, tired, whatever. It’s all the same. I am so freakin tired of “young” excuses or it’s coaching…” it is not. It’s muscle memory. They make them shoot. But it’s kind of a character issue, if u care about ur craft and u hate to lose, u shoot in the gym when ur beat and want to go home. They’re like putts. Drive for show, putt for dough. If u can’t hit ur FT u will lose to good teams in big games period, end of story. Ask Duke. Ask UT. Dunks are like drives, FT are like putts. F’ng simple.

  7. sportsbird66
    10:19 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

    My they are young comment was definitely meant to be sarcastic

  8. sportsbird66
    10:20 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

    Free Throws is definitely the elephant in the room. Probably cost us 3 titles

  9. pattyice270
    10:32 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

    The game is changing, athleticism may win you games especially during the season but won’t exactly win you games in the tournament. You seeing lot teams spacing out the floor with having smaller quicker guards who can shoot and can blow by defenders to get to the basket. May sound harsh but why did Calipari recruited guys like Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery who can’t keep up.

    • Cokely53
      10:38 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      Still need bigs and it’s extremely hard to find a polished big straight out of high school. 95% of centers are projects. And most of them don’t pan out. Just like in NBA, you do it based on potential. Both guys have potential, they just haven’t lived up to it. Those two we’re supposed to be long quick guys who can block shots when we get beat off the dribble which is great for today’s game. Just haven’t worked out so far. Hopefully it will.

    • pattyice270
      11:06 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      I’m not saying we don’t need bigs but IMO Nick Richards always benefited from being taller than others during high school. But since he came to college he has struggle against equal or better competition. Ej I don’t know seems like confidence issue or our style doesn’t necessarily work for ej. Not saying it’s bad…maybe he isn’t in the right system that allows him to play to his strengths more. With thousands of kids coming out high school Calipari should able to find a better contributor than nick, kid doesn’t have to be 5 star player

  10. backwaterd
    10:34 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

    That Dribble Drive offense Cal brought from Memphis lit it up today for 60 in regulation.

    • 4everUKblue
      10:38 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      He hasn’t played the dribble drive offense all season numbnuts. Just shows your ignorance.

    • sportsbird66
      5:42 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

      Jack wagon

    • backwaterd
      10:56 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      Explain the “Dribble Drive” please sir? Then explain our offense we played today? Interested in your basketball IQ.

  11. SanDiegoCats
    10:36 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

    This team shot well at the line all year right? Just bad timing to all have bad game. Thank god duke lost

  12. snoopjdawg
    10:36 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

    We shot 15/21 FTs against Kansas in 2012 and just 40% from the field that game. 40% and won the national title? Things happen guys. The final four ratings will suck. Look at the teams….no thanks. No blue bloods.

  13. 4everUKblue
    10:37 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

    dUKe got #1,#2 and #4 recruits in the country and lost in the elite 8, just like we did, yet it’s ok if K loses in the same round but not for Cal. They were crowned the champions at the beginning of the season. Do any of you realize the caliber of players dUKe has? We all bitched because we didn’t get these players and they got no further than our lower ranked players did. Think about that for a few minutes while you’re hating on Cal.

    • backwaterd
      10:51 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      How titles K have? Why don’t u look at the coach’s final four records and see where they fall? 8 national championships, we r UK, I support and love the kids and the program emotionally and monetarily. I want a coach that is getting paid millions to win national championships, not to brag in a green room in ny.

    • 4everUKblue
      10:59 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      How long have you been around? K just finished his 39th yr at the same school, has had the top talent year in and year out even before the one and done. Go look at the last 4 seasons, their rosters and who they lost to and in what round. dUKe was the last school where players left early, they have had the easiest bracket year in and year out. When you look at the whole picture, he should have more. And if this program doesn’t suit you, go become a blue devil and don’t let the door hit you on your way out, you won’t be missed.

    • makeitstop
      11:01 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      Actually he’s been to 2x the FF that Coach K has the last 10 years and 1 more elite 8 and 2 more sweet 16’s. Same w UNC and MSU, and Villlanova? 2 championships but a load of first weekend exits. No one hates losing more than I do – basketball is a 3 dimensional metaphor for life and losing is death – but this is not coaching. It’s players who know what to do and how to do it not executing. Which is basically what they said.

    • 4everUKblue
      10:49 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      But it seems their fans are much more civil than ours.

    • makeitstop
      11:09 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      That’s great lol and yes they seem just as angry, more rational, but less informed (hell, we know we have more FF and EEs than UNC and Duke but they don’t?? Did they take geography at UNC’s AA studies program? They don’t know Kentucky is a state just west of VA?) pretty sure Coach K’s seat is safe as was Tom Izzo’s when he got bounced before us the last 4 years.

    • KYCat4EVER
      5:28 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

      So let me get this straight…

      The small contingency of UK fans are now desperately using DUKE to defend COACH CALIPARI and his own failures???

      LOL.. hilarious!

    • makeitstop
      8:22 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

      it’s called contextualizing. Not defending.

  14. Smyrna_Cat
    10:45 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

    Gross over-simplification. It the refs had not called the touch fouls against us when their players just fall down, and give us similar calls, we should so many more free throws it doesn’t count.

    At the end of the day, though, Auburn played well. That is enough.

    • BobofKy
      5:30 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

      There is a time for this and that and you can not force it to go otherwise.

  15. bbn606
    10:47 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

    We can’t even blame the refs in that game.

    • sharpshooter81
      11:08 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      Actually I can blame the refs in this game. Inconsistent calls and non calls cost UK even more chances at shooting free throws. The officiating in college basketball has gotten so bad that it is hard to watch a lot of times. There is no accountability at all for them. They want to be part of the game like coaches and players, but don’t want to get up on the podium after a game and answer questions about their performance.

    • makeitstop
      11:11 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      We had enough FTs we just couldn’t hit them.

  16. WatchutalkinboutWillis
    10:59 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

    If only Cal wouldn’t get out recruited by K and was a good coach like K…then we could get better results just like….oh….wait….

    • 4everUKblue
      11:00 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      Now that’s funny, but it will go right over the Cal haters heads because they’re not that bright.

    • makeitstop
      11:15 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      Coach K will hv 3 lottery picks, 4 first rounders, and the top 2 in the draft. But #2 missed a key FT and out they go. Plus they have 2 seniors in Johnson and Maye who will get drafted. We have 4 freshmen from, what, #8-30? We have a couple first rounders, and a free agent? And WE underperformed?

    • Jiminy Crickets
      8:32 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

      Johnson and Maye play for UNC not duke

    • makeitstop
      11:19 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      I’m pretty bummed but Duke fans? THEY hv the greatest class ever assembled, a future NBA all star, best in the country and they damn near lose 2 games then get bounced by Izzo and the nite shift at the local ACME widget plant? Phew. Sucks to be in Durham. (I mean more than usual)

    • syrin23
      1:52 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

      Yes, Duke choked massively. No doubt, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t too. Given how bad our guards are, Virginia would have DECIMATED Hagans.

    • ScottGreene22
      1:51 pm April 1, 2019 Permalink

      We always here guard play dominates in the Tourney. There guards outplayed ours period. Love CAL and love our run just wish we had another title. Would yesterday’s game or season be different if Quade doesn’t transfer? Will never know.

    • WatchutalkinboutWillis
      6:18 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

      Syrin, pick a lane and stay in it…we either aren’t good or we underperformed. Can’t be both. I see you complaining about rational thinking…look in the mirror. Perhaps the problem is you are just a complainer.

  17. backwaterd
    11:11 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

    Lot of car salesman around.

  18. Bluebloodtoo
    11:31 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

    Those boys were exhausted out there. I don’t know if they didn’t sleep last night or what, but only PJ had any desire to compete in OT.

  19. Larkin123
    7:10 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

    Another small guard team too

  20. ibescootch
    7:20 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

    Maybe free throws could be better, sure. And to do that, they’d have to work on them, which takes time away from developing other skills. So what if PJ takes time away from practicing that jump hook his 3 pt shot, or what if Reid takes time away from the weight room or working on rebounding, or Hagans takes time away from defensive strategy sessions, or practicing off-ball defense? All of these guys could be better (except maybe Herro), but Id rather have them win games by actual basketball skill, than be the greatest free throw shooting team in the world.

  21. AreJ
    8:16 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

    Cal said it best in his post game; we didn’t make shots, had a couple of dudes make bad decisions on offense and not follow the scouting on defense, Auburn had two guys get hot, we missed 8 front ends of one-and-ones and yet still had an opportunity with less then 40 seconds to play to score and win. It’s frustrating to see us lose in the EE to a team that we held to 60 points in regulation but even still the tourney is random and hard to win. We’ve had 8 ever and Cal has had us in a position to compete for it 7 of his 10 years, I know Duke, UConn, and Nova have 2 in that span but I still like our resume more. If Cal can’t coach then explain 2010-11 and 2013-14 a 4 seed and 8 seed to the FF. Congrats to Auburn, Thank you guys for a great season, and Cal we will see you next fall. BBN

  22. drbigblue
    8:25 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

    Free throws my butt, how about all the no offensive rebounds in the first half? How bout all the turnovers by Havana? Yes, poor shooting of free throws & 3 pointers were bad but that happens. Rebounding & turnovers fundamentally killed us too!! Cal is also not one of the better bench coaches when it comes to closing out big time games…..

  23. Fitz
    8:26 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

    not only has Cal relied on freshman but now he is rolling the dice with players who reclassify . The youth and inexperience factor just gets larger. Hagans was not ready to be a key player in a win or go home pressure game.

  24. Jiminy Crickets
    8:29 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

    I said this yesterday, and was told “coach cal” doesn’t shoot FTs.
    In the second half of yesterday’s game UK scored FOUR points from the FT/3pt line COMBINED.

  25. DirtyDave
    8:30 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

    Yup they missed more free throws than they should’ve. But the bigger issue in this particular game was expressed clearly and accurately by both PJ AND Hero post game was that they wanted it more. Now in our kids minds they wanted it equally but in their actions was where they were beat! 50/50 balls…. how many rebounds were grabbed by one Auburn player surrounded by 3/4 Ky players….. that is desire and extraordinary effort

  26. rdcore2
    8:46 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

    We deserve everything that happened. You Kentucky fans are the worst.
    Miserable people, all complainers. I hope cal leaves bc you all deserve what you get.

    • TBW3011
      9:26 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

      Hope he leaves also. Would like to to win another title.

  27. Big Sexy
    9:00 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

    Shooting has been our Achilles heel in almost every tournament exit. Does too much youth equate to lack of mental toughness and nervousness that attribute to these shortfalls? I think it’s certainly arguable.

  28. TBW3011
    9:20 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

    A difference. Not the difference. Shooting 20+ threes and having sh%t for brains coaching the team was the primary problem.

  29. tgoff
    9:56 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

    Couch coaching all over this message board. You’re all fools for complaining and bitching. There’s not a better available coach out there and Cal does just fine. Please go 80 miles west and jump on the U of L bandwagon. You’re not needed or wanted by #BBN. Real #BBN supports their team and coaches in good and bad. We played like shit in the 2nd half and OT, plain and simple and lost. Move on and get ready for next year, that’s what you do when the season is over!

    • recliner coach
      10:56 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

      Coach cal cannot deviate from the plan when it’s not working. Then to make it worse he refuses to substitute, so we get the same old same old and players who are exhausted which caused missed free throws and shots to come up short