There’s no denying that over the past two weeks, Kentucky has regressed. The last time the Cats played well was probably the 16-point win over South Carolina back on January 21. Since then, Kentucky’s lost three out of five, and although two of those losses came to ranked opponents (at the time, #2 Kansas, #24 Florida), the Cats haven’t even looked good in their wins. What was supposed to be an easy reboot and rout vs. a bad LSU team turned into an alarming 7-point win. Have you heard of moral victories? If there’s such a thing as a moral loss, Kentucky took one last night.
So, what’s happened in the five games since the South Carolina win? I spent some time looking at the numbers this afternoon to find out. Here’s a chart comparing Kentucky’s season averages through the South Carolina game to the averages from the past five games:
That’s a pretty drastic change, right? To nerd out even further with game-by-game breakdowns, click on the charts below:
Now, let’s break down the most offensive of those stats.
Scoring Margin: -23.6 points
Kentucky’s scoring has dropped 13.6% in the past five games, but not only are they not scoring as much, they’re not defending as well either. De’Aaron Fox being hampered by a sore ankle and having to miss a game with the flu contributed to the scoring drop, but everyone on the team’s been erratic in the past five games. After scoring 37 vs. Georgia, Malik Monk only chipped in 11 vs. Florida, while Isaiah Briscoe only scored six. Bam Adebayo had a season high 21 points vs. Tennessee, but hasn’t scored more than twelve in a game since. What’s the deal? After the Tennessee game, Calipari demanded his guards get Bam the ball, but not only have Bam’s numbers dipped dramatically, Kentucky’s offense is now way out of whack. Centering the offense around Bam is clearly still a work in progress, and right now, you have to wonder if it’s still really worth it.
Opponent’s 3-point percentage: +13.3%
Last night, LSU made ten threes, three late in the game to cut Kentucky’s lead to six in the final seconds. Young teams are prone to defensive breakdowns, but man, this group tends to fall apart when the going gets tough.
Opponent’s 2nd-half scoring: 50.8 points
This isn’t on my chart, but it’s a disturbing trend nonetheless: in the past five games, Kentucky is allowing its opponents to score an average of 51 second half points. On the flip side, Kentucky’s only scoring 44.6 second-half points, so, as the game goes on, this team’s defensive issues are too much for the offense to make up for, AKA, they get tired (or lazy) and slip back into bad habits. Defensive consistency is a struggle for young teams, but more than ever in the Calipari era, we’re just seeing them give up as the game goes on.
Assists and turnovers: -5 assists, + 3 turnovers
Before the South Carolina game, Kentucky had a healthy 1.8 assist-to-turnover ratio, which has since dwindled to 1.4. In the past five games, Kentucky’s dishing out five fewer assists per game and committing three more turnovers. Not good. Again, the more you look at the stats, the more you see that the issues right now are because of guard play. Yes, some of that may be due to De’Aaron’s injury and illness, but with two other capable starting guards, there shouldn’t be this much a of a drop-off.
Smiles while Kentucky is losing: +1