Saturday’s loss to Florida showed us that this Kentucky team struggles against the zone, and guess what, Ole Miss plays a lot of zone. Today, assistant coach Jai Lucas discussed the differences between the zone the Gators used to stymie the Cats and the one Kermit Davis’ squad will use tomorrow night.
“Credit to Mike White and his staff. They did a good job and they did something they haven’t really done all year. They played a completely different zone than what they had put on film. So they did a really good job of making it a non-traditional 3-2. It was more of a matchup, man-to-man 3-2. He did a good job of that and it made us stagnant.”
“Ole Miss, their 1-3-1 is more aggressive and they’re out pressuring you a little more and it transitions back to a 2-3 or a man, so it’s a completely different type of concept. I think with us having played against Florida and the zone, it’s done something that will help us the rest of the year, especially when you get in a tournament situation and it’s a one game [deal], you’ve got to be able to change things at the drop of a hat. We’re kind of thankful that Florida did kind of throw that curveball at us so we can get us ready.”
On the opposite side of the ball, Kentucky will have to find an answer for Devontae Shuler, Ole Miss’ senior guard who averages 16 points and 3.3 assists per game. Shuler is one of two players in the SEC that ranks in the top ten in scoring, assists, and steals, the other being Vanderbilt’s Scotty Pippen Jr. In the Rebels’ loss to the Commodores on Saturday, he scored 25 points on 10-20 from the floor, so he’s not afraid to shoot.
“He’s a big key to their team,” Lucas said. “When he plays well, they play well and when he doesn’t, they kind of struggle. You have to, from the beginning, do your job, especially in pick-and-roll coverage against him. How you’re going to guard him and guys off the ball kind of trying to crowd the paint so he can’t get downhill. You kind of just want him to take contested shots. You really want him inefficient. I think he had 20 points on 20 shots last game so you kind of want him to have to do something like that.”
So, figure out Ole Miss’ zone and stop Shuler. Easy enough.