If you watched Kentucky’s matchup against Missouri yesterday afternoon, there is no denying you were frustrated from start to finish. Shots were clanking off the rim left and right, the Cats committed costly turnovers, and the entire team getting into foul trouble was the icing on the cake.
Something that directly correlated with each of those frustrations was the lack of passing and heavy isolation ball from the entire team. Lack of passing created a display of bad offense, resulting in charges, horrible shot selection, and the ball ending up in Missouri’s hands.
Coach John Calipari made a point to credit more assists in practice for players making the right passes and becoming more selfless on offense, even if the player on the receiving end of said passes missed the shot. It may have sounded like an “It’s the thought that counts” mindset at the time, but if it got the players to pass the rock, I was all for it.
After yesterday’s loss, however, Coach Cal said he’ll need to go back to the drawing board to fix the issues in the passing department.
“It’s obviously not working,” Cal said. “I’ve done this a long time but I haven’t had a team this young. And when they’re this young, each player is trying to establish who they are as a player, and it just takes time. I was disappointed with a bunch of guys.”
Breaking down the numbers, it’s worse than you probably expected.
Kentucky managed just nine total assists yesterday afternoon, and six of them came from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The team as a whole finished with 12 turnovers.
Unfortunately for the Cats, this isn’t new territory in the slightest.
Against Vanderbilt, we saw just seven total assists, with three coming from SGA, and three more coming from PJ Washington. (PJ Washington?) Nine total turnovers.
We saw a slightly better outing against West Virginia, where the Cats managed 16 assists and 16 turnovers, with Quade Green and SGA combining for nine assists and eight turnovers. Still though, that’s not anything to gloat about.
When you go down the list of games, you see a recurring theme, both by individual players and the team as a whole.
On the season, Kentucky has managed more turnovers (307) than total assists (305).
Hamidou Diallo, the team’s starting shooting guard, has 35 assists TOTAL this year, compared to 38 turnovers.
For comparison’s sake, PJ Washington, a player that has been heavily criticized this season for his struggles in the passing department, has somehow managed to eclipse Diallo’s numbers with 46 assists on the season. Whoops.
Despite averaging nearly 25 minutes per contest and starting in most of Kentucky’s games to begin the year, Quade Green averages less than three assists per game. No player on the team averages more than 4.4 assists a night. Hell, the entire team averages just under 14 assists per game over the course of the entire season, tied for 182nd in the nation with Boston University.
In every loss this season, Kentucky has either matched or committed more turnovers than assists. They’ve never had more than 14 assists in a loss, including nine or fewer assists in two of the team’s six losses.
The numbers don’t lie. When the Wildcats hold the ball and take the game into their own hands, they lose. Plain and simple.
I don’t know if Calipari will have to go back to the YMCA method of “every player has to touch the ball before you shoot,” but something’s gotta give.
Good thing I don’t get paid the big bucks to figure it all out.