Last week, the Kentucky basketball team was coming off back-to-back underwhelming performances, with the first coming in a home loss to Evansville and the second being an eight-point win over Utah Valley.
The Wildcats were 3-1 on the year and ranked inside the top-10, but they weren’t playing like one of the best teams in college basketball. And the numbers backed that up.
After back-to-back dominant showings against Mount St. Mary’s and Lamar, though, the statistics are slowly starting to creep back up.
Through four games, Kentucky was 263rd in the nation with a .78 assist to turnover ratio, with 43 assists and 55 turnovers on the year. The Wildcats are also 292nd in the nation in total assists per game at 10.8 assists per contest.
Just two games later, they now have a 1.1 assist-to-turnover ratio, good for 138th overall and 7th in the SEC. At 13.7 assists per game, they’ve also moved up to 166th in the nation, a 126-spot jump from last week.
After a 1/12 shooting performance from the 3-point line (8.1%) against Utah Valley, Kentucky dropped to 21.3% from beyond the arc and an embarrassing 342nd in the nation. At the time, only eight teams were shooting worse from three.
Now, they Wildcats are shooting 29.6% from three, good for 274th in the nation. The attempts are still low – only 98 on the year, tied for 315th overall – but the shots they are taking are starting to fall.
In overall shooting, Kentucky was shooting just 43.9% from the field (98/223), good for 177th in the nation. South Carolina and Alabama were the only two teams in the SEC with worse percentages. They now sit at 46.9% shooting, moving them up to 74th in the nation and 7th in the conference.
As for turnovers committed, Kentucky (13.0 per game) is down to 118th overall from 164th last week. Turnovers forced? Not as great, sitting at 252nd overall (13.0 per game), a solid drop from 178th overall last week. Despite going into the season seen as one of the best perimeter defenses in the nation, the Wildcats are forcing just five steals per game, good for 301st overall. That’s also a 28-spot drop from last week.
On the interior, the Wildcats are turning it up a notch, now blocking 4.8 shots per contest, good for 60th in the nation. Last week, Kentucky was blocking just 3.3 shots per game, tied for 175th in the nation. At the time, Florida was the only team worse on that front in the SEC.
Scoring defense has also improved, dropping to 61.7 points allowed per contest and 73rd in the nation, improving from the 63.0 points allowed last week (No. 113 overall). Kentucky is also allowing just 35.2% shooting overall, good for No. 17 overall and No. 4 in the SEC. And despite the general history of opponents getting hot from deep at Rupp Arena, the Wildcats are allowing just 28.0% from three, good for No. 64 in the nation.
Looking at some of the other positives, the Wildcats are tied for 33rd in the nation and fourth in the SEC in rebounding margin with a plus-9.3 mark through six games. They are also 33rd in the nation with 40.2 rebounds per contest, a jump from 78th in the nation last week.
They are also still converting at the free throw line at an elite rate, knocking down 78.8% shots at the stripe per game, good for 23rd in the nation and No. 2 in the SEC.
Overall, the numbers are not even close to where they need to be, but they are at least showing progress is being made in most aspects of the game on both ends of the floor. The ball is moving more, open shots are being created (and falling), they’re rebounding, and they’re defending. Hopefully a solid sign of things to come.
How will they respond on Friday evening when the UAB Blazers head to Lexington, especially with Nate Sestina out with a fractured wrist? Can they continue trending in the right direction?