In Tuesday’s road trip to Starkville, Malik Monk struggled to find his jump shot, while the rest of the team struggled to stay on the floor as they fought foul trouble. UK’s stretch fours were there to save the day.
Derek Willis and Wenyen Gabriel combined for 26 points on 10-of-11 shooting. It prompted me to ask, “Where’s this been all year?” Turns out, it’s been there all along.
Willis struggled to find consistency in his three-point shot early in the season, but the position as a whole has been more productive than you might think. Calipari has alternated Willis and Gabriel in the starting lineup, recently adding Mychal Mulder as the third option at the four-position. Between the three of them, they’re averaging 20 points and 12.2 rebounds per game.
Game-by-Game Production of UK's Stretch Four
|Game||Margin of Victory||Points||Rebounds|
|Stephen F. Austin||23||43||7|
The Cats have three elite guards and Bam Adebayo in the post. The playmakers don’t need a ton of offense from the stretch fours. What the playmakers need need is space to operate. They’re getting plenty of space because Gabriel, Mulder and Willis are shooting a combined 38.2 percent from behind the three-point line.
When they’re at their best, the three can combine for 30 points and 20 rebounds. When they’re at their worst (vs. UNC) they miss shots, don’t rebound and don’t play defense.
Calipari has, and will continue to preach defense and rebounding to Willis, Gabriel and Mulder. Already excelling on the offensive end, if the finishers continue to improve defensively, they’ll play the perfect role to help Kentucky make a deep run.