After the loss to Florida, John Calipari outlined four things his team must do if they want to make a run in March. How did they fare in a 78-65 win over Mississippi State? Let’s take a look at the report card.
Limit turnovers: B
vs. Florida: 16 turnovers
vs. Mississippi State: 11 turnovers
Season: 14.1 turnovers per game
Kentucky took better care of the ball last night, turning it over 11 times vs. the 16 times they did vs. Florida. There were still some egregious errors (I’m still grimacing at the turnover PJ made after his big dunk midway through the second half), but for the most part, Calipari was pleased.
“We’re that team that, you know, we can’t afford those kind of errors. Now, we only had 11 turnovers today. That’s a big jump for us.”
That being said, Mississippi State scored 18 points off those 11 turnovers, which leads me to my next point…
Better passing/Create more shots: D
vs. Florida: 13 assists
vs. Mississippi State: 11 assists
Season: 14.1 assists per game
Calipari’s pet peeve with this group is passing, and with good reason. Over the past few games we’ve seen more than our fair share of bad passes, ranging from too fast to too slow, too long to too short. Just when Kentucky’s getting into a groove, someone makes a lazy pass and boom! Momentum stopped. Calipari is switching up practice in hopes of improving ball movement. With “Press Virginia” waiting in the wings, let’s hope it works.
Shoot more threes: B
vs. Florida: 4-17 (24%)
vs. Mississippi State: 5-14 (36%)
Season: 98-285 (4.9-14.25 per game, 34.4%)
Kentucky was more efficient from the three-point line last night thanks to Kevin Knox, who was a perfect 4-4 from behind the arc after going 4-21 over the last three games.
Make free throws: B+
vs. Florida: 8-12 (66%)
vs. Mississippi State: 23-30 (77%)
Kentucky’s free-throw percentage was good last night, but I’m most encouraged by the number of free throws they took. Sure, part of that is because the game had the pace of a snail, but the Cats (okay, PJ Washington) drove to the basket more, which sent them to the free throw line 30 times. Extra kudos to Washington for hitting 71.4% of his free throws, a marked improvement over his 59% average coming in.