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Stop Holding The Ball, PLEASE!?!

My face when Tyler was taking air out of the ball near midcourt with time expiring during Saturday's game. (UK Athletics)

My face when Tyler was taking air out of the ball near midcourt with time expiring during Saturday’s game. (UK Athletics)

When John Calipari was hired to lead the Kentucky basketball program, there were a few things fans were forced to accept.  Opposing fan bases will call him a cheater, his teams are going to look different every single year, and he is never going to run an in-bounds play that is designed to produce points.  I can understand and accept those, but there is one I cannot bear to watch any longer.

Why must we hold the ball for so long before attempting to score late in games?

I think every smart basketball fan knows that chewing up clock with the lead is important, but I know that I wasn’t the only person thinking about the Wisconsin game as the clock ticked away against Louisville.  Dominique Hawkins’ 3-pointer with 2:46 left put Kentucky up 73-68.  For the rest of the game, the Cats had 2 turnovers and 2 free throws and were a Damion Lee prayer away from taking a loss.

The concept is sound, but they’ve been putting it into practice poorly.

Against Wisconsin, the only consistent offense was coming from Karl-Anthony Towns.  They got three consecutive shot-clock violations because instead of attempting to feed the post around the 18-second mark, they were waiting until around 10 or 12.  This year’s team has the guards that can create a shot with only 10 seconds left in the shot-clock, but the circumstances were different on Saturday.

UofL played zone most of the game, excluding two random man-to-man possessions out of the last six.  UK’s offense was effective when Tyler Ulis penetrated the zone, or found somebody in the middle to break it down.  Ulis had the hot-hand, but it takes the little guy a little longer to find an open look or create an opportunity for someone else.  It’d be different if Jamal Murray was in the zone — he only needs about 3 seconds to get a decent look  — but starting the offense with 10 seconds or less under these circumstances is maddening.

If Jamal Murray is in the zone, this shot is OK in the waning minutes. This shot was NOT OK on Saturday. (UK Athletics)

If Jamal Murray is in the zone, this shot is OK in the waning minutes. This shot was NOT OK on Saturday. (UK Athletics)

The object of the game is to have more points than the other team when the clock reads 0:00.  For 36 minutes you’re trying to score more points than the other team, so why should you spend the last 4 minutes simply trying to get to 0:00?  Changing your style and tempo of play can change the momentum of the game and mentality of the players.  There’s a method to the madness, but the shift shouldn’t be so dramatic that every idiot in the world watching knows that you’re holding the ball.

Even though Cal probably won’t change, if they could start the offense just a little sooner down the stretch, the collective sanity of the Commonwealth would greatly appreciate it.

Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

33 Comments for Stop Holding The Ball, PLEASE!?!

  1. Blackdog
    7:25 pm December 29, 2015 Permalink

    I couldn’t agree more with you Nick. Cal usually starts his stall ball offense with about 5 minutes left in the game. Its hard to criticize Cal on much of anything but my nerves would sure appreciate it if he’d just let them play the way that got them the lead to begin with.

  2. Caliparty09
    7:32 pm December 29, 2015 Permalink

    Stall ball cost us the Wisconsin game and allowed Kansas to make a comeback in 2012. The Louisville game proved that the lesson has not been learned.

    • Long Dong Silver
      6:08 am December 30, 2015 Permalink

      I’ve said the same thing on here, and got blasted every time. But it’s true. Cal sometimes panicks and wants to dribble the ball to death. And it’s a fair criticism. Now, cue the moron thinking I said we should fire Cal…..and exaggerating that I’ve said I’m unhappy with Cal…

  3. jaws2
    7:34 pm December 29, 2015 Permalink

    I believe this strategy cost us the WI game, and surely almost cost us the uofsmell game. I cannot understand how Cal preaches ‘step on the gas’ and ‘killer instinct’ and tells his kids to pull the ball out when they are in a position to put teams away. It’s been that way since he’s been here. It looks like we’re playing not to lose.

    Cal does this against every team we play no matter how many we are up. I love the Cats and I’m glad he’s here, but I just don’t get this mentality. And BTW, our players are horrible at doing this. I cringe every time we hold the ball for the last shot of the half because we are AWFUL at getting the job done.

    Glad I’m not the only one that see’s it this way.

  4. Angelo
    7:37 pm December 29, 2015 Permalink

    I agree with Nick and Blackdog. Stall ball is awful to watch and it often backfires.

  5. ukbradstith
    7:39 pm December 29, 2015 Permalink

    This is an epidemic in college ball, but cal is one of the worst. He’s a great coach unless we get a decent lead, then he’s one of the worst. Luckily we are usually good enough where it doesn’t matter, and I wouldn’t trade cal for anything, but I don’t know why he can’t see it.

  6. Jay-cool
    7:40 pm December 29, 2015 Permalink

    Final Fours and National Title and your telling Coach Cal how to coach? I think he is doing a great job.

  7. rockatao
    7:43 pm December 29, 2015 Permalink

    please add football’s “prevent” defense to this plea

  8. jman3715
    7:45 pm December 29, 2015 Permalink

    That picture shows the actual problem. Instead of drawing contact and the foul Murray kept trying to avoid contact causing bad shots or mid air adjustments. In that picture if he could have easily drawn a foul. They will learn to stop trying to avoid contact but it may take time.

  9. ukfav
    8:24 pm December 29, 2015 Permalink

    Sooooo, was Wisconsin really the twins fault? or was it the offense?

    • TJY
      9:38 am December 30, 2015 Permalink

      IMO, and I said it that night, it was Cal’s fault. If you remember the interview at the end of the National Championship game in 2012, Cal said he was trying to hold them back and they (the team) were telling him they wanted to keep running and he said they pulled him to the finish line…or something like that. I love Cal as a recruiter, a developer, a coach and leader but I wish he would change the way he finishes games. It cost us the Wisconsin game and it almost cost us the UofL game. We should have won by at least 6 points.

  10. hweathers
    8:58 pm December 29, 2015 Permalink

    I don’t think coach Cal needs any more assistants.

    • catdaddyd
      12:15 am December 31, 2015 Permalink

      6 final fours in his career and only one title. Maybe he does need help.

  11. keiths
    9:07 pm December 29, 2015 Permalink

    Coach Cal come here promising his “dribble drive!” all they do is dribble not much driving. It was all BS from day one

    • UK Big Board Update
      9:53 pm December 29, 2015 Permalink


  12. bigblueforever
    9:32 pm December 29, 2015 Permalink

    Nick Rousch. Whoever you are. Shut the hell up. Stuff like this is soooo annoying. I trust Cal knows what he is doing and doesn’t need the half witted juvenile KSR “writers” to figure out UK’s basketball problems. Just sayin….. We are 11-2. Top 10. Four FF in six years. I don’t need this tool to come up with this BS. I thinking I’m going to start a competing blog. This is such crap so much of the time.

    • ukbradstith
      10:23 pm December 29, 2015 Permalink

      You’re wrong. 100%. You can call names like a juvenile all you want, but stalling lost the game to Wisconsin. There is no debate. Cal has done this his entire career. Lots of coaches do, but we are not worried about other programs. No opinions here, just fact.

    • bigblueforever
      10:37 pm December 29, 2015 Permalink

      The day Cal and his ball stalling leaves a Lexington will be the worst day for UK basketball. That’s 100% certainty.

    • PoopTooth
      10:26 am December 30, 2015 Permalink

      That’s where you’re wrong again with 100% certainty. UK is and always will be a premier basketball powerhouse. In the event Cal leaves (not that I ever want that to happen), the university and basketball program will be just fine. Nick Rousch wrote a true factual article, which a lot of UK fans agree with, and deserves more credit than your slanderous chatter. I love having Cal, and like every coach or any other human being for that fact, he’s not perfect. UK fans love their basketball and have every right to comment or complain on what they are seeing.

  13. The Rest of the story
    10:58 pm December 29, 2015 Permalink

    It just seems to me that taking a team out of the offense that gave you the lead and stop running it just seems to make no sense. Watching most teams with leads into the last five minutes they keep the foot on the gas and put away all doubt. Cal is the coach and I’m not and it seems to work for him most time. Guess I am old school wanting to put the opponent away just the competitiveness in me.

  14. Sublem
    11:40 pm December 29, 2015 Permalink

    I agree, yes, Cal has won very many games, even doing stall ball. But it also came back and bit us in the ass. Screw playing stall ball, shove it down their throats and end the game with a W.

  15. cats42301
    12:10 am December 30, 2015 Permalink

    Totally agree! Slow down is definitely what caused the Wisconsin loss. Heck it even also happened against Kansas in the 2012 NC game. Cal sent to slow down and Kansas came back from a big deficit and Cal them went back to our normal offense and we got momentum back. I remember after the game MKG said he asked Cal I’m a timeout to let them run but he refused. Cal himself after the game be almost went to slow down mode too soon. Joe B. Hall even questioned him one time why he went to running clock and Cal said because he wanted to win the game. Cal is stubborn on a lot areas and set in his way, like also refusing to play zone sometime when we were getting killed in man to man. Holding the ball and running clock in basketball is the equivalent of a prevent offense in football it prevents you from winning. I especially was irate against Wisconsin in the Final 4 because we had just found some momentum after struggling all game and when we find a rhythm and get a 4 point lead Cal calls to slow it down and it killed us! We lost all rhythm again and it.cost us the game. Cal needs to realize there are good times to hold the ball but there are also times where it should not be used. I would rather lose running our regular offense and shooting when players are open than to get beat by standing around dribbling and running clock. Love Cal but he is definitely a stubborn coach and holding the ball has cost us of almost cost us in many games and he needs to quit making it an automatic thing just because we are ahead and time is winding down. Someone who has Cal’s ear needs to try and talk to him about this or it will cost us games in the future. Maybe it’s just me but the last guy who faithfully milked clock was Dean smith and the 4 corners, however there was no shot clock then now with a shot clock holding the ball makes less sense.

    • UK Big Board Update
      2:50 am December 30, 2015 Permalink


  16. catheaven
    7:24 am December 30, 2015 Permalink

    So glad I’m not the only one who sees this. Close game, clock going down, we hold ball till last few seconds of shot clock and poorly attempt to score, do not score EVER, and opponent gets ball with enough time ALWAYS to attempt another shot and succeeds quite often. I howl when they start holding the ball. We stink at this concept. We NEVER score doing this and need to most of the time to put game out of reach. We got lucky against Lou that they didn’t score and beat us.

  17. Capurnicus
    8:13 am December 30, 2015 Permalink

    Lol, i have to agree with the post. One of Cal’s worst habits is destroying the offensive flow with 5 minutes left and a small lead. Sometimes we get away with it, the last UofL game for example, other times it breaks us… Wisconsin final 4 game being the most painful example.

  18. smahurin
    8:36 am December 30, 2015 Permalink

    I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus, UK as a team lost to a very good wisconsin team, but everyone blaming cal should actually go back and watch those last 4 minutes. Yes he wanted UK to chew up 20 seconds on the clock, but he then wanted UK to throw the ball into KAT. They would run 20 seconds off, then run the little pin down play to isolate KAT in the post. Andrew just refused to throw it in there and kept pulling it out.

    Cal even pulled andrew for about 30 seconds in the last few minutes of the game when you’d think you’d want your PG and leader in there the most because he was so frustrated that Andrew kept turning down KAT in the post.

    I don’t blame andrew, the harrisons had been phenomenal at late game closing situations throughout there career, but people really need to settle down before they blame Cal for those shot clock violations.

    • Capurnicus
      8:52 am December 30, 2015 Permalink

      I have no doubt that Cal has a better plan then, hold the ball till 10 seconds are left, then throw up a terrible shot. I do however believe it was way too early in the game, with way too small a lead to start Stall Ball.

  19. Carl Page
    8:51 am December 30, 2015 Permalink

    Amen! Know someone who almost never had his teams hold the ball at the end of games? Adolph Rupp.

  20. Wes
    8:55 am December 30, 2015 Permalink

    Passes are quicker.


  21. Megan
    9:32 am December 30, 2015 Permalink

    What an odd article. The headline is: “Stop Holding The Ball, PLEASE!?!” Then Nick proceeds to explain: (1) Every smart basketball fan knows that chewing up clock with the lead is important; (2) The concept is sound; and (3) There’s a method to the madness. Nick finishes by suggesting nothing more than a milquetoast tweak: Start the offense just a little sooner. Emphasis on little.

    All that bluster over a point of micromanagement? I agree with Nick’s basic premise that the tactic is sound. We shouldn’t criticize Cal for doing it. But I really don’t care to debate exactly how many seconds it should be. Nick already explained that this year’s team has the guards who can create a shot with only 10 seconds left on the shot clock. So he’s again arguing with himself.

    You guys are crazy. If for no other reason than to presume that Cal wants his team to take bad shots or no shot at all in the final minutes of a losable game. He’s simply going by the book. And if he were ever to lose a game by giving the other team more than enough possessions and opportunities to change the scoreboard, we (and our haters) would excoriate him even more for not understanding Coaching 101.

  22. Sheeeeeiiit
    11:24 am December 30, 2015 Permalink

    It’s easy to agree with Nick and everyone else here who says stall ball is stupid. Obviously the most painful loss is UK history is evidence this strategy is BS. But as easily as that Wisconsin game comes to mind I cannot think of any very important games we won because of stall ball. If there were some then maybe I wouldn’t be so quick to criticize it. I do trust Cal and he is the best for us but I admit stall ball is hard to watch sometimes.

  23. CatsFanInNC
    1:41 pm December 30, 2015 Permalink

    Watching the game, I had the same comments related to stall ball and even said the “W” word related to the Final Four game last year. Hearing some of the commentary after the game related to Ulis and cramping, one could make the argument that stalling may have won this one.

    Had he continued to run up and down the court with no resting while dribbling, the result would have been different. With Briscoe out and Murray struggling to take care of the ball, Tyler on the bench could easily have caused the scoreboard to flip.