That was not the performance you wanted to see in a marquee matchup on national television. Kentucky never held a lead for the entire 40 minutes on their way to an 85-65 loss to Alabama in Rupp Arena. Just when the fanbase thought the Wildcats might be turning a corner after Saturday’s impressive win at Florida, the team came out and laid an egg last night.
In the grand scheme of things it isn’t as big of a deal as some people seem to be making it out to be. First off, Kentucky was never going to run the table in the SEC. Even our best teams don’t accomplish that feat. 14-4 or 13-5 is what we want, and need, to see. Secondly, Alabama is going to beat a LOT of teams this season. I still think that Tennessee may well end up winning the conference, but a loss to Alabama doesn’t crush us by any stretch of the imagination. In just two weeks Kentucky will get another crack at them down in Tuscaloosa.
Now, that being said, any loss is a big deal when you are 4-6 (now 4-7) and scratching your way to try and build a NCAA tournament resume. Just as disappointing as the loss is how it came about. Kentucky was not prepared at all to guard the three point line and took a major step back offensively. Far too often did the offense look like the 2020 version where the ball was outside of the scoring area and the spacing was horrendous.
When the Wildcats take the trip down to Auburn on Saturday they will be up against a very similar foe. Auburn took Alabama down to the wire last weekend, losing 94-90. The Tigers will play fast, shoot a ton of 3-pointers, and look to spread Kentucky out just like Alabama did. There will be a lot to learn from the film between last night and Saturday.
Offense Reverts Back to 2020
This is an ugly, ugly offensive possession. Kentucky starts with their little over/under Iverson cuts that they have been running a lot. B.J. Boston pops for a catch at the top of the key but has to go all the way out to the half court logo to get it.
-When Boston catches the ball at the top of the key the middle of the floor is completely clogged with Isaiah Jackson and Jacob Toppin. Boston has struggled to penetrate successfully this season, but a play like this doesn’t even give him a chance to make a play.
-Dontaie Allen comes off a downscreen and gets away with a travel. He has his man beat on the curl, but the paint is too packed with defenders (and Isaiah Jackson) for him to make anything happen. The ball ends up back where it started.
-Boston tries to drive but is cut off. Look at how close Dontaie Allen and Devin Askew are standing both to each other and Boston as he drives it. Alabama essentially triple-teams Boston without even trying too.
-The possession ends with Boston trying to throw a one foot in length pass to a cutting Askew. Turnover.
The Kentucky offense has enough problems as it is. Reverting back to these spacing issues that mostly went away against Vanderbilt and Florida is very disappointing to see.
Right out of the gate Kentucky just seemed to be on their heels. This offensive possession is just one minute into the game and there is no movement or crispness to the offense.
-Keion Brooks is just standing at the free throw line.
-B.J. Boston passes the ball to Davion Mintz but then just stands. He needs to go interchange with Devin Askew or cut to the basket and then out the backside.
-Mintz, upon catching the ball, puts it up over his head and lazily throws a looping pass in to Olivier Sarr which is easily knocked away.
The ball needs to get fed into the post HARD. Sarr can only keep his man sealed off for so long. If the ball isn’t delivered with some authority then even if he catches it he will have to come so far off the block to get it that it does us no good. Six first half possessions ended with either a turnover or deflected pass on post entries alone.
I am generally the biggest Coach Calipari supporter and defender around. However, the lack of attention to scouting is really starting to frustrate me. You simply cannot tell me that enough film was watched as a team, or that guarding the 3-point shot was talked about with enough emphasis, if this is the ballscreen defense you are going to go with.
-Especially when the ballscreen is set downhill, or towards the sideline as opposed to the middle of the floor, you just HAVE to switch it. Against a team like Alabama where everyone wants to shoot 3’s I would probably switch the ballscreens anyway, but you definitely have to switch this one. That isn’t Olivier Sarr’s fault. It is clear that he was supposed to “shadow” the ballscreen and not switch.
-Sarr’s man, in this case #3 Alex Reese shoots almost EXCLUSIVELY 3-pointers. If you shadow or hedge off of someone like that, and therefore leave them open on the pop, you are going to pay the price.
I just am not sure how this wasn’t discussed before the game. Why wasn’t there a specific plan for the ballscreens when #3 Reese set them compared to maybe even #2 Bruner (who still is a good shooter)? Very, very frustrating.
Just two offensive possessions later Kentucky gets burned on the same exact John Petty Jr. and Alex Reese two-man game.
-Because the plan isn’t to switch the ballscreen to begin with, Mintz tries to cheat the play a little bit when he sees Reese and starts to hop underneath the handoff. Even this far from the basket you should NEVER be thinking about going under a Petty Jr. handoff. However, that probably was never mentioned prior to the game.
-Petty Jr. makes a very heads up play when he sees Mintz cheating. He just flares back to the wing and nails what is a very easy shot for him.
-Most disappointing of all is the fact that Davion Mintz NEVER PUTS A HAND UP TO CONTEST!!! That is unacceptable from a Senior. I realize that he got burned on the play and was late getting to Petty Jr. to contest, but you still ALWAYS have a hand up for a late contest.
Here is another example of lack of concentration that comes from a lack of pregame emphasis when going over the scouting report. Kentucky actually does a pretty good job of getting back on defense here. Having five guys in front of five Alabama guys is a good sign when they come in transition. However, Devin Askew lets himself drift WAY too low when guarding Jaden Shackelford. There is absolutely no reason to have your feet that far away from him. When guarding a guy like Shackelford you should be constantly scared to death of him shooting a 3-pointer. You’ve got to pick him up early and not allow him to dribble into a 3-pointer like this.
Again, Devin Askew is the one guarding him but having watched the game I place the blame on the staff for not emphasizing guarding the 3-point shot enough. It should have been pounded into their brains for 24-48 hours about how dangerous Alabama is from deep. Everyone should feel a great sense of urgency to take away the 3 when their man has the ball. There was none of that last night.
After Saturday’s game against Florida I wrote about the various “winning plays” that Kentucky made on their way to the big victory. Keion Brooks and Davion Mintz playing off of two feet at the end of their drives, executing on the offensive end, and excellent one-on-one defensive plays were some of the examples provided. Unfortunately, on Tuesday evening, there were too many plays that could be categorized as losing plays instead of winning plays.
Davion Mintz had been playing at a very high level and really was Kentucky’s best player to this point in the season. However, he did not have a good game last night against Alabama. We’ve already shown a couple negative plays from him, but this one is maybe is maybe the most egregious.
Far too often our Point Guards do not play in the middle of the floor in transition. Mintz should be “slicing” through the middle of the floor as he brings it up which would have given him a cleaner look to Jacob Toppin on the rim run or opened up a pass to Dontaie Allen running to the corner for a 3. Instead, he jumps to pass and turns the ball over in a 3-on-1 situation. If you can pause the video right when he jumps to pass it seems impossible that Kentucky would get zero points on this play.
I still hate to be negative about Dontaie Allen because he has, for the most part, played so well since entering the rotation. Last night Allen turned the ball over a team-high four times and didn’t seem nearly as comfortable out there as he had appeared in the first three conference games. The main thing for him to take the next step is that he simply has to stop turning down open 3-point attempts. He has been a passable defender and actually rebounded the ball very well, but his shooting ability is still what earned him his minutes.
In the first half alone he turned down three 3-point shots and there was one more that he probably could have squeezed off. This one is even worse because he turns down the wide open 3 for a tough, contested long 2. Shooting 2/5 from beyond the arc is good, but he probably should have been 3/8 or 4/9 instead. SHOOT ‘EM ALL!
Here is another bad post entry. The biggest problem with this play is that Davion Mintz is way too late in trying to deliver the ball to Olivier Sarr. After the cross screen, Sarr is immediately open and his man sealed on the block. However, you can only hold that seal for maybe one second. Mintz needed to fire the ball in there right then. However, he is back on his heels, not in a strong position, and never makes any sort of pass fake. This causes him to have to throw a loopy pass with way too much air under it as Sarr loses his deep post position. Again, post entry passes should come after a pass fake and should be delivered with some speed behind the ball!