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Watch the Tape: Taking Steps Backward

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.

Defensive Lapses

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.

Losing Plays

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!


Article written by Brandon Ramsey

25 Comments for Watch the Tape: Taking Steps Backward

  1. blueblood80
    8:12 pm January 13, 2021 Permalink

    If this seaon isn’t halted by Covid, the Kansas Jawhawks will be the team with most wins in CBB. Right now, the lead is a paltry 16.

    • just a guy
      8:26 pm January 13, 2021 Permalink

      I said that yesterday on here and had 3 reply that no one cared about that

    • spincr4hire72
      9:46 pm January 13, 2021 Permalink


  2. BigBang-BigCrunch
    8:21 pm January 13, 2021 Permalink

    “Kentucky was never going to run the table in the SEC. Even our best teams don’t accomplish that feat.” Uh, false. A quick search would have told you that under Calipari alone, the men’s team has went defeated in conference play. Wow.

  3. BigBang-BigCrunch
    8:22 pm January 13, 2021 Permalink

    Twice, twice under Cal (11-12; 14-15).

    • Brandon Ramsey
      8:34 pm January 13, 2021 Permalink

      I’m aware. That was probably too general of a comment seeing as how it has actually happened.

  4. just a guy
    8:28 pm January 13, 2021 Permalink

    On Calipari scouting. He doesn’t make players watch tape. He never has. Ever. He tells his guys to be their best and beat their man, and the rest will work out. If you all think Calipari is sitting at home watching tape, you’re crazy. He puts that job on his assistants, you know all the failed HCs on the bench that got fired for the same type of record we’re having now

    • Brandon Ramsey
      8:36 pm January 13, 2021 Permalink

      Most assistants watch more opponent film than the Head Coach so I don’t really mind that. John Robic typically handles the scouting reports. However, the issue is that Coach Cal doesn’t make in an emphasis. Even if Coach Cal himself has no role he should let Robic be the biggest voice in practice the day before a game. That is on Cal.

    • Dave C
      9:11 pm January 13, 2021 Permalink

      Wow. Not prepared to Guard the 3. That says all that needs saying. Knowing what Alabama does? Thats not lack of preparation like that caught you off guard. Its pure and simple coaching deficiency. No other way to frame it.

  5. blueballs80
    8:30 pm January 13, 2021 Permalink

    This team has one of the worst basketball IQs I have seen..I feel for Boston. He just can’t get going and Ware should have played some minutes as well.

  6. Badgercat
    8:40 pm January 13, 2021 Permalink

    Thanks Brandon. I enjoy your insightful analysis. Some game perhaps you could illustrate either defensively or offensively how spreading the floor (which we don’t do well IMO) is a tool that many teams are finding success with.

  7. Bluebloodtoo
    9:10 pm January 13, 2021 Permalink

    Personally, I think this team has a confidence problem and no real strong leader on the court to make up for it.

    • spincr4hire72
      9:48 pm January 13, 2021 Permalink

      Everyone thought it was Brooks after the Florida game but I guess not.

  8. mrknowitall1981
    11:40 pm January 13, 2021 Permalink

    I’d take Mac McClung right now!!!

  9. mrknowitall1981
    12:01 am January 14, 2021 Permalink

    As far as scouting goes, he’s paid 9-10 mill a year to know what the other team is doing. Surely Robes is not the only one assigned to scouting? I would think all assistants would have a hand in scouting and watching film. I played D2 basketball and all the assistants participated in scouting reports. What else are they doing besides practice and games? Not on the road recruiting. You would think that this season would allow more time for scouting and watching film. Maybe I am wrong ?????

    6:19 am January 14, 2021 Permalink

    I was trying to keep my expectations in check for a 180° turnaround in 2021… Unfortunately this team is making it pretty easy. Two steps forward, three steps back. I call it like I see it – these guys are meek, weak, soft, fragile lightweights. ZERO fight from the jump and they crawl into their shells when the butt whooping hits a crechendo. When 5-star players have no idea how to guard 3’s or brush off/run through ball screens you failed in your recruiting as a coach. The game is too fast and physical for these alleged “future pros” at this point… Time to look ahead to 2021/2022 if things don’t turn around in a hurry.

  11. Racerr11
    7:47 am January 14, 2021 Permalink

    No focus and not prepared not much effort sounds like to me they were distracted , to concerned with making a statement ? (kneeling). Coach the team Cal and stay out of the politics. The backlash from kneeling will be with them for some time.

  12. Racerr11
    7:49 am January 14, 2021 Permalink

    Lol, the season will not be cancelled because of covid or the bs virus as I call it.

  13. Trinity45
    8:33 am January 14, 2021 Permalink

    Well offensively, first Cal doesn’t run set plays, if he did maybe we would have better spacing, second we do not have a guard on this roster with a quick first step or the speed to beat good D-1 talent off the dribble. Defensively, since we don’t have quick guards we cannot guard quick guard and they will beat our guard all day long driving to the paint. Second Cal is still running crap from 2010 and this is 2021 the game has change but Cal has not. Cal wins when he has the superior talent, this is what happens when he does not have the superior talent, there are some coaches that could win with our talent but not Cal.

  14. CALfacts
    9:35 am January 14, 2021 Permalink

    The bottom line, when Cal has a Cousin’s, Davis, CAT, in the middle his out of date offenses works! So what about all the other years? Struggle most of the year! Needs to up date his coaching style both offensively, and defensively!

  15. CALfacts
    9:40 am January 14, 2021 Permalink

    Bottom line? Coach has gotten a little lazy, needs to refocus. Makes way too much to have a team that doesn’t mesh! We have talent, just not the way he runs his teams!!

  16. CALfacts
    9:40 am January 14, 2021 Permalink

    Bottom line? Coach has gotten a little lazy, needs to refocus. Makes way too much to have a team that doesn’t mesh! We have talent, just not the way he runs his teams!!

    • chris gettelfinger is not walking through that door
      12:59 pm January 14, 2021 Permalink


  17. trumpetguy
    9:13 pm January 14, 2021 Permalink

    BR, well noted on DA passing up shots. Most guys would LOVE to have green light. Either he doesn’t or, confidence just not there. Cal has done this long enough to set up scoring options, and DA in IMO should have many more FGA, That is on Cal. DA looks to be the best jump shooter on the team. Wouldn’t any coach want him to have the most opportunities? Careless turnovers on his part can be corrected. Lazy post passes by everybody, some blame goes to big guys for not spreading out and DEMANDING the ball. Told you before and games prove it, OS just not a post up go through option. Clearly prefers facing the basket like Skal did. Took Cal about 25-30 games to acknowledge it though. Glaring defensive snafu to me was unwillingness of ANYBODY other than Jackson to actually defend the rim, one man removed. Granted, quicker Bama guards attacked often, but OS especially played matador defense on them attacking the basket. At least contest the shot or make them dish it off. BOTH of those options are better than clear drives to the basket with impunity! Lack of team quickness laterally just can’t be corrected though.

  18. trumpetguy
    11:11 am January 15, 2021 Permalink

    BR, HELLO….Look at the 2nd video clip you posted and tell me if OS ever had his man sealed and posted up! Dude was almost standing straight up. You’re better than this, or at least thought so. If OS would have spread out, put his rump into the defender and sealed him, the play might have had a chance…..but true, the entry pass was soft and lazy…much like OS effort there. Defender easily stepped around the straight up OS and deflected the pass…..Feeding the post requires some effort on the big too! Not getting it because OS doesn’t want to be down there.