A Team in Need
Since Kentucky's painful loss to Mississippi State last Tuesday in Rupp Arena, the the pulp and pixels around the Commonwealth have been exercised to such an extent that Richard Simmons would be beaming with perspiring pride. Theories, admonitions, and allegedly helpful tips have been bandied about by everyone with a computer, a plum sports-writing gig, or folks who simply have the time to ponder what it is that is wrong with the 'Cats.
We've read Mark Story tell us not to yell "shoot" every time Michael Porter gets the ball in his hands; we've read Jerry Tipton ask if the 'Cats can create; we've read John Clay write that the 'Cats must play smarter if they expect to win; we've read our own Truzenzuzex question Billy Gillispie's imagination; and some of you have read my own words of angst regarding the player's defensive effort, the coach's strategy, and why it's important to play for 40 minutes.
We've heard talk radio proffer a wide range of theories as to why the 'Cats have lost three straight games: In a nutshell; Gillispie needs to go back to Texas, Gillispie sucks, the players aren't any good, and Kentucky needs a third scorer (the talk radio folks aren't shy or timid in voicing their opinions, and they are many times straight to the point).
Now, I'm all for a give-and-take concerning the 'Cats, but the simple fact of the matter is that this team must beat Florida (19-4, 6-2) tonight in Rupp. Time for talk is over. Time for winning is upon us.
For all the belly-aching I've done over the last week, I really think the 'Cats are going to put on a good performance tonight. The players have had a week to evaluate their collective effort (and watch old Texas A&M game tapes), and the coaching staff has had a week to critique their own performance, or lack thereof. And with a roar of discontent as background noise to all of the reflecting that's taking place, surely the player's egos and pride have been challenged, probably like no other time in their competitive history. And surely Gillispie knows that what he's been doing, hasn't been working.
Patrick Patterson, who was voicing optimism about how his teammates will respond Tuesday night against the Gators, was asked if he would guarantee a Wildcat victory. Patterson begged off having a 'Joe Namath/Dicky Lyons' moment, but the big fella did have this to say:
"I can guarantee us playing hard, putting all our passion and heart out there."
With that, and a win, I would be satisfied.
Now, on to the show ...
Florida Gator Personnel (stats are SEC play ONLY)
Nick Calathes: 6'6", 194 lb sophomore swing -- Calathes is averaging 20.3 points per game, to go along with seven boards, and six assists. He's shooting an excellent 50.9% from the field, and 48.0% (24-50) from beyond the arc. He's playing a lot of minutes also, 34.1 per game. He's a solid free throw shooter at 71.4%.
Calathes is the catalyst and glue of this Florida team. He's a legitimate SEC Player of the Year candidate. Last year versus UK he scored 24 and 16 points.
He needs to be pressured, by either Liggins or Meeks, and then hope he doesn't get hot, dropping 3's in from 25 feet away. Calathes also sees the floor very well, evidenced by his school record 221 assists last year.
Chandler Parsons: 6'9, 213 lb sophomore forward -- Parsons is the second leading scorer for Billy Donovan, at 13.5 points per game. He also averages 6.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. He makes 54.4% of his shots, and 34.2% (13-38) of his three-point attempts. He is not a good free throw shooter, though. He's made only 45.0%.
Parsons has come on strong after playing behind Marreese Speights last year as a freshman. He scored six and three points in the two games versus UK last year.
Alex Tyus: 6'8", 220 lb sophomore forward -- Tyus averages 11.4 points per game, to go along with 6.1 rebounds. He also makes shots; he's shooting 53.5% from the field and a solid 71.4% from the charity stripe.
He scored a total of two points versus UK last year.
Erving Walker: 5'8", 161 lb freshman guard -- Walker is averaging 10.5 points per game. He shoots the ball very well; he makes 44.7% (17-38) of his 3-point attempts, 44.6% from field overall, and 81.0% of his free throws. He also averages 2.8 assists per game. All in only 23.3 minutes per game.
Walker is why Jai Lucas isn't at Florida anymore. For the 19th rated point guard prospect (Rivals), he sure has had a solid season thus far.
Walter Hodge: 6'0", 170 lb senior guard -- Hodge is averaging 7.8 points per game. He shoots 40.0% from the field, 31.0% (9-29) from the 3-point line, and 76.5% from the free throw line. He also averages 2.6 assists per game. He's second in the team in minutes played at 30.6 per game.
Hodge is basically the same player he's been for four years; he runs hot and cold, for no apparent reason. Although in SEC play he isn't shooting the ball well, I've seen him put up some great numbers in the past. He can't be left alone to roam the perimeter. Last year versus Kentucky, Hodge had 10 and five points in the two games.
Dan Werner: 6'8", 230 lb junior forward -- Werner is averaging 7.3 points per game, to go along with 3.8 rebounds, and 2.4 assists. In SEC play he's shooting only 35.8% from the field, and 32.0% (8-25) from behind the arc. He's making 92.3% of his free throws.
Werner will play inside and outside (I think he prefers playing outside of the lane). I think he's a little soft, so getting physical with him may take him out of his rhythm. Last year he scored nine and nine points versus the 'Cats.
Kenny Kadji: 6'10", 240 lb freshman F/C -- Kadji is averaging 5.1 points, and 2.8 rebounds per game, in 12.9 minutes. He's made 53.1% of his shots, and 53.8% of his free throws.
Kadji was the #5 rated center prospect (Rivals) coming out of high school. Like many young big men, Kadji has had fits and starts; at times he's played well, at times he's struggled. My suggestion to UK, make hay in the paint when he's in the game.
Ray Shipman: 6'5", 212 lb freshman G/F -- Shipman plays in 10.9 minutes per game, averaging 2.8 points and 1.3 rebounds. He shoots 53.3% from the field, and has made one of his two 3-point attempts. He's an 83.3% free throw shooter.
Shipman was Florida's Mr. Basketball, as well as the Gatorade Florida Player of the Year.
The Gators have two SEC losses, to Tennessee and South Carolina ... In the UT loss, the Vols shot 49% from the field ... Tennessee also made 12 of 28 3-point attempts ... Scotty Hopson was 4-6 from beyond the arc, and led UT with 20 points ... In Florida's 79-63 loss to UT, the Gators committed seven more turnovers than the Vols ... Florida beat South Carolina last week, 97-93 ... In that game the Gamecocks shot 49.3% from the field ... And they made an even 50.0% of their 3-point attempts ... The Gators couldn't guard USC guard Devan Downey either ... Downey went for 33 points ... He made seven of his nine 3-point tries ... But, South Carolina lost because they MISSED 12 of 22 free throws ... And they committed seven more turnovers than Florida ... Since SEC play began, Florida is only grabbing 28.7% of their own missed shots ... Last year versus UK, Florida's Marreese Speights combined for 40 points in two games ... Alex Tyus has 35 dunks this year ... 78.8% of the Gators scoring comes from the freshman and sophomore classes ... Nick Calathes has scored in double-figures in 20 of 23 games this year ... Calathes and Tyus have both played in 59 consecutive games without fouling out ... In SEC play, Florida has beaten Ole Miss (78-68), Auburn (68-65), Arkansas (80-65), Vanderbilt (94-69), Georgia (83-57), and South Carolina (97-93).
UK/UFA SEC Games-Only Stat Comparison
Points 79.0 70.8
FG% 47.7 44.9
3-Point% 39.1 32.4
Assists 17.0 11.9
Turnovers 13.0 14.9
Steals 6.5 7.4
Blocks 2.5 3.4
Points 72.0 65.1
Field Goal% 45.1 37.5
3-point% 36.0 34.9
Assists 13.5 9.4
Turnovers 17.0 13.4
Steals 5.6 7.4
Blocks 6.6 3.9
I expect to see Tyus, Parsons, and Werner being near, or hovering around Patrick Patterson whenever UK is in a half-court set (why any coach wouldn't at least attempt that approach is a mystery). On the perimeter, Jodie Meeks will probably find himself the victum of a chaser. To offset that strategy, UK needs to do two things: 1. Play defense like they did for the first 20 games of the season - That should allow UK to get out in transition and have the opportunity to make easy baskets, or have open 3-point attempts. 2. Run some screens for Meeks - Jodie Meeks is a workhorse; he doesn't mind being made to run every inch of the floor in an effort to get an open look. Heck, set some double-screens ... just get him some open looks.
The 'Cats are a team desperate for a win. That's right ... desperate, and in this case desperation better be the mother of invention.
Thanks for reading, and 'Go Cats!