Due to the lateness of the hour and some other obligations, I was unable to provide a proper postmortem for last night's game between the Chattanooga Mocs and the Kentucky Wildcats on the normal schedule. So today, we will do a slightly more in-depth review of the game.
First of all, we must thank Chattanooga for making the trip to Rupp Arena, especially under the difficult circumstances of having a starter suspended just before the game. Chattanooga played hard, and surprised me with their inside play, which has been rather weak so far this year. The Mocs gave a strong effort in front of a large crowd, and they can be proud of that.
For UK, this game seems to be a mixed bag of brilliance, bare adequacy, and question marks. The overall result looks impressive, and the margin could have been well over 30 points if the deep bench players had not been put in relatively early, but it was good that they were. In the end, the result was very much what we had expected. After the jump, we'll examine the journey in some detail.
We don't usually include the box score but today, we will. The yellow highlights indicate areas of concern, and the green highlight areas of praise (Hat tip: Statsheet.com):
Most of these things are self-explanatory and don't need a lot of exposition. But one thing that does need a lot more exposition is what happened to Terrence Jones.
Jones has apparently dislocated his pinkie finger on his shooting hand (left), and although he tried to play through it, he simply could not. Generally, it is not a good idea to try to play through injuries like that -- it hurts for a reason -- and Jones was clearly unable to do so.
Right now, Calipari is listing him as officially "day to day," but I think it is important to point out that this is not a trivial injury. It takes 3-6 weeks in a splint for the finger to heal, depending on the severity of the damage done. It is certainly possible to play with a splint, depending on which joints were involved, but it may affect Jones' ability to perform at a high level.
This does place Jones' effectiveness, if not necessarily his availability, for the Louisville game in question. We'll have to wait and see.
- Another impressive performance by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but he only gets a share of the game ball.
- Doron Lamb has to get a share. Great game, impressive numbers all around. How does zero turnovers strike you? Six rebounds, as many as Miller and Wiltjer combined.
- Anthony Davis also gets a share. Double-double, five blocks, five OR's. Great game. These three players were so outstanding, I can't pick among them.
- Kyle Wiltjer shot the ball well. I could have used a few more rebounds out of him.
- Marquis Teague did a good job distributing the ball. He had 8 assists and only 2 turnovers. That's really good against anyone.
- Kentucky did a good job on defense. I was less impressed with their toughness and offensive rebounding. Three point defense was adequate.
- You may think free throw shooting percentage is a problem, but on closer review, I note that 2 of them were garbage-time misses by Jarrod Polson, so UK's percentage wasn't bad.
- I loved how UK jumped on the Mocs and took control of the game early. That was very encouraging.
Not so superlatives:
- Darius Miller did not impress me from a fan standpoint. He may have done better defensively than he did offensively, but it doesn't look like it.
- Marquis Teague shot the ball abysmally from three, and shot too many in my opinion.
- Three rebounds is not satisfactory for Kyle Wiltjer in 23 minutes.
- UK got far too few free throw attempts in this game. That's because they were not aggressively attacking the rim and settling for threes.
- I thought the intensity faded quickly in this game. Too quickly.
- Eloy Vargas got 0 rebounds in nine minutes.
- 33 threes is way too many for this team. UK was settling too much.
- Down screens on threes are still killing Kentucky. If I were a future opponent, I would take note.
The big thing I notice here is FTR%, which should be much higher against a team like Chattanooga. As I mentioned above, this appears to be due to the kind of shots the 'Cats were taking, i.e. perimeter shots. Holding UTC to under 40% eFG% is very good, so Kentucky's defense is still showing its strength.
Personally, I am a bit disappointed in the OR% numbers. 32% just isn't a good number for that stat. Yes, it 's better than the Mocs, but not nearly good enough. Ballhandling was good, but UK should force more than five turnovers against a team like the Mocs.
I'm probably being too picky, but I would characterize this game as "just okay." Some players performed really well, but as a team, I thought the Wildcats were lacking. This certainly didn't look like the big, angry bounce-back that many were expecting from the Indiana game, although I was impressed and very pleased with the way that UK jumped on the Mocs and took control of the game early.
But as the game wore on, I think play fluctuated between good and average. Too many threes, not enough toughness with the ball and on defense, and a passive offense that basically got by mostly on size and talent make me think that UK has hit a bit of an uncertain patch. Some of that, no doubt, is due to the MIA status in the last game and the injury in this game to Terrence Jones, a huge contributor when the Wildcats are clicking on all cylinders. Also, easy victories can sometimes be made to look worse than they really were, and perhaps I am a victim of this kind of impression.
Still, I found myself wanting more out of this game -- more precision, more attack, more physical burliness. Perhaps, like so many fans, I am asking too much of this young team at this point. The bottom line, I suppose, is that it was a comfortable win, and that's always good.