The Cardinals beat the Cats Saturday behind a 16 minute run across two halves that took Louisville from down 6 to up 17. The Cats fought back and very nearly overcame that deficit and a look at where the Louisville players attempted shots reveals how the Cats fell behind and how they were nearly able to come back.
This is a follow-up to my article earlier in the week that looked at where Kentucky was forcing opponents to attempt field goals. At the end of the article I posited that UL's offense was a good match-up for what Kentucky was trying to do defensively and that in particular the Cats should be able to keep the Cardinals away from the rim since they hadn't shown much interest in getting there thus far during the season. That turned out to be very, very wrong, though not for the reasons I would have expected.
Let's begin with looking at Louisville's shot distribution for the entire game. This is similar to the chart used in the original article, but I have also included Louisville's FG% for each area of the court.
You have to give Rick Pitino credit. UL came into the game averaging nearly 21 3-pt attempts per game and they cut that number by 2/3. Some of that was certainly due to the Wildcat's stingy defense but a team doesn't attempt as few as seven 3's unless it chooses to. I don't know what prompted this change in offensive identity for the game, but it was certainly effective. The would-be 3's were instead evenly distributed between shots around the basket and jumpers.
If you look at the field goal percentages you can see the stark difference between getting shots at the rim and settling for jumpers, nor are Louisville's percentages unusual in those two areas. The Cardinals are shooting 73% at the rim and 32% on 2-pt jumpers on the season, so the Cats actually did a pretty decent job defending those shots.
What hurt most was the sheer volume of shots around the basket and this becomes pretty clear when you look at how the game progressed. I've broken the game down into 5 segments and created a distribution chart for each. Each chart shows the points scored by each team during that segment.
Kentucky started the game well and they were able to grab an early lead in part because their defense forced Louisville away from the rim which made it much more difficult to score.
When the Cardinals came back in the latter part of the half they got to the rim a few more times and were able to score more easily as a result. Hitting a couple of 3's helped too as did the Cats own ineffectiveness on offense.
The Cardinals were even better at the beginning of the 2nd half thanks to a number of Kentucky turnovers that led to easy run-outs. Again, fewer jumpers meant an easier time scoring and made it possible for Louisville to extend their lead.
When Kentucky made their run in the middle of the half it was aided by a Cardinal shot distribution that looked a lot like it did at the beginning of the first half. The Cats forced more 2-pt jump shots and, predictably, the Cardinals were not very successful hitting them.
The end of the game for Louisville was again similar to their best stretch in the middle: lots of shots at the rim and not as many jumpers. Some timely 3-pt shooting by Kentucky helped keep things close, but giving up so many easy baskets at the end proved to be too much to overcome.