Offense and Defense from the First Half to the Second

This man could probably get even Duke to play some defense.

There was an intriguing question posed by UK1972 in the South Carolina DSS about how the presence of Coach Calipari affects the Wildcat defense from the first half to the second.

How does UK defensive % compare when they are playing defense in front of Cal...as opposed to the half when they are not? Offensively the same question?

I think this is a fascinating question because it seems obvious that a team should play better when they are on the same side of the court as their head coach - on defense in the 1st half and offense in the 2nd half. This question is particularly apropos as UK prepares to play in one of the unique venues in college sports Saturday night.

Fortunately, thanks to the DSS I was able to easily put together the relevant numbers and look at how the UK offensive and defensive efficiency changes from the 1st half to the second.

Given that every team begins the game playing defense in front of their coach and finishes the game playing offense in front of him, we would expect the following trends:

  • Better defensive efficiency in the first half when compared to the second
  • Better offensive efficiency in the second half when compared to the first
First off, let's look at a game-by-game comparison of Kentucky's offense in the first half versus the second half:
Click for a larger image.

Offensehalf_medium
There's a lot of up and down, but more often than not, Kentucky performs much better in the second half on offense than they do in the first. In UK's first 25 games, 17 featured improved second half offense.

Next let's look at defensive efficiency:

Defensehalf_medium

Looks a lot like the offense chart, and conventional wisdom bears out once again. In 16 of UK's games the defensive efficiency was better in the first half than the second. Interestingly, the most recent games have seen a rather steady defensive performance in the first half while the second half performance has continued to vary greatly from game to game. I suspect that there is a bit of a late-second half let down in these games (such as at the very end of the South Carolina game) that skews the numbers a bit. Not having Calipari on this side of the floor probably contributes to that let down.

Now to be sure there are A LOT of other factors that go into a change in performance between the first and second halves, including but certainly not limited to

  • The presence of the opposing coach helping the other team in the same way
  • Halftime adjustments
  • Junk time/minutes given to the end of the bench at the end of the second half which never occurs in the first half
  • Pure randomness
Acknowledging the influence of these factors, here is how UK has fared overall this season in each half (Yes, that's supposed to be a basketball court - don't laugh, I'd like to see you do better in MS Paint!):

Caliparihalf_medium

Image of Calipari from the AP/Getty Images licensed to SBN

Overall, the UK offensive efficiency improves by 10.5 points from the first half to the second or by about 9.4%. The defensive efficiency increases (that is, gets worse) by a little bit more: 12.4 points or 15.4% in the second half. There is no adjustment for competition in those numbers, but when I limit it to SEC games and the big non-conference opponents (Kansas, UNC, Indiana, Louisville) you get the basically the same change in offense and defense (+11.0 and +14.3 respectively).

What does that mean for the Vandy game? Obviously it's important to play well in both halves, but keep an eye on UK's defense in the first half. If the Cats are still able to hear Cal from the baseline then I think they will put together a typically excellent defensive half. If not, it could be a long night.

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