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The Kentucky Wildcats faced their biggest road challenge since playing at Indiana back in December and emerged with a big win against a determined Vanderbilt team. Defensively the game featured all the elements that we've come to expect from the Cats - excellent field goal defense and very few free throw attempts for the opponent along with a few forced turnovers and some not-so-great defensive rebounding (particularly in the first half).
Calipari wanted the Cats to force Vanderbilt to the interior and in the first half that seemed to be what the Commodores wanted to do to as they repeatedly dumped the ball inside to Festus Ezeli. Anthony Davis played well (also, water is wet) and the other Cats applied considerable pressure on the perimeter to force tough shots from that area. The result was a terrific defensive stand in the first half that saw Vanderbilt struggle to a 76.7 Offensive Efficiency.
In the second half the Cats backed off the swarming defense that marked the first half and the Commodores were able to knock down some long 3's that included a 10 possession stretch early in the second half where they went 4 of 5 from distance. That got them back in the game, but the rest of the half was marked by spotty shooting and an inability to string together perimeter shots thanks to the Cats' defensive pressure. In the second half the Commodores offensive efficiency improved considerably to 129.0. They were held scoreless over their last 7 possessions though when UK put the game away.
|Kentucky||Defense Box Score: Kentucky vs Vanderbilt|
- Doron Lamb gets a block that he wasn't credited for in the official box score - it was given to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist instead, even though MKG wasn't really involved in defending the shot. This happens from time to time.
- One particular bit of bad defensive rebounding came from Darius Miller on the possession where he "fouled" John Jenkins on a 3pt attempt. Prior to that he was out on Jeff Taylor when Taylor missed a long 2, but instead of turning and blocking out Taylor (and getting the ball which bounced right back to him), Miller let himself drift upcourt. There were some other instances of poor effort/blockout, but this one stuck out for me.
- Anthony Davis was once again heavily involved in defending shots. A good bit of that is the matchup with Ezeli, but Davis also roamed the court as he typically does and helped out on other players. On top of everything else he led the team in forced turnovers.
- I loved Kyle Wiltjer's activeness on defense which manifested in this game by helping to force turnovers in his limited minutes.
- I don't know who (if anyone) defended Jenkins on his first 3 point make due to ESPN's technical difficulties, so I tagged it as an "Undefended" shot.
|Name||Opp eFG%||Opp TO%||FTRate||DRb%||Stops||Scores||Plays||Stop%||DPoss%||Def Rtg||Opp Eff|
- Kyle Wiltjer had a nice game defensively. He mostly guarded Lance Goulbourne, but he did switch off to Ezeli a few times and held his ground fairly well. All in all he continues to make good progress on this end of the floor.
- Prior to picking up his 3rd foul, MKG did a fantastic job defending Jeff Taylor. After his 3rd foul Taylor took advantage until Cal switched Lamb onto him and MKG to Jenkins. That helped bottle both guys up a bit until late in the game when MKG switched back to Taylor.
- Marquis Teague did a really nice job defending Brad Tinsley.
As I did for the Florida game, here is a rough partitioning of 3 point attempts based on whether they were open, semi-open, or closely guarded (doesn't include Jenkins' first made 3).
Kentucky's threes were mostly pretty good shots - open or semi-open and taken in rhythm by guys you want to take them (Lamb and Miller). Teague and MKG both forced a few when they didn't need to and that could possibly be an issue in a close game, but otherwise the Cats are pretty good at picking their spots. Sometimes shots just don't go down and I think that was the case in this game.
One other non-UK defensive note: I really don't think the zone was all that great in stopping the Cats from getting good shots - MKG, Terrence Jones, and Miller repeatedly got to the middle and either got a good mid-range attempt or kicked the ball out for a step-into-it 3 pointer - the shots just didn't go in. I really think the idea of "The zone can slow Kentucky down" idea is more myth than reality at this point in the season. The Cats can still get good shots against zones, it just takes a few more seconds for them to do it.