Looking Back at Defense in the National Title Game

It's never too late to look back at a championship.

Yes, yes I know - the Wildcats winning a national title was soooo 3 months ago. Since then we've had recruit signings to talk about, the second greatest day in UK history (or wherever Draft Night ranks on Cal's personal scale), and we are quickly approaching the start of football season.

Still, bear with me. I've got a few DSS loose ends to tie up and I'll be posting them this week. I had intended to get these out back in April, but stuff happens and I didn't have a chance to review the last few games until recently. Just consider this as an excuse to indulge in some healthy nostalgia. Can you indulge in nostalgia for something that just happened in April? Oh well, we're Wildcat fans - we can reflect on a national championship any time we please!

Kentucky featured a powerful offense this year, finishing 2nd in Ken Pomeroy's Adjusted Efficiency rankings, but it was arguably their defense that won the national title game for them, particularly when the offense floundered in the 2nd half. Interestingly enough, the overall results for this game were very close to those from the first meeting between these two teams back in November. Here is how the Kansas offense did against UK in those two games along with their season averages:

Kansas Offense Nov 15 Title Game Season
Offensive Eff. 89.0 88.1 114.2
eFG% 37.3 39.5 52.3
TO% 19.2 13.4 19.2
Offensive RB% 35.0 26.2 34.6
FT Rate 45.8 24.2 39.8

Kentucky held the Jayhawks to essentially the same efficiency and shooting numbers as the first meeting while balancing a decrease in turnovers by monopolizing rebounds and refusing to give away points at the free throw line.

You can check out the DSS results for the November game here.

Kentucky Defense Box Score: NCAA Title Game
Name Min FGM FGA 3PTM 3PTA FTM FTA Def Rb Blocks TO Steals Points Fouls
T. Jones 29 4.5 13 0 1 3 3 6 2 1.5 1 12 4
M. Kidd-Gilchrist 35 3 7.5 0.5 1.5 2 2 4 1 1.5 0 8.5 2
A. Davis 36 4.5 15 0.5 0.5 0 1 12 6 3.5 3 9.5 2
D. Lamb 35 2 6.5 1 2 2 3 1 0 0 0 7 2
M. Teague 34 3 5 2 3 1 2 1 0 0 0 9 2
D. Miller 25 1.5 6.5 1 1 0 2 5 2 0.5 0 4 2
E. Vargas 3 0.5 0.5 0 0 2 2
0 1 0 3 1
K. Wiltjer 3 0 0 0 0 0 0
0 0 0 0
Undefended 40 3 8 0 2 0 0 2

Totals 200 22 62 5 11 10 15 31 11 9 4 59 15

There are quite a few similarities between the box scores for the two games. Terrence Jones was the primary defender on Thomas Robinson in both games and his line reflects that as he defended the most shots in both games and also had the most points scored against him. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was also engaged at a similar level as he defended Tyshawn Taylor both times.

One of the things I noted in the first contest was how much fouling Jones, MKG, and Marquis Teague did. All 3 were much better the second time around which should not be a surprise - Kentucky became one of the best teams in the country at not sending teams to the line last year.

For most of the season I lamented the lack of defensive rebounding by Darius Miller. There were some valid reasons for his poor numbers including being on the perimeter a lot and Anthony Davis, Jones, and MKG sucking up a lot of rebounds. So it was great to see Miller finish his college career with one of the best rebounding games in his career.

Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones really combined to give Robinson a hard time. Davis blocked Robinson 3 times and all 3 times followed the same script: Jones would plant himself in the lane as an immovable object in the paint. After trying to get around him Robinson was pull up for a shot and Davis - knowing exactly where the shot was going to come from - blocked it like it was set up on a tee. It was fantastic teamwork and I think watching those two play defense together is one of the things I will miss the most.

Kentucky Four Factors Ratings
Name Opp eFG% Opp TO% FTRate DRb% Stops Scores Plays Stop% DPoss% Def Rtg Opp Eff
A. Davis 31.7 20.0 6.7 31.7 13.0 4.5 17.5 0.74 0.29 78.8 54.2
D. Miller 30.8 7.8 30.8 19.0 4.9 1.5 6.4 0.77 0.15 82.4 62.5
K. Wiltjer 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.00 0.00 88.1 0.0
Undefended 37.5 14.2 0.0 4.8 4.0 3.0 7.0 0.57 0.10 88.6 85.4
M. Kidd-Gilchrist 43.3 16.6 26.7 10.9 5.1 4.0 9.0 0.56 0.15 89.2 94.1
T. Jones 34.6 11.0 23.1 19.7 7.7 5.9 13.6 0.56 0.28 90.1 88.3
D. Lamb 38.5 0.0 46.2 2.7 2.5 3.0 5.5 0.46 0.09 90.9 128.2
M. Teague 80.0 0.0 40.0 2.8 1.4 3.5 4.9 0.29 0.09 93.9 185.0
E. Vargas 100.0 40.8 400.0 0.0 1.0 1.5 2.5 0.41 0.49 108.2 122.4

Totals 39.5 13.4 24.2 73.8


  • Yeah, Anthony Davis was every bit as good on defense as you remember. His Stop% was nearly identical to the November game and he defended almost 30% of the possessions which is insane.
  • I am so happy that Miller had a great defensive game - he made some really nice plays all over the floor and helped prevent Kansas's role players from helping Robinson and Taylor.
  • I can't say enough good things about Terrence Jones. His defense might have been average by UK standards, but it came while defending Robinson almost the entire game and forcing him to work hard for every shot.
  • Doron Lamb and Marquis Teague had games that were very similar to their entire seasons. Both had some nice moments, but neither did anything special. I thought they did a pretty good job sticking with their assignments on the floor and not letting them get loose for open shots.
There you have it! Later this week I'll post the full season numbers for the top 8 players.
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