I don't think any Kentucky Wildcats fan would agree with the notion that the Wildcats played well on Thursday on first blush. For one thing, you had Brandon Knight, a kid who averages 17 points per game and leads Kentucky in scoring, with bupkis for points for 39 minutes and 57 seconds. Then you had Terrence Jones, the second leading scorer at 16+ per game and co-leading rebounder at almost 9 per game with with 10 whole points and 2 (!) big rebounds.
Now, this is not meant as a slight to either player. Jones was obviously affected by some kind of viral crud he has picked up, and Knight just had one of those once per season nightmare games (and still had the poise to make a level 10 difficulty layup to win the basketball game.). These things happen in a season.
Besides, Josh Harrellson's double-double, along with Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins' big game compensated, somewhat, for the difficulties of Knight and Jones. And while you may think that what they did led to a terrible game, the statistics suggest a more complicated story.
Without further ado, let's go straight to the Four Factors to Winning:
So what we think we see is that Kentucky two of the Four Factors convincingly. Offensive rebounding and turnovers, the Princeton Tigers won convincingly.
So how could the game be so close? The answer is in the number of possessions -- 54, to be exact -- the lowest for a Kentucky game since 53 back in 2000 versus the Michigan St. Spartans.
This Princeton team kept possessions so low by a combination of deliberate offense and offensive rebounds that every single statistical event represented a much greater percentage of the overall number. For example, in a four possession game, a team makes two of three shots for 75%. The other team makes 2 of 2 for 50%. That's a 25% difference in shooting on only 1 made basket, making the stats look lopsided.
The biggest problem Kentucky had in this game was stopping Princeton on offense, and a good bit of the stops UK did make were early in the game when Princeton jacked up a bunch of early, challenged shots. When they settled down and ran their offense, Kentucky would defend them well for 25 seconds, then break down in the last 10, or Princeton would make a challenged shot.
Really, the Wildcats played very decent defense. Princeton just made tough shot after tough shot, which leads me to wonder if that was their normal modus operandi, or if it was simply a team playing tournament basketball at the right time. My thinking is the latter, but who really knows? Maybe Princeton fans do, but this is the first time all year I have seen the Tigers play.
Anyway, it was a great college basketball game, even if it was way too close for my taste.