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Defensive Score Sheet 2013-14: Michigan State

The Kentucky Wildcats suffered their first defeat Tuesday night against a really good Michigan State team. Defensively, the Cats excelled on the boards but were victimized in transition multiple times. Let's take a closer look at what went right and what could have been better in the game.

Jonathan Daniel

It's been a while since I've done a Defensive Score Sheet (DSS for short) but I'm hoping to have the time this season to keep up with them for all the games.  As a quick refresher, the DSS seeks to complete "the other side of the box score" by filling in the incomplete information as to which player(s) defended each shot, forced each turnover, and committed the foul that caused each free throw attempt.

Before we get to the individual players, let's look at how UK performed as a team on the defensive end:

Kentucky Defense Game 1st Half 2nd Half
Possessions 70 34 36
Points 78 44 34
Def. Efficiency 111.4 129.4 94.4
eFG% 35.3 62.9 40.6
Defensive RB% 47.2 69.2 73.9
Turnover % 15.9 14.7 5.6
FT Rate 28.0 16.1 37.5

The Good:

  • Defensive Rebounding: As Glenn noted in the postmortem, Kentucky dominated the glass against what is usually one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country.
  • Avoiding free throws: The Cats did a good job at not giving the Spartans chances for free points.  Some of that was due to all the running and quick scoring they did, but the Cats didn't compound that problem by fouling.
  • Got better in the 2nd half: The defense was much more effective after halftime.

The Bad:

  • Lack of turnovers: Even for a Calipari defense this was pretty bad.  And remember that 2 of Michigan State's 7 turnovers were due to Spartan players having a foot out-of-bounds after taking the ball away from Kentucky, so really only 5 turnovers were due to actual defensive plays.
  • Transition defense: Kentucky allowed 21 fast break points - that is a MASSIVE number.  For comparison, Kentucky only scored 16 fast break points in their first two games combined.

Transition Defense

One of the things I did was keep track of how often Michigan State pushed the ball and what happened when they did.  In the first half they really tried pushing the ball 10 times.  Kentucky was able to successfully defend or force them back into the halfcourt in 4 of those , but Michigan Stated scored 13 points on the other 6 possessions.

In the 2nd half the Spartans ran another 9 times.  The Cats did a little better, preventing scores or forcing them back into halfcourt offense 5 times, but Michigan St scored 8 points on the other 4 possessions.

All told, Michigan State tried to run 19 times in the game.  They had to back off 3 times, but scored 21 points the other 16 - that's a 131.2 offensive efficiency when they ran versus a 106.6 efficiency when they had to score out of their halfcourt offense.

This is something to keep our eye on when we hit December.  North Carolina and Louisville in particular are going to try and run as often as possible.  We'll need to see considerable improvement in this element of the defense if Kentucky is to win those games.

Individual Players

Kentucky Ratings
Name Stop% DPoss% Opp Eff DRtg
Willie Cauley-Stein 0.47 0.27 116.7 112.9
Julius Randle 0.54 0.19 86.3 106.7
James Young 0.32 0.11 136.3 114.2
Aaron Harrison 0.32 0.18 138.6 116.4
Andrew Harrison 0.09 0.05 184.7 115.0
Alex Poythress 0.62 0.21 80.6 105.0
Dakari Johnson 0.52 0.28 89.0 105.3
Undefended 0.39 0.16 138.7 115.9

  • Alex Poythress and Julius Randle were the defensive stars of the game.  POY did it with good work on the boards and excellent shot defense while Randle was an absolute beast on the defensive glass.
  • Dakari Johnson did some nice things in the middle too.
  • I'm pretty sure Willie Cauley-Stein got robbed of a block in the 2nd half.  It looked like he blocked a Matt Costello shot off the glass early in the 2nd half, but wasn't credited with a block in the box score.
  • There were 12 shots that no one challenged or pressured at all.  These were a combination of transition shots, 2nd chance opportunities, and open shots that resulted from good ball movement by MSU.  The Spartans scored 16 points off those 12 shots which is way too many.

The Cats are young and they'll get better on defense - they have too much physical ability and Calipari is too good a defensive coach for them not too - but it's clearly an area that needs a lot of work.  It should be fun to watch them improve in this area over the next several weeks, especially once classes are over.