The best things you can say about the Eastern Kentucky Colonels versus the Kentucky Wildcats is that both teams got a game in, both teams got to see things they won’t see much of going forward and both teams have to be pleased about some of the things they saw.
The Colonels have to love the fact that after going into the half down big, they came out and scrapped to a near draw in the second half, losing the half only 36-41. EKU also defended much better in the second half and ran an offense that clearly bothered Kentucky at times. Given the makeup of their team, it was a praiseworthy effort overall.
Kentucky has to be happy about all the successful connections above the rim, the number of blocked shots and steals, and the overall comfortable margin of victory. Kentucky played well enough, even though the offense often looked very inefficient, and that was as much a function of the scrappy, pressing EKU defense as anything else. But there is little doubt there is significant room for improvement by Kentucky offensively.
You can’t be upset with almost 60% eFG. That’s outstanding. When you dunk most of your shots, you’ll get that.
Offensive rebounding was very good. Honestly, you would’ve expected high 40’s at least against this team, but let’s be honest, Kentucky only had 24 chances at offensive rebounds. You have to take a measured view of this stat when your eFG% is very high.
The offense was inefficient, primarily because of a high number of 3-point attempts and only 3 makes from the arc. 1.14 points per possession isn’t shameful, but it really flatters Eastern’s defense.
I’m disappointed that turnovers were so high. This stat forces me to wonder if the absence of Tyler Ulis was a big factor, or not really a factor. I suspect most of you will consider it a factor. I’m not inclined to disagree, necessarily, but I think the EKU defense deserves more credit than they’ll likely get.
Kentucky forced a fair number of turnovers, but it’s not what we’re used to seeing. I’m confident Ulis’ absence impacted that, as he’s the team leader in steals.
Free throw rate was good, and so was FT% at 77%. That’s great for this team.
Three point shooting has become a genuine problem for Kentucky. I expect it to get better, but it’s baffling to see it so poor with so many decent shooters.
Kentucky will leave a lot of potential on the table if they don’t improve offensively. They didn’t need to be efficient against the Colonels, but that will increasingly become the exception rather than the rule.
You can’t help but be happy with a defense that holds a team to .67 points/possession and a 14-point first half.
Karl-Anthony towns missed one shot out of 9 attempts, including a three, and made all his free throws. He added nine rebounds, 4 blocks 2 assists (2 TO), a steal and a partridge in a pear tree. Game ball.
Willie Cauley-Stein played very well — not Texas well, but well. Only 5 rebounds, but 2 steals and 2 blocks to go with his 5-8 shooting.
Andrew Harrison had an interesting game. He had 6 assists and 5 turnovers. Overall, I’m not pleased with how he or his brother Aaron played. Aaron missed almost every shot he took, but he made a big one to preserve UK’s 3-point streak. That’s two games in a row we’ve had to actually work to preserve that thing.
Trey Lyles had a very good game indeed, including 10 points on 4-6 shooting and 10 rebounds, a double-double. He was honorable mention for the game ball.
Dominque Hawkins played very well in relief of Tyler Ulis. Get this: 6 assists, zero turnovers. That’s impressive against the pressure EKU put up. He also gets an honorable mention.
Marcus Lee had a very nice game scoring at 10 points on 5-6 shooting, but he only got 3 rebounds, and for a guy of his size and length, that’s just too few in 13 minutes. He needs to double that production.
Tying it all up
This game is what we have seen all season from Kentucky — stellar defense and slightly above-average offense. It’s certainly a potent combination, because when you produce that dominant a defense, you really have to make a mess of the offense to lose a game, and Kentucky has been competent offensively, if not particularly good.
This is almost the exact opposite of the team Kentucky fielded last season. That team was very efficient offensively in games like this one, but didn’t defend well. The 2015 iteration defends everybody like allowing a basket is a felony, but making one is almost a misdemeanor. Weird dichotomy.
Next up we have the Columbia Lyons from the Ivy League, a team that, like Eastern, puts up almost 50% of their shot attempts from outside the arc. While Kentucky defended the perimeter well against EKU, allowing them only 20% from outside, Columbia is a more talented team than Eastern and will be tougher out there. They are also significantly bigger inside.
But we’ll deal with that tomorrow.