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Kentucky Wildcats 83, Domincan Republic 71: Postmortem

Kentucky faced their toughest test of the week yesterday, and they passed - not quite with flying colors.

Jamie Squire

Sorry for this being a bit belated, but as you know, Kentucky defeated the Dominican Republic National Team yesterday in Nassau, 83-71. This game was a bit of a regression for Kentucky defensively, and although they haven’t played good defense very often man to man during this series of games, in this particular one, they truly struggled with transition and early offense by the Dominicans. Orlando Antigua, it would seem, has paid some attention to Kentucky’s previous games.

There was also the matter of the unnecessarily hard foul by Andrew Harrison on James Feldine in the early second half. It wasn’t a malicious or intentionally hard foul, but Andrew was in no position to defend the shot and just went at it way too hard. It was an error of commission, but it served to apparently ignite the Dominican team as they took exception to seeing their teammate fouled so hard. Immediately after that foul, the Dominicans went on a run to reduce what had been a 20-point lead to ten. Kentucky hung on at the end, but this was by no means the domination we have seen over the other three games.

Box score


Hat tip: John Clay

Team observations

  • Kentucky’s 3-point shooting was just okay, and continues to be a bit of a problem. We need to see this at around 38% for this team.

  • Kentucky did not dominate the rebounding as they have so often in this tour of the Bahamas. In fact, both teams had 38 total rebounds each, and a quick calculation provides that the DR outrebounded UK on the offensive glass 36.5-34.2%. That should not happen.

  • Interestingly, the defensive efficiency numbers look pretty good at 87 points allowed, and 100.3 points scored per 100 possessions, and honestly, for most of the game the half-court defense wasn’t all that bad. UK did some good things when their defense got set.

    But in early offense and transition, the defense was very bad. Early in sets when the offense attacked before Kentucky got their defense set, DR got a lot of layups. In transition, they beat Kentucky down the floor consistently, no matter who was in the game. I’d say we have a fundamentals problem there.

  • Kentucky continues to struggle with blocked shots, managing only four. Karl-Anthony Towns, at this point, just isn’t a good shot-blocker and neither is Dakari Johnson. When Willie Cauley-Stein returns, you’ll see those numbers go up.

  • Turnovers were at 15.7% for both teams. That’s acceptable. Anything under 20% for this team is going to be good.

  • Free throw shooting was okay at 70%, but UK didn’t get to the line near enough, only attempting 10. That’s an extremely low free throw rate for a team with this kind of attack-the-rim prowess.

  • Overall, we got very little production out of the wings yesterday. I consider Poythress as playing the 4-spot right now.

Individual observations

  • Alex Poythress continues to be a revelation. He was the best player on the floor today in almost every aspect. His remarkable efficiency continues to be the talk of this event, and yesterday was no exception. 8-9 from the floor including 2-3 from the arc, five rebounds, 20 points total. He also had two assists, a block and two steals. Game ball.

  • Dakari Johnson was very close to Poythress with his excellent play. He had a nice double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds, and continues to improve in the post. Defensively, he is still struggling to defend players attacking from the wing, but most of that is not his fault. In the post, his defense has been solid.

  • Andrew Harrison had another very good game with eight points, although his efficiency wasn’t great at only 3-7. He had six assists, which is great, but four turnovers is too many.

  • Aaron Harrison underwhelmed me a bit yesterday. He had only 9 points on an inefficient 3-9, and had no rebounds or assists to go with it.

  • Devin Booker continues to struggle from the arc, but he really gets up and down the floor surprisingly quickly, and he is an underrated athlete. He wound up with five points on 2-6 shooting, but he added a rebound and an assist.

  • Dominique Hawkins played fine. He had a couple of nice cuts and floaters, but he didn’t make a three, and attempted only one. He also had an assist.

  • Tyler Ulis had a solid performance with seven points and four assists against only two turnovers. He also had a couple of steals and a rebound, and was somehow credited with two blocks (I’m skeptical of that). He does need to put more pressure on the defense as a point guard, but he is naturally very patient and it looks good on him. I like what he does out there. His 2-6 shooting is the only dark spot on an otherwise fine performance.

  • Derek Willis had an off day. He was 0-4 shooting the ball, had two assists but three turnovers. He never really looked comfortable to me.

  • Marcus Lee continues to impress. He had an efficient 4-5 shooting day for eight total points, three rebounds (that’s a little low) and one assist and one turnover. He didn’t have a single block, which is a bit disappointing considering his athleticism and size.

Tying it all up

Overall, this was a solid effort by the Wildcats against a much better quality opponent than they have been facing in Nassau. Defensively, Kentucky has a lot of work to do, especially when it comes to keeping opponents from getting easy baskets. The good news on the flip side is that it’s August.

Kentucky will get the Dominicans again before its all over, and that should be a very interesting game. If UK can’t tie up some of these defensive loose ends, they’re going to drop a game somewhere in the next two, but I don’t think anyone would be too worried about that.

Offensively, this Kentucky team has been doing it all and doing it well. Opponents have really struggled with Kentucky’s size, and the Wildcats have made getting the ball on the blocks a priority. We have seen very little of the Dribble Drive Motion and a lot more wing entry to the block, much as we saw back in the 2009-10 team’s days with DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson. It has worked very well. Kentucky has been running this a lot from the "Horns" set, which Jay Bilas has mentioned many times, running the high pick-and-roll as well as some high-low action. Given UK’s size, this is a viable offensive strategy this season. I’ll have a bit more on that later.