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Kentucky Wildcats 77, Champagne Chalons-Reims Basket 72: Postmortem

Kentucky received their biggest test to date at the Big Blue Bahamas Tour yesterday in Nassau. Chalons-Reims really came out and played well, and forced Kentucky into a close game.

Jamie Squire

Sorry about the delay between the postmortem and the game. Unfortunately, the box scores out of the Bahamas seem to be on Bahamian time, which is pretty much whenever.

Anyway, Kentucky once again played Champagne Chalons-Reims Basket yesterday in the Big Blue Bahamas tour, and once again were victorious 77-72. But this was by far the most competitive game Kentucky has played during this Bahamas series. Chalons-Reims demonstrated that they deserve the professional label as they shot the ball much better than the last time the two teams met, and played Kentucky toe-to-toe for the entire game. Kentucky managed to pull away late and win, but Chalons-Reims resisted all the way.

This game continues to frustrate Wildcats fans with poor transition defense, but much more of this result was due to the quality of the opponent’s play on offense rather than the lack of quality from Kentucky’s defense. It’s clear that Chalons-Reims studied Kentucky’s tendencies and knew exactly which weaknesses to exploit, and they did so relentlessly.

Box score


Hat tip:  John Clay

Team observations

I went ahead and calculated the Four Factors for this game, so we’ll start with how UK did there. Do remember that actual basketball season is two months away. Also, some of these statistics look very suspicious — for example, how can you have more steals than the other team has turnovers? Seems a theoretical impossibility to me. But we work with what we have.

  • Kentucky shot a blistering 58.8% eFG, but they allowed CR to shoot almost as well — 58.2%.

  • Offensive rebounding-wise, Kentucky lost that battle again, although by an insignificant margin, 37.9-36.7%. The thing this tells me is that defensive rebounding is the problem for Kentucky, and it looked like it.

  • Both teams had exactly the same turnover percentage, 18.9%. That’s too high. While I set my threshold at 20% turnovers for a red flag, this is pushing that number, and was a big part of why Kentucky struggled in this game.

  • This was a very fast game, 74 possessions. This Kentucky team right now is playing much faster than last season. That may be part of the problem.

  • Kentucky’s OE was 103.5. That’s not bad at all, but their DE was 96.8. That’s not good at all.

  • Kentucky’s free throw rate has been low this entire trip. Yesterday, it was 17.54%, which is down in territory we rarely saw last season. CR was better at 25.5%.

  • Kentucky’s 3-point shooting was sharp yesterday — 9-18. That’s where we need to be almost every game.

  • Kentucky allowed 15 steals yesterday, and I suspect 10 of them resulted in layups.

  • Free throw shooting is getting better, but it was largely a function of who’s shooting them. When Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee are on the line a lot, FT% suffers. When Aaron and Andrew Harrison get there, you’re going to get good numbers.

  • I’m very concerned about the lack of fouls drawn. Kentucky should be much better at this. Because August, I guess.

  • CR shot 73% against UK in the first half, and led by only one. But giving up 73% shooting is just poor defense.

  • On the plus side, UK held CR to only 28 points in the 2nd half.

Individual observations

  • Tyler Ulis had his best game in a Kentucky uniform today. He was a nightmare on defense and excellent on both sides of the floor. He was 5-8 from the field for 12 points, two rebounds, three assists, two turnovers and two steals.

    He shares the game ball with Andrew Harrison, who also had his best game of the series. 4-7 shooting, 3-3 form the line for 11 points, one rebound, seven assists and only two turnovers. Simply and outstanding effort.

  • Marcus Lee had a quiet game, relatively speaking. He was not nearly as explosive as he has been, but he did show a bit of a face-up game making something other than a dunk. Four points, two rebounds and two assists. He made both his shots.

  • Devin Booker was much better yesterday, 4-6 from the field and 2-3 from the arc for 10 points. He had one rebound and a turnover.

  • Karl-Anthony Towns had a quiet game also. He was 2-5 shooting for five points, and had four rebounds and two assists. His passing was excellent from the high post, and I hope we see a lot more of that.

  • Aaron Harrison was 4-10 including 3-7 from the arc for 15 points, two rebounds, an assist, a turnover, and a steal. Good outing for Aaron, this is what we need from him every game.

  • Alex Poythress played okay, but he was way too invisible offensively. He was 2-3 from the field, 0-1 from the arc for four points. He also had four rebounds, about three too few for my lights.

  • Dominique Hawkins did what he always does — focused on defense and was fairly quiet on offense. But Dominique is noticeably improved from last year and is much more aggressive offensively. 1-3 from the field, 0-1 from the arc for three points, two assists and a steal.

  • Derek Willis was much better today than yesterday, making 3-6 including 1-2 from the arc and 2-2 from the line for nine points. He had two rebounds (about three too few for me), an assist, two turnovers. Nice game.

  • Dakari Johnson really struggled defensively and didn’t produce much on offense. He did rebound the ball well, though, and that makes me happy. Johnson was 2-7 from the floor (not a good number from where he takes them) for four points. He had eight rebounds, though, and an assist against only 2 turnovers. He also had 2 steals, but he was really slow and often in the wrong position on the pick and roll, and CR really abused him.

Tying it all up

Overall, this was a game effort by Kentucky, and although I didn’t think they looked fatigued, it’s possible that they were. Six games in eight days is a lot for any basketball team.

I think it’s important to note how well Chalons-Reims played. They were much more cohesive and professional than the last time UK played them. They deserve a lot of credit for playing well, and even though UK’s defense wasn’t great, CR really had more to do with how well they played than Kentucky’s effort on defense. The one thing Kentucky did to really help them out was live-ball turnovers, which led to a bunch of easy baskets.

Finally, I never expected this bunch to be 5-0 at this point, I think that speaks volumes about their talent, but their lack of cohesion and experience, especially in the second group, is beginning to show. That’s absolutely fine, and I would not be at all surprised to see UK lose this last game to the Dominican Republic. The DR is much better than they showed in the first game, and they are not likely to play that badly later on today.

But this game was a good, competitive one that I’m sure Coach Cal was happy to see. I think he saw the guys that he can depend on to do good things down the stretch, and I must say that Tyler Ulis and Andrew Harrison both look like guys who need to be in the game late. Aaron as well. Think about a lineup that features that back-court.