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Kentucky Basketball Freeze Frame: The Kevin Knox Baseline Curl

The play has been nearly unstoppable, so we break it down frame by frame.

NCAA Basketball: Alabama at Kentucky
The running floater is becoming Knox’s signature move.
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

As Kevin Knox goes, so goes the Kentucky Wildcats. Knox is leading the team in scoring, averaging over 15 points per game for a Wildcats offense that desperately needs a go to scorer. However, in conference play Knox’s average has dipped to 13.8 PPG. A lot of Knox’s points are scored in catch and shoot situations, but Knox has been effective coming off baseline low post screens into a curl action in the lane. In this edition of Freeze Frame, we look at the successful curl play that Kentucky coach John Calipari has gone to over and over again to get Knox in a low post position for a floater in the lane or a dump off for the screener.

This play was key in keeping Kentucky in the game against Auburn earlier in the week. Here is the basic action: Knox runs baseline, curling into the lane off of a PJ Washington screen. You can see the beginning of the play here in this freeze frame from the first half against Auburn.

Knox curls baseline after the PJ Washington screen.

Knox’s defender, #5 Mustapha Heron, goes around Washington and is several steps behind Knox as he receives the ball in stride from Wenyen Gabriel at the top of the key.

Knox receives the ball from Gabriel.

Washington’s defender, #13 Desean Murray, steps into Knox’s path to the hole. Knox rises up for a running floater in the lane.

Washington’s defender steps up to defend Knox in the lane.

Just one minute later, Kentucky returns to the same action. Quade Green delivers the pass to Knox this time as Washington sets the screen on the low block.

Same play, same players.

Washington’s defender sees the same action and again steps up to stop the Knox floater.

Washington’s defender again steps up to cut off the penetration in the lane.

This time, Knox sees that Heron and Murray are both chasing him leaving Washington open on the baseline. Both plays lead to easy buckets. Play number one is an easy runner for Knox and play number two leads to a post up bucket for Washington as the defenders scramble to recover.

Knox lobs to Washington.

Against Alabama, Kentucky goes back to the same play. Washington sets a screen as Knox curls around to catch Green’s pass.

Kentucky goes to the same action against Alabama.

Knox’s defender, #12 Dazon Ingram, sticks with him on the curl, leaving Knox short on options.

Damon Ingram sticks with Knox.

Ingram forces Knox into putting up a contested runner. You can see in the below frame that the Alabama defenders are focused on Knox. Kentucky’s guards are stagnant when now might be a good time to make a cut to the wings to give Knox an outlet.

Knox throws up a contested runner.

Jarred Vanderbilt has few offensive skills, but a more skilled offensive player like Gabriel or Sacha Killeya-Jones could fade away from his defender to spot up for a mid-range jumper. On a play less than a minute later, Washington posts up for an easy bucket out of this same curl action for Knox. There are quite a few options that open up on this simple play besides the obvious Knox running jumper.

Calipari has gone to the well continually on a baseline curl play that has reaped enormous benefits for the Wildcats’ offense. Kentucky needs Knox involved in the offense, and this play gets both Knox and Washington into good position close to the basket. The rest of Kentucky’s offense needs to make itself available if this play breaks down. Then again, Knox and Washington are converting on this simple curl play with everyone else getting out of the way.

When Kentucky needs a basket, look for Calipari to run the baseline curl for Knox again and again. When the Wildcats need a play for their go to scorer, this is about as easy as it gets to put Knox in a successful position for an efficient shot in crunch time.