The Kentucky Wildcats had a lot of things go right in their win over the Texas A&M Aggies Tuesday night. They shot the three-pointer well, they proved they can win without Nick Richards being dominant, and they got a huge helping hand from Immanuel Quickley’s hot shooting.
But as good as the win was, one of UK’s biggest issues reared its ugly head: turnovers. UK had 17 of the Tuesday, the third-most in a single game for the team this year.
The Wildcats have already had 24 games with 10-plus turnovers (seventh-most for a UK team in the last 10 years with at least five games still left to go this year) and six games with 15-plus turnovers this season (tied for sixth-most by a UK team this decade, again with at least five games still left to go).
The Cats have won the turnover battle just 13 times this season. All of their losses have come in games in which they committed 10 or more turnovers.
Many of UK’s worst turnover games have kept the Wildcats from being able to run away from their opponents — and in some games the turnovers have cost them a win.
UK’s win over the Texas Tech Red Raiders was the Wildcats’ most turnover-heavy game of the season to this point, as they had 19 total giveaways. That was part of the reason why the Cats needed overtime to take down the Red Raiders on the road.
The Wildcats were also held close by the Arkansas Razorbacks thanks in part to 15 turnovers in Bud Walton Arena.
The 81-78 loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks can be blamed heavily on turnovers, as UK gave the ball up 15 times, helping the Gamecocks throw up a total of 73 shots to manage just a three-point win.
The Wildcats only managed to beat Utah Valley by eight points, thanks in part to a 14-turnover performance.
Of course, the Wildcats’ most notorious loss of the season — the 67-64 defeat against the Evansville Purple Aces — featured 13 turnovers from UK.
UK’s two biggest culprits in the turnover department this year have been Ashton Hagans — who was averaging the fourth-most turnovers per game in the conference (3.5) going into Tuesday night’s game — and Tyrese Maxey.
Hagans’ turnover concerns have been well-documented time and time again, and while improvement is needed, it’s also worth noting that his defensive capabilities leave John Calipari no choice but to take the good with the bad.
Meanwhile, Maxey is only 28 games into his college basketball career, so he’s still adjusting to the speed of the college game. As has been shown with many of Calipari’s teams, freshmen make a lot of mistakes. But Maxey has committed just two turnovers in five of his last six games after committing five against Texas Tech.
He may be reaching the point where the point where the speed of the game isn’t as problematic as it was before.
With the SEC in a down year, UK’s turnover problems have not haunted it as much as they could just yet. But as the tournament approaches, UK is sure to play teams who will make the Wildcats pay if they don’t take better care of the ball.