Skip to content

Kentucky avoids bad loss but has offensive issues to address

Jan 11, 2013, 11:30 AM EDT

Kentucky v Vanderbilt Getty Images

With 13:48 left in Thursday night’s game at Vanderbilt, Kentucky was up 47-31 on the Commodores.

It was the kind of performance — dominating at times, inconsistent at others — that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from the Wildcats. But regardless of the issues that Vanderbilt has had this season, the bottom line was that Kentucky was getting ready to win an SEC road game, more-or-less a first for everyone on this roster.

But then Vanderbilt switched to a zone. And Kentucky completely lost the ability to function offensively.

The Wildcats missed their next 12 shots. Vanderbilt scored the next 18 points. By the time that Ryan Harrow finally hit a three to give UK the lead back at the 4:58 mark, it was quite clear that this was no longer going to be a laugher. The team that lost by 17 to Marist would be giving Kentucky everything they could handle.

Kentucky would eventually survive 60-58 — thanks, in large part, to a bucket with 17.3 seconds left from Nerlens Noel that quite clearly came after the shot clock had expired — but some wins mean more than others.

Let’s ignore, for a second, the fact that Kentucky was completely and utterly lost against the zone. They needed to hit their last three field goals just to finish 4-17 from the floor against the Vanderbilt zone. They turned the ball over seven times during that stretch.

At the same time, they got abused on the defensive end of the floor because Vanderbilt targeted the defensively-challenged Kyle Wiltjer. But UK needed Wiltjer on the floor because of his zone-busting ability.

While Wiltjer clearly has value on the offensive end, if he can’t improve defensively John Calipari will have a decision to make: either play the sophomore knowing that he’s a matchup opponents will look (and be able) to exploit, or have one of his better offensive weapons sit because of those defensive issues.

“So now I told him: ‘You don’t think anybody was watching the tape, right? No one watched that game? Don’t think every team now is going to go right at you. Good luck.’ And I think he can do it, but he’s got to make his mind up that, ‘I’m not settling for this.’ There’s a couple plays where he broke down; then just rebound. He didn’t rebound, and they scored on him. I mean, fight man. Come on. Where is it?”

And given the value that Calipari places on the defensive end of the floor, there’s a better chance of Wiltjer sitting than Kentucky simply deciding that they’ll accept his defensive struggles in exchange for points on the other end.

“Figure it out. You either don’t stay in the game or figure it out. Fight or we’ll figure it out,” Calipari said according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Add to this the prolonged slump that Alex Poythress has been mired in and that opened the door for Vanderbilt to scrap their way back into a game that should have been a blowout.

Another concern here is that Kentucky doesn’t have much room to spare in terms of the NCAA tournament. This win was just their third RPI top 215 win this season (Maryland and Eastern Michigan), and given how weak the SEC is this season — there just aren’t going to be many chances for the Cats to pick up RPI boosting wins — we could be looking at a situation where UK is sitting somewhere around an eight or a nine seed.

And if they slip up against a Vanderbilt or a South Carolina or a Mississippi State?

I won’t go there.

Yet.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Memphis lands a key transfer to boost their back court experience

    Aug 20, 2014, 12:07 PM EDT

    SEC Basketball Tournament: Arkansas v Vanderbilt Getty Images

    The Tigers have zero minutes of experience in their back court.

  2. Indiana lands a final piece in their 2014 recruiting class

    Aug 20, 2014, 11:19 AM EDT

    Tom Crean AP

    Indiana now has six commitments in the Class of 2014.

  3. Oakland head coach Greg Kampe with a unique #icebucketchallenge (VIDEO)

    Aug 20, 2014, 10:24 AM EDT

    Greg Kampe AP

    Kampe over came his fear of heights but still got hit with ice water.

  4. The Ray Kasongo saga takes another turn on Wednesday

    Aug 19, 2014, 9:55 PM EDT

    kasongo

    Ray Kasongo was denied admission from Oregon on July 30, reopening his recruitment.

  5. Northern Illinois unveils its new basketball floor (PHOTO)

    Aug 19, 2014, 8:10 PM EDT

    Twitter/NIUAthletics Twitter/NIUAthletics

    This new court design is interesting to say the least.

  6. Report: Wichita State to play in early season tournaments in 2015, 2016, 2017

    Aug 19, 2014, 7:59 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Take a look at what tournaments the Shockers will appear in over the next few years.

  7. Four-star 2015 guard Jimmy Whitt commits to Arkansas

    Aug 19, 2014, 6:07 PM EDT

    Under Armour Under Armour

    Jimmy Whitt is ranked just outside the top 50 in the Class of 2015.

  8. Highlights from the 2014 Nike Global Challenge (VIDEO)

    Aug 19, 2014, 4:40 PM EDT

    Nike EYBL Nike EYBL

    Stephen Zimmerman averaged 17.5 points, 11.5 boards and 2.2 blocks per game in four games at the Nike Global Challenge.

  9. Nicholls State adds the son of a Syracuse legend to their 2014 class

    Aug 19, 2014, 3:54 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Nicholls State may have a large, orange-clad fan base these days.

  10. John Calipari on whether Kentucky will use platoons this season: ‘I think so’

    Aug 19, 2014, 3:04 PM EDT

    Kentucky Athletics Kentucky Athletics

    It’s how they played through their six games in the Bahamas.

  11. VCU lands a commitment from talented local guard

    Aug 19, 2014, 1:40 PM EDT

    Nike/Jon Lopez Nike/Jon Lopez

    Shaka Smart brings in a perfect piece and that was a priority recruit.

  12. Photos and videos from Team USA’s trip to West Point

    Aug 19, 2014, 12:33 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 12.32.00 PM

    It looks like everyone had a great time.

  13. Short film on an American basketball player in the AFL (VIDEO)

    Aug 19, 2014, 11:09 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 11.08.20 AM

    Jason Holmes is a pro athlete in a sport he never heard of.

  14. Mixtape of high-flying 2015 guard Christian James (VIDEO)

    Aug 18, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT

    christian james

    Christian James is one of the better dunkers in the 2015 class.

  15. Former Vanderbilt player releasing book exposing sex, drugs and parties in college basketball

    Aug 18, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT

    kyle fuller Getty Images

    A former Vanderbilt player is hoping to release a book discussing the dirtier side of college basketball.

  16. Ohio State releases non-conference schedule

    Aug 18, 2014, 8:25 PM EDT

    Thad Matta AP

    Ohio State has some interesting games in the non-conference slate.

  17. Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery: ‘We have great kids. We don’t have thugs’

    Aug 18, 2014, 7:25 PM EDT

    Fran McCaffery AP

    Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery defended some of his player’s recent offseason troubles.