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. Four-star Class of 2016 point guard decommits from Oklahoma

    Jul 6, 2015, 10:47 PM EDT

    payton-pritchard-2412-xl-e1405347706789

    Four-star point guard Payton Pritchard is going to explore his options heading into the July live evaluation period.

  2. Northwestern adds four-star Class of 2016 center to recruiting class

    Jul 6, 2015, 10:25 PM EDT

    barret benson

    Northwestern continues to get good local pick-ups in the 2016 class.

  3. La Salle guard will transfer and become immediately eligible

    Jul 6, 2015, 8:30 PM EDT

    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 12:  Khalid Lewis #23 of the La Salle Explorers looks on against the Massachusetts Minutemen during the Second Round of the Atlantic 10 Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 12, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. La Salle Explorers defeated the Massachusetts Minutemen 76-69  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) Getty Images

    La Salle is losing an experienced guard to transfer.

  4. Report: Tennessee incoming freshman point guard still not enrolled

    Jul 6, 2015, 7:15 PM EDT

    lamonte turner

    One of Tennessee’s only options at point guard is enrolling closer to the school year.

  5. Four-star Class of 2016 shooting guard favors 10 schools

    Jul 6, 2015, 5:45 PM EDT

    (Nike) (Nike)

    One of the better shooting guards in the country is focused on 10 schools.

  6. Michigan basketball will change to Jordan Brand from adidas as school announces new Nike deal

    Jul 6, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Michigan is going with the Jumpman under its new apparel agreement.

  7. Syracuse, not Kentucky, leads the nation in average attendance

    Jul 6, 2015, 2:48 PM EDT

    Jim Boeheim AP

    Kentucky had led the nation in average attendance for eight straight years.

  8. Florida State lands commitment from five-star 2016 prospect

    Jul 6, 2015, 12:53 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 12.52.11 PM

    Jonathan Isaac is loaded with potential.

  9. Air Force loses freshman forward Garrett Thibodeaux to UTSA

    Jul 5, 2015, 10:03 PM EDT

    Dave Pilipovich Dave Pilipovich

    Thibodeaux’s decision came eight days after he began basic training.

  10. Alabama self-reported 13 minor violations last academic year, including one for men’s basketball

    Jul 5, 2015, 8:05 PM EDT

    University of Alabama University of Alabama

    All of the violations were deemed to be Level III or Level IV violations, which isn’t a big deal at all.

  11. How the non-US college players fared in the FIBA U19 World Championships

    Jul 5, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    2014 NBA Players Association Top 100 Camp Getty Images

    Plenty of college basketball players were in the FIBA U19 World Championships besides the Americans.

  12. USA U19 team wins in overtime of gold-medal game over Croatia at FIBA World Championships

    Jul 5, 2015, 3:37 PM EDT

    Nike Elite Youth Basketball League Getty Images

    The USA U19 team captured back-to-back FIBA World Championships for the first time since 1983.

  13. Mississippi State lands transfer wing

    Jul 5, 2015, 2:20 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Mississippi State landed a commitment on Sunday from a transfer.

  14. Kansas/USA defeats Brazil at World University Games

    Jul 5, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Kansas (USA) is 2-0 so far at the World University Games.

  15. Mixtape of Class of 2016 five-star guard Markelle Fultz (VIDEO)

    Jul 5, 2015, 9:20 AM EDT

    markelle fultz

    Markelle Fultz is one the best guard prospects in the country.

  16. Louisville’s Mangok Mathiang posts double-double in World University Games opener

    Jul 4, 2015, 7:45 PM EDT

    Mangok Mathiang Mangok Mathiang

    Mathiang’s playing on an Australian team that includes the likes of Peter Hooley and Hugh Greenwood.

  17. Former South Carolina power forward Demetrius Henry transferring to La Salle

    Jul 4, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    (AP) AP

    The 6-foot-9 Henry averaged 6.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game last season.