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Kentucky Headlines – National Championship Edition

1.  Kentucky completed a dominant run through the NCAA Tournament by vanquishing Kansas last night.

2.  The Wildcats did their work as a true team.

3.  Point guard Marquis Teague showed poise beyond his years.

4.  Doron Lamb came up big versus the Jayhawks.

5.  Anthony Davis was dominant despite scoring just six points.

6.  UK’s young team showed their maturity in the end.

7.  John Calipari said he hopes “there are six first-rounders on this team.”

8.  But the Cats were in no hurry to make NBA decisions last night.

9.  Coach Cal says his next goal is to coach a team through an undefeated season.

10.  Kentucky fans and AD Mitch Barnhart asked for glory… and Calipari delivered.

11.  Now he’s ready to reload.

12.  The Wildcat coach has already provided the blueprint for a new age of college basketball.

13.  UK will hold a public celebration at Rupp Arena this afternoon.

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UK’s Liggins, Jones & Knight To Test NBA Draft Waters

Kentucky got good news yesterday when Doron Lamb announced that he would be returning to Lexington for this sophomore season next year.  But there were no surprises this morning when UK released the news that junior DeAndre Liggins and freshmen Terrence Jones and Brandon Knight would put their names into the NBA’s draft bin.

None of the three players have signed with an agent or plan to… at least according to the press release.

“I support the decision these three have made to take advantage of the process of putting their names in the draft,” John Calipari said in the statement.  “They were a joy to coach this year and I would love the opportunity to continue to coach them again next season.  I will always support my players in weighing their options and doing what is personally best for them and their families.”

By taking such a pro-exploration stance, UK’s coach does two things.  First, he sends a strong signal to prospects and recruits that he is most concerned with their well-being and success.  Second, he eases potential backlash from fans who want their players to stick around for more than a year.  That, too, shows prospects and recruits that Calipari will have their back if they head to Lexington.

Smart business.

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Lamb To Return To UK

The University of Kentucky athletic department announced this afternoon that freshman basketball player Doron Lamb will return to the Wildcats next season, passing on an early entry into the NBA draft.

Lamb was a member of the SEC’s All-Freshman team this past season.  He averaged 12.3 points per game while leading the SEC as a 48.6% three-point gunner.

Meanwhile, Brandon Knight’s mother has told Jerry Tipton of The Lexington Herald-Leader that her son has made his NBA-or-UK decision, too.

“He know what he wants to do,” she said.  “… It’s not for me to announce.”

Until Knight decides to speak for himself, the Commonwealth waits.

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Both SEC Basketball Awards Head To Lexington

The SEC has handed out its Player of the Week honors and both awards went to guys in the Bluegrass State.

Freshman guard Doron Lamb was named the SEC Player of the Week for his 32-point performance against Winthrop last week.  Lamb was a smokin’ 11 of 12 from the field including seven three-pointers in eight attempts.

Point guard Brandon Knight collected the SEC Freshman of the Week award for his 21-point, five-rebound performance against Winthrop.  Knight has scored 14 or more points in six consecutive games.

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Video: Doron Lamb on his 24-point game

Kentucky
Content provided by John Clay’s Sidelines.

Kentucky freshman Doron Lamb talks about his 24-game, one in which he was not happy.

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Kentucky (10) 73 @ North Carolina 75: Postmortem

Kentucky
Content provided by A Sea Of Blue.

Dorn Lamb was terrific, but not terrific enough.

Gerry Broome – AP

Dorn Lamb was terrific, but not terrific enough.

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I am furious about this game, and any of you who participated in the open game thread will know why.  But that is by the by, and we are leaving that in the game thread.

Congratulations to the North Carolina Tar Heels on their outstanding victory.  The Heels dominated Kentucky in the paint, and they did a marvelous job of shooting free throws when the game was on the line.  Props to North Carolina fans for creating a Final Four atmosphere in the Dean Dome, which is exactly what this game calls for.  Great game by Tyler Zeller and John Henson, they really dominated the game inside the paint.

For Kentucky, this is a tough, brutal loss.  Speaking as a Kentucky fan, my disappointment on losing this game could be measured on the Richter scale.  I know we played well enough to win, and a gritty effort by Doron Lamb and DeAndre Liggins now goes by the boards.  I know that this is sometimes how basketball goes, but right now, I am absolutely inconsolable.  This is a game Kentucky should have won, and frankly deserved to win.  Alas, we did not.

Game observations:

  • We knew we had a hole in the middle, and a thin bench.  Both came to the fore today.
  • Josh Harrellson did yeoman’s work when he wasn’t saddled with foul trouble.  Harrellson has got to improve his foot movement and understand that without him, UK is in a tough spot in the paint.  I know he didn’t intend to pick up all those fouls, but if he can’t figure out how not to, big games are going to come with great difficulty.
  • Doron Lamb did everything right.  There is nothing to criticize, and much to praise.  Game ball.
  • DeAndre Liggins was a defensive monster and contributed some excellent offense.  Normally, he played well enough to earn the game ball, but today, Lamb was just a little better.
  • Brandon Knight had a very good game overall, but he made some mistakes that cost UK, including missing the front end of a huge one and one.  Point guards just can’t do that.
  • Terrence Jones just wasn’t utilized correctly today, or he didn’t follow the instructions of the staff.  He also missed four free throws in a row.  It’s hard to be too critical of him, though, he did some good things out there.
  • Darius Miller came and went, but mostly he did okay.  I continue to be disappointed in his level of contribution, but he did not completely disappear as he so often does.
  • We have got to develop a little more depth.  Where was Jon Hood, and why?  I think Calipari forgot about him.
  • Eloy Vargas was exposed today.  He has miles to go before he is a quality player at this level.
  • Props to Carolina for their toughness in the face of yet another horrible game by Harrison Barnes.  Props to Barnes for playing tough despite continuing shooting woes.

I have several more comments that I would really like to make, but I am not going to do so.  Just like coaches, blogs like this one often have to swallow their disappointment and leave some comments to others.  Despite the fact that I think UK deserved to win this game, Carolina also played well enough to win, and ultimately, they did.

The overall effect of this loss is hard to measure right now.  I am convinced these young Kentucky players are very much disenchanted with the game at this precise moment.  But they must put it behind them and move on, just as we fans must.  The Notre Dame Fighting Irish in Louisville loom, and yours truly will be attending that game in person.

And I will be hoping, and expecting, a better outcome.


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Kentucky Basketball: Stats and Thoughts on the ‘Cats

Kentucky
Content provided by A Sea Of Blue.

I'd like to see more of this.

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Ed Reinke – AP

I’d like to see more of this.

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Now that we’ve had time to put the loss to Connecticut in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to take a look at how the ‘Cats, sitting at 4-1, are measuring up to expectations, both as individual players, and as a team.

With a tough four game stretch on the ‘Cats’ horizon – a stretch including a road game at North Carolina, Notre Dame at Freedom Hall, and Indiana and Boston University at Rupp Arena — how should we feel about the team?Should we be optimistic, pessimistic, or just plain ”istic?”

For a statistical look at the ‘Cats, and some thoughts on each player’s performance, follow me after the jump:

Individual Numbers

Terrence Jones – 32.6 minutes per game: 21.2 points per game: 50.0% field goals (37-74): 46.2% three-pointers (6-13): 55.3% free throws (26-47) 10.2 rebounds per game (51 rebounds/17 offensive rebounds): 2.2 assists pg: 1.6 turnovers pg (8): 1.6 steals pg (8):  2.8 blocks pg (14).

Jones has been magnificent.  He is a better scorer than most pundits thought, and for a guy (allegedly) averse to playing in the paint, he’s rebounding the ball with a purpose (and hitting the offensive boards with extreme prejudice), and blocking nearly three shots per game; something I wasn’t expecting.  Jones is averaging almost 10 free throws per game, which is just further evidence he’s mixing it up with the timber … now, if someone will work on his shot from the free throw line, mainly his unusual from-the-side-of-his-head release, he will be about as complete as a player can be, only five games into his collegiate career.

Brandon Knight 33.0 mpg: 16.2 ppg: 41.4% fg’s (30-73): 26.5% three-pointers (9-34): 57.1% ft’s (12-21): 3.0 rpg: (15 rebs/three off. rebs): 2.8 apg: 4.6 to’s pg (23): .4 steals pg (2): .4 bpg (2).

There is simply no doubt that Knight is struggling.  And because of that, John Calipari has said he needs to do a better job of defining Knight’s role, which makes sense.  He displays the characteristics of a player unsure, and lacking confidence.  For Knight seems to be at times pressing, at other times, trying to do too much (both evident in his 4.6 turnovers per game).  His 34 three-point attempts seem a bit much, especially considering the next most three’s taken by a ‘Cat is 16 — I know Knight is a scoring guard, but getting his teammates involved, and setting them up for success, should always be at the top of a point guard’s to do list.   And if Knight were making a higher percentage, I wouldn’t object as much, but his lack of success from beyond the arc (at this point) necessitates scaling back his tries (some of which have been early in the shot clock and/or forced).

But, everything Knight does, both good and bad, needs to be taken in context.  After all, the young man has played only five games at the toughest position in basketball.  So making broad judgments on Knight’s talent and ability after such a very short period of time would be premature.  Suffice it to say, I believe he’ll get much better.

Doron Lamb 24.8 mpg: 11.2 ppg: 50.0% fgs (19-38): 56.3% three-pointers (9-16): 69.2% ft’s (9-13): 2.4 rpg (12 rebs/two off. rebs): 1.4 apg: 1.4 to’s pg (7): .2 steals pg (1): .2 bpg (1).

My only complaint regarding Doron Lamb is his minutes played.  Although Lamb is not a defensive dynamo by any stretch of the imagination, his offensive game, at this point, is so good he almost has to be on the floor.  Lamb has as sweet a stroke from long-range as we’ve seen wearing a Kentucky uniform recently, a solid mid-range game, and has shown the ability to get into the paint. 

Lamb is taking almost eight shots per game (just over three trey tries).  I would really like to see those numbers go up to 10-12 shots per contest and four or five trey attempts. 

Let the shooter shoot … that’s what he’s here to do.

Darius Miller 28.0 mpg: 10.2 ppg: 47.5% fg’s (19-40): 47.4% three-pointers (9-19): 57.1% ft’s (4-7): 5.6 rpg (28 rebs/11 off. rebs): 1.6 apg: 1.2 to’s pg (6): 1.6 spg (8): 1.4 bpg (7).

Miller has been solid.  As usual, though, I’d like to see him take more of a leadership role on the offensive end of the floor.  If the ‘Cats are having a tough time scoring, demand the ball.  He’s established he can take his man off the dribble; he just needs to do it more often.  He’s making a very high percentage of his three-pointers (an area he’s busted his tail on improving since his senior year in high), so a bump in his attempts seems to be in order.

In an average of 21.2 minutes per game last year, Miller averaged 2.5 rebounds per game (.9 offensive rebounds per game).  This season those numbers have gone up – Both his rebounds per game, and offensive rebounds per game, have doubled. 

Last year, Miller made 31-39 free throws (79%).  So far this year, he’s made only 4-7 charity stripe tries (57.1%) – He needs to recapture his touch from the line, and, he needs to get to the line more often (e.g. be more offensively aggressive).

DeAndre Liggins 33.4 mpg: 9.4 ppg: 40.0% fg’s (16-40): 36.4% three-pointers (4-11): 61.1% ft’s (11-18): 3.4 rpg (17 rebs/1 off. reb): 3.0 apg: 2.0 to’s pg (10): 1.6 spg (8): .2 bpg (1).

Liggins is the answer to, “Who leads the team in minutes played?”  Liggins’ growing defensive prowess (although not him or anybody else in Hawai’i could stop the force of nature called Kemba Walker) simply makes him as valuable as any commodity Calipari has at his disposal.  Liggins’ defense, as well as his propensity for winning 50/50 balls, is becoming legendary.

He just needs to keep doing what he’s doing, and hope the youngsters catch up. 

I have only one critique of Ligs, though, and that is the fact that he has (only) one lonely offensive rebound.  For a player as active as Liggins is, that stat is hard to believe — Last year, Ligs began averaging 18-20 minutes per game played in the January 30 game versus Vanderbilt.  In the first six games after his increase in floor time, Liggins grabbed nine offensive rebounds.  It seems s re-dedication is called for.

Josh Harrellson 23.6 mpg: 3.8 ppg: 56.3% fg’s (9-16): 50.0% three-pointers (1-2): zero ft’s attempted: 8.4 rpg (42 rebs/18 off. rebs): .2 apg: .6 to’s pg (3): .4 spg (2): 1.4 bpg (7).

Harrellson, who will always be a defensive liability (his inability to guard the lane against UConn was patently obvious), has evidently made it his mission in life to rebound the basketball (perhaps the prodding by Cal had the intended effect) — He is sixth on the team in minutes played, but leads the ‘Cats in offensive rebounds … which is exactly what this team needs out of him. 

And although Harrellson will never be an offensive force scoring the ball, he is a bit crafty around the basket, and capable of making the occasional long ball.  But zero free attempts in 23.6 minutes per game?  He needs to be at the line at least three or four times per game.   

Eloy Vargas – 13.6 mpg: 3.2 ppg: 71.4% fg’s (5-7): zero three-pointers taken: 100.0% ft’s (6-6): 3.8 rpg (19 rebs/eight off. rebs): .4 apg: .2 to’s pg (1): .2 spg (1): .8 bpg (4).

Vargas has been good, and is bordering on earning more minutes.  Although, like Harrellson, he gets lost on the defensive end, he is an aggressive defender and rebounder– Simply put, the effort is there, the experience is not.  When he gets it, he’s going to be very good.

Offensively, Vargas has shown flashes of being a good scorer out of the low post.  He has a very nice stroke (check out the 6-6 free throws), and is athletic and quick enough to take his man to the rim.

Mark it down, Vargas will be more than just “five fouls to give” before the end of January.

Team Numbers

UK field goal % — 45.5 (137-301): Opponents — 41.4 (122-295)

UK 3-point % — 37.9 (39-103): Opponents — 30.1 (22-73)

UK free throw % — 59.7 (71-119): Opponents — 68.9 (62-90)

UK turnovers — 11.6 pg: Opponents — 11.8

UK off. reb. % — 39.4 (40th in the nation): Opponents — 28.6 (79th in the nation)

UK def. reb. % — 71.4 (79th in the nation): Opponents — 60.6 (40th in the nation)

UK assist % — 42.3 (327th in the nation): Opponents — 43.4 (28th in the nation)

UK points in the paint — 160: Opponents — 164 (UConn had 42 points in the paint, UK had 24)

UK points off turnovers — 76: Opponents — 60

UK 2nd chance points — 73: Opponents — 45

UK fast break points — 39: Opponents — 56

Final Thoughts

Offensively, the ‘Cats are shooting ball pretty well (five of the top seven are making at least 47.5% of their shots), shooting the ball pretty well from long range (four of the top five 3-pt shooters are making at least 36.4% and three of those players are over 45%), but, shooting the ball (historically) poorly from the free throw line (only Lamb and Liggins are over 60%). 

I think the lack of assists to made baskets is a direct result of players getting to know one another, and a freshman point guard.  But, the problems this team has had, and will have, aren’t borne out of the offense, rather, they stem from a lack of defending the paint effectively.  John Calipari, though, has a long history of producing good-to-great defensive teams, so let’s hope this team catches on as his others have.

All-in-all, no real surprises, other than Jones and Lamb being better than I thought.  So keep on truckin’ Wildcats … right over the BU Terriers.  You’ll feel better, believe me.

Thanks for reading and Go ‘Cats!


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Cal: Lamb is UK’s ’sixth starter’

Kentucky
Content provided by Jerry Tipton on UK basketball.

Kentucky Coach John Calipari lauded how hard freshman Doron Lamb played against Oklahoma on Monday.

“Competin at a very high level,” the UK coach said. “Basically, we have six starters.”

Of course, all players can improve. For Lamb, and fellow freshman guard Brandon Knight for that matter, Calipari said he’d like to seemore decisiveness on drives to the basket.

“When you get to the foul line, you have to start making decisions,” he said. “If you don’t, you start losing the ball.”

That will be true in the game against Washington later in the day, Calipari said.

“Either go by (the defender) or they take it from you,” he said.

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Video: Doron Lamb says he’s excited about opener

Kentucky
Content provided by John Clay’s Sidelines.

Kentucky freshman Doron Lamb talks about the opener.

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Wildcats Cruise Past Pikeville

Freshman point guard Brandon Knight scored 22 points and Darius Miller added 21 points and nine rebounds as No. 11 Kentucky cruised past Pikeville 97-66 in an exhibition game on Monday night. Knight, the latest in a long line of high-profile point guards recruited by coach John Calipari, added seven rebounds and had little trouble getting to the lane while operating Kentucky’s dribble-drive offense. DeAndre Liggins had 18 points and Doron Lamb added 16 as Kentucky pulled away in the second half.
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