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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:
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.
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
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!