Guest post: Cats have chance to learn lesson that 2010 and 2014 teams did not

Isaiah Briscoe (Vicky Graff Photo)

Isaiah Briscoe (Vicky Graff Photo)

By KEITH PEEL

In the immortal words of Yogi Berra “it’s like deja vu all over again.” That’s exactly the phrase that came to mind as I watched the University of Kentucky lose to UCLA in Rupp Arena on Saturday.

The game against UCLA looked just like the game I watched the 2014 UK team play against Wisconsin in the NCAA Final Four which looked just like the game I saw UK play against West Virginia in the Elite 8 in 2010. In all three games I saw a UK defense that consistently was beaten off the dribble on the perimeter, allowed open 3-point shots on the wings and corners and did not block out on the boards to eliminate second chance baskets.

I saw a UK offense that settled for jump shots, played at a snails’s pace due to UCLA’s strategy of encouraging a half court game and couldn’t finish at the rim when they had the opportunity to do so due to UCLA’s physicality and the referee’s inconsistent whistle. Those same traits that brought down the 2010 team and the 2014 team also brought down the Cats on Saturday.

Inconsistent outside shooting and a lack of desire to take the ball to the basket along with poor perimeter defense and rebounding will get you beat every time against a quality opponent. Even if you have a 42-game win streak on your own home floor.

I realize this team is very inexperienced but even the experienced players (Willis, Briscoe) did not step up to right the ship in critical situations throughout the game. Briscoe (4 out of 14) continued  to settle for jump shots (to the delight of the UCLA coaching staff) and Willis was at best inconsistent in his efforts on defense and rebounding throughout the game.

Fox and Monk showed they both have more to learn about good shot selection during ” crunch time” against a quality opponent and UK’s inside players (Bam and Isaac) currently have very little ability to post up and finish against a physical team that has the length to match up with them. They both finished a combined 4-14 from the field.

With all that being said it took a “perfect storm” of poor shooting, lack of effort and focus on defense, excellent play by the opponent and inconsistent officiating to defeat this UK team at home.

The best take away from this game is that it is a learning experience which will allow each player and the team as a whole to improve for the games to come. That is a luxury the 2010 and 2014 teams did not have after their similar losses in the NCAA tournament.

Sent from my iPhone

Sent from my iPhone

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  1. At the outset of this season, the Cats showed weaknesses on perimeter shooting and rebounding. UCLA exposed both on Saturday to take the Cats down at Rupp. On 3 point shooting, other than Monk and Mulder, the rest of the team is 18-84 from outside the are. That is 21.4% shooting and that will not be sufficient. To make matters worse on Saturday, Mulder did not see the floor in a game that starved for his outside shooting.

    The drvies and dunks are flashy for sure, but unless the team poses an outside threat, astute opponents will clog the lane, and dare UK to shoot from the perimeter. When the lane is clogged, there are an abundance of opponent bigs waiting to contest close in shot attempts, and as we saw also on Saturday, that congestion on the interior is enough to make the conversion rate for seemingly easy shots not so easy to complete.

    Rebounding? I believe this team rebounded better over games 4 through 7 games than it did through the first 3 games. However, UCLA reduced UK’s effectiveness on the Boards, raising the question of whether this team is willing to do battle on the boards when challenged the way UCLA tested them. UK has averaged an offensive rebounding rate of 39% for the season, but it was only 33% against UCLA. Defensively, opponents have had an offensive rebounding rate of 29%, and UCLA muscled their way to about 31% on Saturday.

    Will this team solve these two issues, or will they rear their ugly heads at a critical point in March and send this team home early once again? That is the question, and that is the challenge.

  2. Ok, this was game 7 out of23 or so regular games that going to be play and no I didn’t see it coming to lose to UCLA. The thing is there’s plenty games ahead to improve our weaknesses and this could be the best thing that we got beat. I weather lose now than March then.

  3. Cats 79…..This should be a wake-up call for the team but too early to say for sure. Scary thing is that Cal seemed to be as shocked as us with their quality of play, and he is with them every day. We really have had trouble with outside shooting last couple of years, working the ball into the middle offensively, rebounding etc. This is just a new group of players. I do feel that Cal was unprepared for this game and got out coached as well. We shall see where we go from here. I am not sure we are really a Top 10 team at this time.

  4. I am confident that this is a top 4 team right now. I am equally sure that UCLA is NOT!!! This is one of 4 or 5 games over the course of a season in which the team plays well below its norm. It is the first such occurrence this season, and it will happen another 3 to 4 times over the remaining 32 games. The Arizona State game is the other side of that same coin, where UK played well above its norm. That also will happen 4 to 5 times over the course of a season, and it will happen another 3 to 4 times over the next 32 games. UK is not the only team that has these extreme ups and downs. All teams do. Yes, even Duke, Kansas, North Carolina, Louisville, and UCLA.

    I am as disappointed with this loss as any fan. I would like to think that coach Cal teaches these kids how to play the game with each passing day, whether that day follows a victory or a loss. I believe that these players know more about their game as individual players, and their game as a team than they knew yesterday, and they will know even more tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. This is why I do not subscribe to the idea that any loss is ever good.

    As of today, there are only 11 of 351 teams still undefeated. UK is not among them, so what. Neither are North Carolina, Louisville, Virginia, Kansas, or Duke. There is only one undefeated team that has been playing basketball anywhere close to the level that UK has been playing, including this loss, and that is Villanova, the defending national champions.

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