By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer
The legendary boxer Jack Dempsey once said, “the best defense is a good offense.” Constantly attacking your opponent leaves them little time to worry about their own offense. In the case of the University of Kentucky Men’s Basketball Team it appears that the reverse may also be true. Here’s why.
UK is ranked 26th in defensive field goal percentage for opponents. They hold opponents to 38.1% in field goal shooting. That number is somewhat misleading in that the first couple of games of the season the Cats struggled to guard anyone and had to outscore teams to win. Now with their increased intensity, superior height and wing-span and a mix of man-to-man and zone defenses they are able to create stretches during each game where their opponents can’t score for multiple possessions in a row allowing UK to build a lead.
The more intense defense then causes their opponents to play poorly at the offensive end by taking bad shots or turning the ball over. More offensive opportunities for the Cats through opponent turnovers and defensive rebounding in turn creates more scoring opportunities which only increases the lead. It becomes a very frustrating cycle for the opponent. All created by improved defensive effort, correct positioning on the floor and good communication between players.
If not for their own turnovers and offensive fouls (charges and illegal screens) UK would be a much more dominant team on the offensive end as well. Protecting the ball would increase scoring opportunities tremendously for a UK team that shoots the ball well. They currently shoot 50.6 % from the field – 21st in the country – which is more than adequate to beat opponents that are being held to around 38% from the field.
With 22 games left to play in the regular season there is still plenty of time to improve to a championship level. The Anthony Davis-led 2012 National Champions were 2nd in offensive efficiency and 7th in defensive efficiency. As the 2017 Wildcats continue to improve by creating turnovers off defense their offensive efficiency will also improve due to easy points from fast break opportunities.
A couple more important facts to remember about this team’s chances for a long run at the end of the season. The 2012 National Champion Wildcats held opponents to 37.4% field goal shooting and blocked 8.6 shots per game. This year’s team is not far behind those numbers by holding opponents to 38.1% field goal shooting while blocking 6.6 shots per game. With continued improvement on the defensive end and a reduction in turnovers and fouls on the offensive end this year’s team could find itself in a prime spot to make a Final Four run by the end of the season.