Kentucky Continues Its Dominance Over the Utah Utes And Advances to Elite Eight Against Michigan State on Sunday

For the 6th time in recent memory, Kentucky and Utah collided on the NCAA stage this evening.  This is not your usual collision of inter-sectional basketball powers that have become the trade mark of the NCAA bracketology.  No, this is a major grudge match.  Well, it is a major grudge match from the Utah Utes perspective anyway.

Utah Ute Basketball Message boards have hummed all week.  For the naive Wildcat fan who views this game as a great NCAA Sweet Sixteen challenge that it is, it may come as a shock to learn that the Utes hate Kentucky, or "ashley judd" and "THEM" are we are referred to in all their posts. While the Cats have totally dominated the entire series, the Ute fans are particularly perturbed over their loss to Kentucky in the 1998 National Championship game.  They are resolute in their belief that tonight the jinx would end.

Without recounting each of the five previous tournament collisions between these schools, suffice it to say that Kentucky has owned the series.  Tonight was no different.  The vaulted Kentucky defense throttled "the best big man" in the country, Bogut, by making the inside game a physical test of endurance, and in a foul giving contest, Kentucky wins that battle 15 - 5.

After playing close for the first 5 minutes, Kentucky's defense frustrated Utah for about 5 minutes without a basket as the Cats moved out to a 21 - 11 lead.  Utah closed the half more competitively, pulling to within 5 at 29 - 24.

In the first half, Kentucky had mild foul difficulties with Morris getting two fouls in the first 90 seconds, and sitting the bench for the remainder of the half.  Chuck Hayes also has two, as does Azebuike.  However, the silver lining in that foul cloud is that Tubby Smith was able to rest his main players, and allow the bench to build and maintain the half time lead.  While Kentucky's main players will be rested for the second half, and Utah's big man, Bogut, was tiring noticeably in the last 6 minutes of the first half.

The only blemish on Kentucky's first half was rebounding. Utah outrebounded the Cats 15 - 12 and 7 - 1 on offensive boards.  In the half, Kentucky only had 30 possessions, scoring 29 points, and no second chance points for an offensive efficiency of 0.967 ppp.  On defense, Kentucky held Utah to 24 points on their 36 possessions, for a defensive efficiency of 0.667 ppp.  REBOUNDING AND UTAH'S 4 SECOND CHANCE POINTS ARE KEEPING UTAH IN THE GAME.

In the second half, Kentucky continued its steady, control over the game even though Kentucky was completely at Utah's mercy with respect to pace.  In the second half, Kentucky outscored Utah 33 - 28, to double the 5 point half time lead into a 10 point victory.

Utah, on the strength of its 9 - 4 advantage on the offensive boards, lead the battle of the boards most of the game.  However, late rebounding by Kentucky, when Utah was trying to close the gap at time run down allowed Kentucky to end the rebounding match on even terms, 25 - 25.  The 5 offensive rebounding margin coupled with the 2 turnover net advantage provided Utah with five more possessions and seven more scoring opportunities.  However, the bonus possessions were not sufficient for Utah to overcome a broad gap between Kentucky's offensive efficiency for the game, e.g. 1.000 ppp and Utah's efficiency, e.g. 0.788 ppp.    However, neither team was able to convert their second chance opportunities to significant points, with Utah only getting 4 second chance points, and Kentucky only 2.

For the game, Kentucky had a season low 62 possessions, 4 of which were second chance opportunities.  Kentucky's offensive efficiency for the game was an outstanding 1.000 ppp, well above both their season average and the 0.904 ppp I predicted for this game.  Defensively, Kentucky held the Utes to 0.788 ppp for the game. The game performance is substantially better than the 0.839 ppp I predicted for this game.

My pre-game analysis indicated a 67 - 63 Kentucky win.

Kentucky advances to the NCAA Elite Eight on Sunday afternoon when they will take on the Michigan State Spartans.


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Copyright 2004 Richard Cheeks
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