Kentucky's Basketball Season Ended Today in Austin, Texas at the Hands of Michigan State

When I first wrote about the 2004-05 Kentucky Basketball team last October, the excitement surrounding this group of Wildcats was electric.  Coach Smith warned the fans that he chose a slightly weaker non-conference schedule that the fans, and the players are accostomed.  He needed this, he explained to give the young players an opportunity to adjust to the college game.

The season has been special, and Michigan State brought it to an end on Easter Sunday, March 27, 2005 in a pressurized double overtime classic.

Michigan State asserted itself about midway through the first half when they eased out to a 23 - 17 lead.  However, the Cats closed the half on a 20 - 10 run to go to the locker room up 4, 37 - 33.  The flow of the second half was similar.  Michigan State again worked to build an 8 point lead, 64 - 56 inside 7 minutes to play.  However, Kentucky displayed a grittiness and resolve in fighting back on three 3's in the last 1 1/2 minutes to tie the score at 75 with a Sparks' buzzer beater.

In the first round of the SEC Tournament earlier this month, a game was decided at the end of the game when the officials stopped play to determine whether a shooter's foot was on the 3 point line.  The three points would have tied that game, and forced overtime.  The officials determined that the foot was on the line, took down a point, and the game ended.  For the second time this month, such an event occurred.  For 5 minutes following Sparks' shot, the official studied videotape, zooming on Sparks' foot several times.  This time, the officials allowed the floor ruling stand, and the game moved to overtime.

During the first overtime, Kentucky eased out to a 4 point lead.  However, Kentucky could not capture a rebound, allowing Michigan State 6 shots before a three pointer fell, cutting the lead to 1 point.  At the end of the first overtime, Kentucky has a last shot opportunity, but failed to get off a shot before the buzzer.

In the second overtime, Kalena fouled out on the first play of the OT, and with Hayes in trouble with 4 fouls, Coach Smith played his bench during the first 2 1/2 minutes before bringing in Hayes for one final push, down 3 points.  Trying to play catch up against Michigan State this time failed, as Michigan State made 11 or 12 free throws in the second overtime.

A key for this game was rebounding.  Kentucky held it's own on the boards for almost the entire game.  However, the single trip for Michigan State that saw 5 Offensive Rebounds leading to a critical 3 pointer turned the tide on the rebounding battle.  The only blemish on Kentucky's first half was rebounding. On the game, Michigan State outrebounded the Cats 40 - 37 and 17 - 15 on offensive boards.  Michigan State also made better use of its second chance possessions, scoring 22 second chance points to Kentucky's 15.

For the game, Kentucky had 91 possessions, 15 of which were second chance opportunities.  Kentucky's offensive efficiency for the game was an outstanding 0.967 ppp, well above both their season average and the 0.878 ppp I predicted for this game.  Defensively, Kentucky allowed Michigan State to score an incredibly high 1.011 ppp for the game. The game performance is substantially better than the 0.876 ppp I predicted for this game.

My pre-game analysis indicated a 71 - 70 Kentucky win.

Kentucky's season ends with 28 - 6 with a loss in the NCAA Elite Eight.


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Copyright 2005 Richard Cheeks
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