UK Puts The Lie To Inexperience in Losing To UNC's Freshmen at Rupp

December has arrived. October debuts and November cupcakes have been enjoyed by all. Each team even mixed one or two petite fillets into their diet as they prepare for the main event. The main event marks the first of three straight December Saturday feasts, leading to the Christmas celebration for Kentucky . Tomorrow, December 3, the Cats will entertain the North Carolina Tar Heels at Rupp Arena. December 10, the Cats will take on a rejuvenated Indiana Hoosier basketball team in Indianapolic, and December 17, the Cats return to Rupp for their annual grudge match with Louisville .

Preparations are over. The coaches have had many opportunities to test their players under fire. The coaches have identified which ones can and will deliver when the chips are on the floor. There are no more appetizers and deserts to delay the main courses.. North Carolina was the first of three main courses that will define this year's breed of cat and expose for all to see its ability, heart, and determination to overcome the trials.

Of course, the 9-week SEC season and SEC post-season tournament remain in Kentucky 's path to its goals for the season. However, all Cats fans understand that any Kentucky team worthy of greatness will dominate the SEC. The fans will remember how well their Cats consumed these main courses in December as the madness of March leads into the first Monday in April.

Consider the setting when any Kentucky and North Carolina teams compete. These two college basketball programs have set the standards for many decades. The atmosphere will electric. Stars always seem to rise and shine from the battle, and the energy and intensity of these games rise with each new TV Game segment. Today's edition of this on again/off again series of the heavy weights was no different.

Prior to this game, TheProfessor pondered who will emerge from the battle of this game to lead his team to a most significant victory? Will it be Rondo, Sims, Sparks , or some unexpected wildcat surprise? Will the UNC freshman become the story and display uncommon poise during their first game in their opponent's gym?

It didn't take long in the first half for the answers to emerge. Terry of UNC is definitely laying claim to the star of this game. In the first half, UK fell behind 44-31 due to being outshot from 3, outshot on Free throws, being outrebounded, both total and offensive rebounds, and committing more turnovers. Kentucky sent UNC to the FT line 17 times in the half, and UNC responded to the opportunity by converting these 9 possessions into 13 points. In contrast, UK got to the line 12 times, only converting those 6 opportunities into 6 points. Kentucky did find a good inside offensive game in the half, but was off a little from beyond the arc. In contrast, UNC shot lights out from beyond the arc.

Some pundits and fans believe that this Kentucky team enters the December schedule still searching for its identity, indeed its soul. In the first half today, Kentucky revealed confirmed these fears about the Cats identity and the Cats and perhaps its soul.

UNC had an offensive efficiency of 1.250 ppp on its 32 first chance possessions and 0.444 ppp for its 9 second chance possessions. UK had a reasonable 0.906 ppp on its 32 first chance possessions and 1.000 ppp on its 3 second chance possessions.

The free throw shooting in the first half was a poor 6 for 12 [50.0%] for Kentucky and 13-17 [76.5%] for UNC. The field goal shooting, was better tonight for Kentucky from inside the arc, 50.0% [7-14] for Kentucky and for UNC, 5-14 [35.7%]. Outside the arc, Kentucky shot a strong 4-9 [44.4%] while UNC was red hot, 7-16 [43.8%]. The pace of this game was equivalent to about 75 possessions for the game.

MAGIC NUMBER Tonight: the first team to score its 82 th point will win this game. UK needs 50 more points in the second half to reach this level before UNC cam score 38 points. UNC scored its 82 th point first with 5.7 to play, on free throw taking the lead to 82-77. After converting the second free throw, UK took the ball the length of the court for the final score at the buzzer, 79-83.

In the first game segment of the second half, UK used aggressive defense to cut the 12 point halftime lead to 2 points. However, UNC regained control of the game, and pulled away to the half time lead, and maintained that lead going into the last 6 minutes of the game. Kentucky made one final run, cutting the lead to the final margin, 4 points, at the buzzer. UNC controlled the boards during the entire game, winning on total rebounds by 37-30, and on offensive rebounds, UNC powered their way to a 15-8 advantage, Those seven bonus possessions allowed UNC to will this game because UK was more efficient on offense than UNC. UK scored 79 points on its 78 possessions [1.013 ppp] while UNC needed 86 possessions to score its 83 points [0.976 ppp]. Neither defense was effective in stopping the other team. Each team ended the game with 11 turnovers. UNC won that battle in the first half 3-9, but UK won the tuirnover battle in the second half 2-8.

The second chance possessions were more productive for Kentucky tonight as is usually the case., but UNC's second chance possessions were less productive than its first chance possessions. Kentucky had 70 first chance possessions in which they scored 68 points, 0.971 ppp while they scored 11 points on their 8 second chance possessions, 1.375 ppp. UNC had 70 first chance possessions on which they scored only 72 points, 0.1.029 ppp while they scored 11 second chance points on their 15 second chance possessions, 0.733 ppp.

Tonight UK shot the ball better than they have thus far this season, 50.9% field goal shooting, and a normally cool 66.7;% free throw shooting. As we have discussed at great length, recent UK teams have not shot free throws with a high percentage, and tonight's game did nothing to alleviate that concern. Kentucky committed one turnover for every 7.1 possessions while forcing a turnover in every 7.7 possessions. Last year, in comparison, these turnover rates were 6.2 and 4.6 respectively for the season.

The concerns remain free throw shooting, and rebounding.

I predicted a Kentucky victory over UNC by 72-69 and the final score was 79-83. The predicted v. actual offensive efficiencies were 1.013 and 0.839 ppp respectively, and the predicted v. actual defensive efficiencies were 0.976and 0.816 ppp respectively.

Next Tuesday, the Cats will host another cup cake in a game for correcting errors in Atlanta . I predict that UK will defeat Georgia State 76-64.































































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