Kentucky Defeats USC
Avoid Making History

Game Preview:

This past mid week games saw both UK and USC secure their first SEC victories of the season, and in each case, these teams found their winning ways while on the road. UK defeated Georgia in Athens 69-55 while USC handed it to Vanderbilt in Nashville 66-64 in overtime. Only one of these teams will leave Rupp Arena today with a two-game SEC winning streak, and the other will leave today's game needing to regroup and lick wounds.

Kentucky has added incentive and history on its side because Kentucky has never lost three games in a row on the Rupp Arena floor, and UK has lost its last two attempts in Rupp this season. In addition, UK has lost 3 times in Rupp this season, and UK has only lost 4 or more games at Rupp in a single season twice in 30 years at Rupp, and only 4 times in all home venues since the arrival of Adolph Rupp in 1930. UK is 35-6 against USC all-time, and 18-1 in Lexington . Tubby Smith has never lost a game to USC at Rupp Arena, and is 18-2 against USC as UK coach. However, these teams split their games in 2004-05, and they appear evenly matched again this season. History says UK will defeat USC today, extend its winning streak to 2 games, increase the ailing team confidence, and prepare to take their game back on the SEC road for the next game.

However, this is not your fathers' Buick, err basketball team. First of all, this game figures to be very close simply because both of these teams play about as slow a pace as any major college basketball teams in the land. UK currently has the #302 nd slowest game among the 334 D1 teams, but USC is even slower, with the #324 th slowest team. So this game will grind to freeze frame proportions, and that means it will likely be anyone's game going into the final 4 minutes of the game. In addition, history has not been rising up this season to be that important ally for UK as it has in years gone by. Vanderbilt gained its first win ever in Rupp, and Alabama handed UK a rare third straight loss, and second straight loss in Rupp. This team has endured embarrassing losses at Kansas and in Indianapolis to Indiana this year. This team has performed at very mediocre levels this entire season.

The Pros in Vegas say UK will return leave Rupp with a 6-point victory today, 65-59. My Net Game Efficiency analysis, adjusted for schedule strength suggests a UK loss to USC today, 66-64.

USC enters today's game with a 9-7 overall record, 1-3 in the SEC with home losses to Tennessee and Georgia, a road loss to Mississippi and last week's road win over Vanderbilt. USC's most impressive wins thus far this season were over RPI 46 Winthrop by 14 and #54 Vanderbilt by 2 in OT. USC's non-conference losses have come at the hands of #29 Marquette by 3 in OT, #57 Clemson by 19, #44 Temple by 13, #4 Pittsburgh by 7, #11 Tennessee by 7, and the embarrassing loss to #90 Mississippi by 22 and to #77 Georgia by 3 in OT.

As noted previously, USC plays at a slower pace than UK has played this season [74 possessions to 80 possessions]. For the fourth SEC match up in a row, USC has a stronger offense [0.938 ppp v 0.848 ppp] and Kentucky has a stronger defense [0.799 ppp v 0.837 ppp].. In the last three match up bearing that same relationship, UK 's defense lost to the opponents' offense twice, and UK 's defense prevailed over Georgia 's offense the last time out. . If Kentucky is extend its first SEC win into a winning streak today, UK must show up and play on both ends of the court. On offense, UK must score at least 0.88 points per possession and UK 's defense must hold the Bulldog offense to under 0.85 points per possession.

The First Half:

It seemed as though each team wanted to prove that it was not the snail team that their year to date paces tell about each of these teams. In the first 7 minutes, taking these teams to the first TV time out, each team blazed up and down the floor for a 14 possessions each. That translates into a low 80s possessions pace. It is not clear who they wanted to impress, perhaps themselves, because coming out of that first TV timeout, both teams returned to their snail ways.

Just as both teams came out blazing in terms of pace, they each came out blazing with respect shooting, and at that first TV timeout, the score was deadlocked at 20-20. However, the offensive efficiencies of each team then began to revert to significantly lower performance averages. In the first seven minutes, UK and USC scored at the extreme rate of 1.429 points per possession. For the remainder of the half, UK scored an additional 20 points on 21 possessions [0.952 ppp, 60 possession/game pace] and USC scored an additional 18 points on 23 possessions [0.783 ppp, 70 possession/game pace].

During the first half, the lead changed hands a few times. USC spurted to a quick 7-2 lead, but Kentucky answered that call with apparent ease while both teams ran and scored at will until the first TV time out at the 13-minute mark and a 20-20 tie. The teams were tied at the second TV timeout 23-23, and Kentucky surged ahead by 2, 30-28 by the third TV time out. The teams played even for the remaining two segments, 32-30 and 40-38 at the half. Each team held brief 5 point leads during the half.

In the first half today, UK won one of the 5 game segments and the other 4 were a draw. UK outscored Georgia by 2 points in one segment UK scored its 40 points on only 35 possessions [1.143 ppp] and Georgia scored its 38 points on only 37 possessions, 1.027 points per possession for the half.

Of UK's 40 first half possessions, 5 came by virtue of its offensive rebounding that produced 7 second chance points. Georgia earned 8 bonus possessions created by its offensive rebounding that produced 8-second chance points. UK had above average offensive efficiency of 1.065 on its 30 first chance possessions and an outstanding 1.400 ppp for its 5-second chance possessions. Georgia had a 1.034 ppp on its 29 first chance possessions and 1.000 ppp on its 8-second chance possessions.

Georgia made 2 of its 2 attempts [50.0%] while UK converted both of its attempts from the line [100.0%] attempts. USC out rebounded UK in the first half, 16-11, and USC won the battle of the offensive boards, 8-5. The field goal shooting was better for UK today, and USC shot the ball well. From inside the arc, USC also shot very well, 58.8% [10-17] for UK and 9-14 [64.3%]. Outside the arc, Kentucky made 6 of their 12 attempts [50.0%] while USC was 6-14 [42.9%] from beyond the arc. The pace of this game was equivalent to about 70-75 possessions for the game.


Today: the first team to score its 79 th point will win this game. UK needs to score 39 more points in the second half to reach this level before USC can score 41 points in this race to 79 points. Kentucky scored its 79 th point of the game on the final shot of the game, an off balance 3 pointer with 1.2 seconds to play giving UK a 2-point lead 80-78. USC will get one last desperation shot

The Second Half:

UK opened the second half scoring to move ahead by 4 points, 42-38, but USC responded with an 20-4 run over the first 7 minutes to open up a 12-point lead, 56-46. UK stopped the USC run during the second game segment following a UK time out, but Morris picked up his 4 th foul with 11 ½ to play. Back to back UK baskets, one for 2 and the other a Perry 3 pointer drew UK back to within 5 points, 61-56, which drew a time out by USC.

Out of this time out, USC responded with an air ball, shot clock violation from very long range, and UK answered with an easy basket on the inside screen to cut the lead to 3 point. On USC's next trip to offensive court, Balkman was forced to call yet another USC time out when trapped on the baseline. By the under 8 TV time out, UK cut the score to 62-60 and has possession.

Out of the timeout, UK regains the lead on another Perry 3 point shot 63-62. Perry has come to play today, and gets an offensive rebound put back UK back on top by a point following a USC basket. Morris returns to the game with 4 fouls and 4:29 to play, with the Cats up by 1 point.

Going into the final game segment, USC holds to a 1-point lead, 69-68, and UK will have possessions. USC eases out to a 4-point lead on an old-fashioned three-point play off a UK turnover, at 74-70. Kentucky responds with a run out basket followed by another by Crawford to ease back into a tie at 74-74. USC would not quit, with 3 offensive rebounds producing a pair of free throws, and Sparks answered the call with a 3 from at least 27 feet to take UK back into a 1-point lead, 77-76 with 31 seconds to play.

USC worked the ball to the inside, and either a walk or Morris' 5 th foul with about 10 seconds to go. Tisby made both pressure shots [a 57% free throw shooter] to take USC back to the lead. UK calls another time out to plan its last trip down the floor with the game hanging in the balance on this final trip. Ronda takes the ball the full length of the court, appears disorganized, and proceeds to drain an off balance 3 with 1.2 seconds to play.

The Outcome:

USC won the battle of the boards for the game, 31-25, and USC won the battle of the offensive boards, 13-10. . USC grabbed a very high 46.4% of its misses as offensive rebounds while UK grabbed a below average 35.7% of its misses. UK scored 80 points on its 72 possessions [1.111 ppp] while USC scored its 78 points using a total of 73 possessions [1.069 ppp]. Kentucky committed 11 turnovers to USC's 11 for the game.

Kentucky had 62 first chance possessions in which they scored 69 points, 1.113 ppp while they scored 11 points on their 10-second chance possessions, 1.100 ppp. USC had 60 first chance possessions on which they scored 58 points, 0.96672 ppp while they scored 20 second chance points on their 13 second chance possessions, 1,539 ppp.

Tonight UK shot the ball very well for a change for the game. From the field, UK shot 60.0% [21-35] inside the arc, and a very strong 12-24 from beyond the arc [50.0%] for a combined shooting percentage of 55.9%. The Free throw shooting was poor, 2-4 [50.0%]. USC shot equally well from the field today. From inside the arc, USC hit 60.0% [18-30] and from long range, USC hit 42.3% [11-26]. USC's free throw shooting was good, 9-13 [69.2%]. Kentucky committed one turnover for every 6.4 possessions while forcing a turnover in every 6.6 possessions. Last year, in comparison, these turnover rates were 6.2 and 4.6 respectively for the season.

I predicted a Kentucky loss to USC today, 66-64. The predicted v. actual offensive efficiencies were 0.838 and 1.111 ppp respectively, and the predicted v. actual defensive efficiencies were 0.878 and 1.069 ppp respectively.

Click Here To Return to the Data


Copyright 2006 Richard Cheeks
All Rights Reserved