Kentucky Overcomes 18 Point Deficit
To Defeat Arkansas and
Extend SEC Win Streak To Four Games

Game Preview:

Kentucky enters Sunday's game against the Arkansas Razorbacks on a 3 game SEC winning streak with victories over Georgia , South Carolina and Arkansas . Both Arkansas and Kentucky lost their first two SEC matchup this season. In comparison to UK 's current 3 game win streak off of those back to back losses, Arkansas has won 3 of their last 4 SEC games and now stand even at 3-3. Arkansas comes to this game 14-5 overall.

In the first 4 SEC matchups, UK sported the better defensive performance coming into the game while their opponents each brought stronger offensive performances to the game. UK split that 4 games, and in the last game, the relative strengths of the teams reversed, with UK having a stronger offense and poorer defense than Arkansas . However, the match up with Arkansas presents a double edged sword for the Cats because Arkansas has posted stronger offensive [0.885 ppp v 0.864 ppp] and stronger defensive [0.760 ppp v 0.814 ppp] efficiencies than UK . UK has played a stronger schedule to this point of the season [0.583 v 0.549].

The Pros in Vegas say UK will return leave Arkansas with a 4-point victory today, 66-62. My Net Game Efficiency analysis, adjusted for schedule strength suggests a UK loss to Arkansas , 68-65.

Arkansas has one home loss to LSU by 5 points , and road losses at Mississippi State by 2 and Alabama by 3 in OT. Arkansas 's most impressive wins thus far this season were over RPI 39 Missouri State by 4 and RPI 81 Kansas by 1. Arkansas 's non-conference losses have come at the hands of #6 Conneticutt by 9, and #21 Maryland by 13. Arkansas 's most embarrassing loss thus far was to #107 Mississippi State by 2.

Kentucky current 3 game SEC winning streak will probably end on Sunday. To avoid a loss at the hands of the Hogs, UK must perform well on offense as they have been doing of last and the defensive efficiency must return to pre-UL levels. On offense, UK must score at least 0.88 points per possession and UK 's defense must hold the Hogs offense to under 0.86 points per possession.

The First Half:

In the last game, both teams came out of the gate on a walk, a slow walk, and again both teams have started slowly. At the end of the first segment, the Arkansas held a 5-2 lead, with Arkansas leading the turnover race 3 2 in the first 5 minutes. The game has started on a pace that would lead to between 70 and 75 possessions for the game. During the second game segment, Arkansas asserted itself with an offensive efficiency that produced 8 points in 7 possessions while limiting Kentucky to its second consecutive 2 point segment, this time in 6 possessions to move out to a 13- 4 lead. During the third game segment, Arkansas extended its early 9 point lead to 16 points, 26-10 with just over 7 minutes in the first half. The pace remains in the 70 to 75 possession range. After Arkansas extended their lead to a maximum 18 points [28-10], UK finished the half with a small run of their own, to close to 12 points, 35-23. Arkansas is controlling the boards 20-15 total and 5-3 on offensive rebounds.

During the first half, Kentucky held only one brief lead, 2-0, and Arkansas has controlled the game ever since. In the first half today, Arkansas won 4 of the 5 game segments and Arkansas outscored UK by 5, 3, 2, and 2 points, and the fifth segment was a draw. UK scored its 23 points on only 35 possessions [0.657 ppp] and Arkansas scored its 35 points on 39 possessions, 0.897 points per possession for the half.

Of UK's 35 first half possessions, 3 came by virtue of its offensive rebounding that produced 3 second chance points. Arkansas earned 5 bonus possessions created by its offensive rebounding that produced 7-second chance points. UK had below average offensive efficiency of 0.625 ppp on its 32 first chance possessions and a strong 1.000 ppp for its 3-second chance possessions. Arkansas had a 0.824 ppp on its 34 first chance possessions and 1.400 ppp on its 5-second chance possessions.

Arkansas made only 3 of its 5 free throw attempts [60.0%] while UK converted only 1 of its 3 attempts from the line [33.3%]. Arkansas out rebounded UK in the first half, 20-15, and Arkansas won the battle of the offensive boards, 5-3. The field goal shooting abandoned UK today, and Arkansas shot the ball better than an average UK opponent. From inside the arc, Arkansas also shot a fair 45.5% [10-22] and a powerful 4-8 from beyond the arc [50.0%]. Kentucky was 8-16 [50.0%] inside the arc and a very poor 2-10 [20.0%] from outside the arc. The game pace is equivalent to 70 possessions for UK and 78 possessions for Arkansas .


Today: the first team to score its 65 th point will win this game. UK needs to score 42 more points in the second half to reach this level before Arkansas can score 30 points in this race to 65 points. Kentucky scored its 65 th point of the game with about 2:55 minutes to play on a Rondo jump shot to move ahead 66-60. UK finished the game and held on to win by 2 points, 78-76.

The Second Half:

UK opened the second half with back to back turnovers, allowing Arkansas to streak out to a 39-23 lead, but UK then responded with a 10-1 point run of their own, to pull within 7 at 40-33, prompting an Arkansas time out with 15:57 to play. UK continued to chip away at the lead, and pulled to within 4 points with 10 minutes to play, at the second TV timeout, and the teams exchanged baskets to go to the under 8 time out with Arkansas leading UK 57-53. The race to 65 points leaves Arkansas needing only 8 points and UK 12 with just under 8 minutes to play.

Kentucky caught up at 57 after trailing by as many as 18 points in the first half and 16 points early in the second half, and UK gained its second lead of the game, 60-59 on a Morris offensive rebound and three point play with 6 minutes to play. Once UK regained the lead, they extended that lead to 8 [68-60] and ran out the game by hitting free throws for a final score of 78-76.

The pace continuned in the 75 possession range, but as the teams played out the final 2 minutes, UK ended with 82 possessions, to Arkansas' 81 possessions. For the fourth game in a row, UK 's offense was well above its season average, today finishing at 0.951 ppp on the strength of a second half that saw UK put 55 points on the board in 47 possessions. Arkansas 's efficiency also was stronger in the second half, building their 0.897 ppp efficiency to a game ending 0.938 ppp on the strength of 41 points on their 42 second half possessions. UK 's offensive rebounding and second chance points provided the fuel for the outstanding comeback victory over the Razorbacks today.

The Outcome:

Kentucky won the battle of the boards for the game, 37-30, and Kentucky won the battle of the offensive boards, 13-8. . Arkansas grabbed a weak 25.0% of its misses as offensive rebounds while UK grabbed an average 37.1% of its misses. UK scored 78 points on its 82 possessions [0.951 ppp] while Arkansas scored its 76 points using a total of 81 possessions [0.938 ppp]. Kentucky committed 14 turnovers to Arkansas 's 16 for the game.

Kentucky had 69 first chance possessions in which they scored 62 points, 0.886 ppp while they scored 16 points on their 13-second chance possessions, 1.231 ppp. Arkansas had 73 first chance possessions on which they scored 66 points, 0.904 ppp while they scored 10 second chance points on their 8 second chance possessions, 1.250 ppp.

Tonight UK shot the ball well from the field for the game. From the field, UK shot 61.5% [24-39] inside the arc, and a below average 7-22 from beyond the arc [31.8%] for a combined shooting percentage of 50.8%. The Free throw shooting was poor in terms of percentage and the number of opportunities was average, 9-17 [52.9%]. Arkansas also shot well from the field today. From inside the arc, USC hit 45.0% [18-40] and from long range, Arkansas hit 56.3% [9-16]. Arkansas 's free throw shooting was better than UK 's, 13-19 [68.4%]. Kentucky committed one turnover for every 5.9 possessions while forcing a turnover in every 5.1 possessions. Last year, in comparison, these turnover rates were 6.2 and 4.6 respectively for the season.

I predicted a Kentucky loss to Arkansas today, 65-68. The predicted v. actual offensive efficiencies were 0.816 and 0.951 ppp respectively, and the predicted v. actual defensive efficiencies were 0.853 and 0.938 ppp respectively.


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Copyright 2006 Richard Cheeks
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