Kentucky 's Offense Makes an Appearance, But
The Defense Remains AWOL As
Kentucky Loses To Vanderbilt by 3

Game Preview:

January 10, 2006 was a date destined for historical significance in the annuls of UK basketball history and fan-lore. As that fateful date approached, one month ago, most fans pointed to the return of Randolph Morris to the UK lineup. Little did these fans know that not only would Randolph Morris not even start that game at Rupp Arena, but the Vanderbilt Commodores would leave Rupp with their first ever victory in the building in 31 prior tries.

When Vanderbilt left Lexington with their precious 57-52 victory, they sported an 11-2 overall record, 2-0 in the SEC. However, Vanderbilt has not worn their early season success well. As is so often the case, teams that do enter Rupp and escape with rare victories pay a high price, and Vanderbilt's price has been losing 6 of their next 7 games.

Today, Vanderbilt entertains the Wildcats in Nashville for the rematch, and Vanderbilt's record has sunk to 12-8, 3-6 in the SEC. Before Cat fans all over the world begin to celebrate the upcoming victory today over a defeated Commodore group, let's examine these loses. Vandy's only victory in this stretch was over a lapless Mississippi State team by 28 points [80-52], and it remains instructive to recall that UK defeated those Bulldogs 81-66. Vandy's losses have been away to Arkansas [12 points], Florida [23 pts], Tennessee [7 pts], and Alabama [3 points in OT]. Vandy has also lost at home to South Carolina [2 points in OT] and Georgia [1 point]. So, Vandy has not been getting the W's, but ..

Kentucky enters this game having lost their last 2 games with a record of 15-8 and 5-4 in the SEC. This game is more about SEC Tournament seeding and pride than championships. Kentucky has an opportunity to invoke a measure of revenge for the embarrassing home court loss last month. UK can also secure a firm hold on 3 rd place in the SEC East, and at least theoretically remain in the hunt for the number 2 position given Florida 's recent loss to USC at home and Florida 's game today against a very strong LSU team. Finally, UK can end the recent losing and build some support for an at-large NCAA bid. Vandy on the other hand has an opportunity to build upon their solitary Rupp victory and sweep UK this season for bragging rights, and pride of their own.

Last month, these teams came to the floor with Vanderbilt the better offensive team and UK the better defensive team. While the absolute values of each teams' offensive and defensive efficiencies have changed, the teams still hold similar relative positions, one to the other. Vanderbilt remains the stronger team offensively [0.948 ppp v. 0.872 ppp] and UK remains the stronger defensive team [0.839 ppp v. 0.865 ppp]. UK has averaged 80 possessions per game, while holding its opponents to only 78 possessions per game due to a +2 average offensive rebounding margin per game. Vanderbilt only averages 74 possessions per game this season, and Vandy's opponents average 75 possessions per game. These teams should play today's game in the upper 70s pace.

Vanderbilt currently has a Net Game Efficiency for the year of 0.083 ppp while UK 's current NGE stands at an anemic, season low 0.032 ppp. Kentucky has played a stronger schedule than Vanderbilt to this point of the season [0.5878 v 0.5640].

The Pros in Vegas say Vandy will complete the season sweep over the Wildcats today by 3 ½ points, 69-66. The Net Game Efficiency analysis, adjusted for schedule strength and venue suggests a UK loss to Vanderbilt, 71-64.

These last two losses ended Kentucky 's season high five game winning streak if UK is going to salvage a trip to the NCAA tournament in March from this season, it must begin a new streak today. To avoid a loss at the hands of the Commodores, UK must perform very well on offense [at least 0.90 ppp] and the defense must slow down the Vanderbilt offensive efficiency from is customary range of 0.90 to 1.00 ppp to less than 0.90 ppp.

The First Half:

Vanderbilt and Kentucky both start the game very hot from the field, but when UK was not scoring, they were committing turnovers, and Vandy charged out to a quick 14-9 lead in the first game segment. The early pace is equivalent to a mid to upper 70s pace. Kentucky responded by reducing the frequency of turnovers, and continued hot shooting to cut the lead to 2, 22-20 at the end of the second mini-game. The pace remains in the mid 70s range. While shooting percentage remain strong, they are beginning to fall, and Vanderbilt beginning to commit turnovers. At the end of mini-game 3, UK moved out to a 3 point, 27-24 lead. However, over the last two segments, Vandy reasserted its control at took a 3 point lead, 47-44 to the locker room. The first half has been played at a pace of about 74 to 76 possessions, and Vandy has scored at a rate of 1.270 points per possession, while UK has scored 1.158 ppp

Kentucky won 2 of the 5 game segments and Vanderbilt won two of the segments. UK scored its 44 points on only 38 possessions [1.158 ppp] and Vanderbilt scored its 47 points on 37 possessions, 1.270 points per possession for the half.

Of UK's 38 first half possessions, 2 came by virtue of its offensive rebounding that produced 3 second chance points. Vanderbilt earned 2 bonus possessions created by its offensive rebounding that produced 5-second chance points. UK had an outstanding offensive efficiency on its first chance possessions, of 1.139 ppp on its 36 first chance possessions and a high, but limited 1.500 ppp for its 2-second chance possessions. Vanderbilt had a 1.200 ppp on its 35 first chance possessions and an incredible, but also limited 2.500 ppp on its 2-second chance possessions.

Vanderbilt made 5 of its 6 free throw attempts [83.3%] while UK converted only 3 of its 4 attempts from the line [75.0%]. Vanderbilt out rebounded Kentucky in the first half, 13-11, and the battle of the offensive boards was a draw, 2-2. The field goal shooting was solid for UK and Vanderbilt today. From inside the arc, Vanderbilt shot a solid 63.2% [12-19] and an outstanding 6-9 from beyond the arc [66.7%]. Kentucky was 10-17 [58.8%] inside the arc and a strong 7-14 [50.0%] from outside the arc. The game pace is equivalent to 76 possessions for UK and 74 possessions for Vanderbilt .


Today: the first team to score its 93 rd point will win this game. UK needs to score 49 more points in the second half to reach this level before Vanderbilt can score 46 points in this race to 93 points. Neither team scored a 93 rd point during the game due to a less efficient second half for both teams.

The Second Half:

Vanderbilt opened play in the second half-scoring 5 points to extend their 3 point halftime lead to 8 points, and for the third game in a ron, forcing Tubby Smith to take an early second half time out. In addion, Morris picked up his 3 rd foul in the first minute and had to sit, and when he returned to the game at about the 6:30 mark, he committed his 4 th foul on Vandy's first trip into offensive court. With just under 5 to plan, Vandy continues to hold a 7 point lead, 74-67, even though the entire second half has been marked by numerous lead changes. Down the stretch, Vandy held on against a frantic charge by UK in the last 2 minutes that saw them cut a 10-point lead, 82-72, to 3, with a chance to win it in the last 25 seconds. With the score 84-81 and Vanderbilt in possession, Rondo stole the ball, and was drug to the floor by the Vanderbilt player, committing an intentional foul. Two UK free throws followed by possession. However, that old bug-a-boo reared its ugly head again as Rondo missed both free throws, and could not get a good look at the basket from two attempts from 3 point range, the last at the buzzer.

Vanderbilt has swept Kentucky for the first time in 32 years, not since 1974.

The Outcome:

Vanderbilt and Kentucky battled evenly on the boards for the game, 28-28, but UK won the battle of the offensive boards 12-7. Vanderbilt grabbed a weak 30.4% of its misses as offensive rebounds while UK grabbed a below average 36.4% of its misses. UK scored 81 points on its 81 possessions [1.000 ppp] while Vanderbilt scored its 84 points using a total of 74 possessions [1.135 ppp]. Kentucky committed 10 turnovers to Vanderbilt 's 13 for the game.

Kentucky had 69 first chance possessions in which they scored 68 points, 0.986 ppp while they scored 13 points on their 12-second chance possessions, 1.083 ppp. Vanderbilt had 77 first chance possessions on which they scored 73 points, 1.090 ppp while they scored 11 second chance points on their 7 second chance possessions, 1.571 ppp.

Tonight UK shot the ball at about their season average from the field for the game. From the field, UK shot 47.4% [18-38] inside the arc, and an excellent 12-27 from beyond the arc [44.4%] for a combined shooting percentage of 46.2%. The Free throw shooting was better in terms of percentage but the number of opportunities was low, 9-13 [69.2%]. Vanderbilt shot well above their season average from the field today. From inside the arc, Vanderbilt hit 56.8% [21-37] and from long range, Vanderbilt hit 64.3% [9-14]. Vanderbilt's free throw shooting was excellent, and perhaps provided the margin of victory today, 15-19 [70.9%]. Kentucky committed one turnover for every 8.1 possessions while forcing a turnover in every 5.6 possessions. Last year, in comparison, these turnover rates were 6.2 and 4.6 respectively for the season.

I predicted a Kentucky loss to Vanderbilt today, 71-64. The predicted v. actual offensive efficiencies were 0.822 and 1.000 ppp respectively, and the predicted v. actual defensive efficiencies were 0.934 and 1.136 ppp respectively.

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Copyright 2006 Richard Cheeks
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