Kentucky Loses To U CONN 87-83
Season Ends 22-13

Game Preview:

On Friday night, the University of Kentucky evened the record, and settled a score against the U CONN Blazers when UK defeated U CONN to advance to the NCAA Round of 32 and the right to take on the region's #1 seed Connecticut Huskies today. There are no records or scores to settle between these two proud basketball programs, as this is their first ever meeting. The teams enter today's tournament match-up with contrasting season long experiences and expectations. Kentucky is trying to end their disappointing season on a positive note, and there is no doubt that a victory over one of the consensus favorites to win it all would certainly accomplish that goal. Connecticut wants to dispose of the Wildcats, and advance to the next round of the 6 round tournament that most experts say they should win.

On the season, the Huskies have been more effective offensively than Kentucky [0.921 ppp v. 0.888 ppp]. Connecticut has also posted stronger defensive numbers for the season [0.767 v. 0.840 ppp]. UK has averaged 79.3 possessions per game, while holding its opponents to only 78.0 possessions per game due to a +1 average offensive rebounding margin per game. Connecticut averages a very high 88.0 possessions per game this season, and allows their opponents 85.0 possessions per game due to their superior rebounding prowess and a +3 offensive rebounding margin on the year. These teams should play this game in the low 80s pace.

Connecticut currently has a Net Game Efficiency for the year of 0.153 ppp while UK 's current NGE stands at 0.048 ppp. Kentucky has played a stronger schedule than the Huskies this season [0.5819 v 0. 5627]. 

The Pros in Vegas say #1 Connecticut will defeat Wildcats Sunday to advance to the NCAA Sweet 16 next weekend by 9 points, 76-67. This season, UK is 14-15 against the spread. The Net Game Efficiency analysis, adjusted for schedule strength and venue predicts that Connecticut will defeat the Wildcats by 7 points, 74-67. The pre-game Magic Number is 72 points.

The First Half:

UConn started out by hitting their first two shots of the game to open an early 4-0 lead, but UK engaged the battle, and fought the Huskies even during the first mini-game of the day, going to the bench with tied 8-8 at the first TV timeout. Crawford picked up two early fouls and is now riding the bench. However, in the second segment, UConn hit back to back 3's and their defense held UK to 1 for 6 shooting and 2 turnovers, to build a 7 point lead, 17-10 at the end of the second mini-game.

In the third game segment, and extended 6 minute version, UConn extended their lead to 13 points, but UK cut into that lead, reducing the margin to 9, 29-20 by the end of the segment. Rondo got his second foul of the game at the end of this segment. UConn again came out of the timeout and scored 4 straight points to move ahead by 13, 33-20, but UK then put on a run of their own to cut the lead to 7, 33-26, forcing UConn to take a timeout with 3 ½ to go in the half. However, the Cats could not close the gap any further, and UConn finished the half on a 10-5 run, for a 12 point halftime lead, 43-31.

UK scored its 31 points on 42 possessions [0.738 ppp] and U CONN scored its 43 points on 44 possessions, 0.977 points per possession for the half.

Of UK's 42 first half possessions, 5 came by virtue of its offensive rebounding that produced 4 second chance points. U CONN earned 4 bonus possessions created by its offensive rebounding that produced 6-second chance points. UK had a low offensive efficiency on its first chance possessions, of 0.730 ppp on its 37 first chance possessions and a slightly better, but still weak 0.800 ppp for its 5-second chance possessions. U CONN had a 0.925 ppp on its 40 first chance possessions and U CONN took excellent advantage of those second chances by scoring 6 points, 1.500 ppp.

U CONN made only 5 of its 10 free throw attempts [50.0%] while UK converted 6 of its 6 attempts from the line [100.0%]. U Conn out rebounded Kentucky in the first half, 17-16, and Kentucky won the battle of the offensive rebounds 5-4 during the first half. U CONN shot 54.2% [13-24] from inside the arc, and an excellent 4-9 from beyond the arc [44.4%]. Kentucky shot poorly from the floor, 11-24 [45.8%] inside the arc and 1-9 [11.1%] from outside the arc. The game pace is equivalent to 84 possessions for UK and 88 possessions for U CONN.


The pre-game analysis indicated a magic number of 70 points. However, based on the high pace and efficiencies in the first half today, the magic number is modified to 81 points. The first team to score its 81 st point will win this game. UK needs to score 50 more points in the second half to reach this level before U CONN can score 38 points in this race to 81 points. U Conn scored its 81 st point of the game on a lay up with 1:40 minutes to play to take the lead to 81-74 lead. U Conn played out the last 1 ½ minutes of the clock to secure the victory, 87-83.

The Second Half:

The Cats opened the second half with a 3 pointer by Perry, a steal and basket by Sparks, and a rebound fast break to outscore U Conn 7-0, and forcing the Huskies to call a quick, unscheduled time out with 18:42 to play, and the score 43-38. U Conn responded out of the time out, and at the under 16 timeout, U Conn held a 7 point lead, 50-43. In the second segment of the second half, the teams played even, each scoring 8 points, and they went to their benches for the under 12 TV timeout with U Conn holding a 58-51 lead. Kentucky continued to chip away at the U Conn lead, cutting it to 6 points at the under 8 timeout, and to 2 points at the under 4 timeout, 74-72. However, the Cats could not finish the job, and U Conn won the game, 87-83.

The Outcome:

Kentucky lost the battle of the boards for the game, 36-34 and Kentucky lost the battle of the offensive boards 10-8. U CONN grabbed a weak 27.8% of its misses as offensive rebounds while UK grabbed an even weaker 23.5% of its misses. UK scored 83 points on its 85 possessions [0.977 ppp] while U CONN scored its 87 points using 89 possessions [0.978 ppp]. Kentucky committed 14 turnovers to U CONN 's 12 for the game.

Kentucky had 78 first chance possessions in which they scored 75 points, 0.974 ppp while they scored 8 points on their 8-second chance possessions, 1.000 ppp. U CONN had 79 first chance possessions on which they scored 74 points, 0.937 ppp while they scored 13 second chance points on their 10 second chance possessions, 1.300 ppp.

Tonight UK shot the ball slightly above their season average from the field for the game. From the field, UK shot 55.3% [21-38] inside the arc, and 8-24 from beyond the arc [33.3%] for a combined shooting percentage of 46.8%. The Free throw shooting was way above average for the Cats today, 17-18 [94.4%]. U CONN shot the ball well from the field today. From inside the arc, the Huskies hit 55.1% [27-49] and from long range, U CONN hit 30.8% [4-13] for an overall 50.0% shooting percentage for the game. U CONN 's free throw shooting was good enough to win, but offensive rebounds of missed free throws really provided the difference in this game. U Conn hit 21-30 [70.0%]. Kentucky committed one turnover for every 6.1 possessions while forcing a turnover in every 7.4 possessions. Last year, in comparison, these turnover rates were 6.2 and 4.6 respectively for the season.

I predicted a U CONN win over Kentucky today, 74-67. The predicted v. actual offensive efficiencies were 0.819 and 0.976 ppp respectively for a A effort on offense. The predicted v. actual defensive efficiencies were 0.897 and 0.989 ppp respectively for an E on defense. .

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Copyright 2006 Richard Cheeks
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