Three takeaways from Kentucky’s 70-62 win over Troy on Monday night:
1. Turnovers are turning into a real problem
Starting with the 65-61 loss to Kansas in the Champions Classic last week in Chicago, the Cats are on a bad run of games in which they have had trouble taking care of the basketball.
Kentucky turned it over 18 times in the four-point loss to the Jayhawks. The Cats turned it over 22 times in the 78-61 win over East Tennessee State on Friday night. Then Monday, UK committed 16 turnovers in the win over Troy.
Twelve of those turnovers came in the second half. After committing just four turnovers in the first 20 minutes -- “I thought the first 20 minutes we were really good,” Calipari said. -- UK turned it over a dozen times in the final 20.
“A combination of both,” center Nick Richards said. “They turned it up on the defensive end on us and we got a little careless with the ball.”
Against Kansas, UK turned the ball over on 25.2 percent of its possessions. Against East Tennessee, that number jumped to 29.7 percent. Monday night, UK got it back down to 22.6, but that’s still not good.
As Calipari pointed out, 10 of the 16 turnovers were committed by three players. PJ Washington committed four. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Quade Green each committed three. The rest of the team committed just six turnovers.
“We could have taken care of the ball much better,” said Hamidou Diallo, who had two turnovers. “Just something we’ve got to work on.”
2. Free throw shooting had nowhere to go but up
After that amazingly horrendous three-of-15 showing from the foul line last frightful Friday night, Kentucky did a much better job at the foul line Monday, making 15 of 23 against Troy.
OK, that’s not great. But the 65.2 percent showing was much better than the 20 percent showing against East Tennessee State.
Gabriel was five of six at the line. Gilgeous-Alexander, Green and Richards were each two of two from the stripe.
Diallo and Kevin Knox were the two players who struggled. Diallo made just two of six attempts. Knox was two of five from the foul line.
As a team, Kentucky is now making 62.7 percent of its free throws. That’s compared to 63.6 percent for the opponents. And Kentucky has taken 25 more free throws than their first five foes.
3. This crowded run of basketball games
Wednesday brings Fort Wayne to Rupp Arena for Kentucky’s third game in six days. Surprisingly, the tipoff on the night before Thanksgiving is set for 8 p.m. Considering the announced attendance Monday was just 19,548, it will be interesting to see what kind of crowd shows up Wednesday.
Fort Wayne is off to a 3-1 start. After losing 85-71 at Oakland in their opener, the Mastodons have beaten Defiance 114-59, Delaware State 85-71 and UIC 67-51.
Remember, Fort Wayne shocked Indiana early last year. And the Mastodons have a potential NBA sleeper in junior guard John Konchar, who is averaging 11.3 points, 11.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.
The West Chicago, Ill., native had six points and 16 rebounds against UIC. He scored 18 points and grabbed 12 boards in the win over Delaware State. And he had a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds in the opener against Oakland.
As for Kentucky, Calipari continues to lament the lack of practice time he has with his young team during this stretch. But didn’t Kentucky have any say in its own home schedule? Could the Cats have not spaced these early games out a little more to give the coach more instruction time with his team?
Kentucky basketball 2017-18
vs. Kansas (Chicago)
vs. Monmouth (New York)
vs. UCLA (New Orleans)