Sidelines with John Clay

What the numbers say about Kentucky basketball’s loss to Tennessee

Tennessee forward Kyle Alexander (11) blocked Kentucky center Nick Richards (4) during Tennessee’s 61-59 win in a college basketball game on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018 at Rupp Arena.
Tennessee forward Kyle Alexander (11) blocked Kentucky center Nick Richards (4) during Tennessee’s 61-59 win in a college basketball game on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018 at Rupp Arena. aslitz@herald-leader.com

John Calipari’s team was on quite a successful streak. Before Kentucky’s 66-64 home loss to Florida on Jan. 20, the Cats had won 41 straight games in which it held the opponent under an average of one point per possession.

Florida averaged 0.931 points per possession that night and the Gators’ win started an alarming trend. After Saturday’s loss at Missouri and Tuesday’s loss to Tennessee at Rupp Arena, Kentucky has now lost three of the last four games in which it has held its foe to less than 1.0 PPP.

Kentucky’s John Calipari says his own coaching decision cost his team in 61-59 loss to Tennessee on Tuesday night.

Missouri averaged just 0.990 PPP at Mizzou Arena but came away with its first win over Kentucky, prevailing 69-60. Tennessee, which entered Tuesday night averaging 1.16 points per possession against SEC opponents this year, averaged just 0.958, but beat UK 61-59 for its first season sweep of the Cats since 1998-99.

It doesn’t take a Basketball Bennie to know then that Kentucky’s current problems are rooted in the offensive end of the floor.

Assist-to-turnover rates at or near the top of the list as evidenced by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s two late turnovers after UK had taken a 58-56 lead. After the first turnover, Lamonte Turner flat-out drilled a three-pointer to put UT up 59-58. After the second turnover, the Vols’ Admiral Schofield slammed home a breakaway dunk to put the visitors up three with just four seconds remaining.

Kentucky center Nick Richards talks about the 61-59 loss to Tennessee.

On the night, UK had just seven assists compared to 15 turnovers. Over the last three games, the Cats’ assist-to-turnover ratio sits at a -13.

Get this: Kentucky has not had a positive assist-to-turnover ratio number since the conference opener against Georgia. That was 11 games ago.

The lack of good passing has surely contributed to the lack of made shots. After missing eight of their first nine shots, the Cats ended up shooting 42.2 percent for the game. They have not shot 50 percent since 53.5 at Tennessee on Jan. 13.

The problems from three-point range continued. UK was just three-of-14 from beyond the arc. Combine that with the two-for-20 showing at Missouri and the Cats are five-of-34 from three for 14.7 percent per the last two games. UK is shooting 33.0 percent from three for the season.

Kentucky guard Quade Green on the 61-59 loss to Tennessee.

Kentucky averaged 0.909 points per possession against Tennessee, the fourth time in the last seven games it has failed to crack the 1.0 number.

So while Ken Pomeroy’s advanced analytics now rank UK 16th in adjusted defensive efficiency, the Cats are 58th in adjusted offensive efficiency. That has much to do with Kentucky’s current 17-7 overall mark and 6-5 SEC record.

No. 15 Tennessee came up with the clutch plays it needed in the final minute of a 61-59 victory at No. 24 Kentucky.

Kentucky assists-to-turnovers ratio in SEC play

Date

Opponent

Assists

Turnovers

Ratio

12/31/17

Georgia

10

9

+1

1/3/18

@LSU

13

14

-1

1/6/18

@Tenn

14

16

-2

1/9/18

TxA&M

10

12

-2

1/13/18

@Vandy

11

11

0

1/16/18

@S Car

7

16

-9

1/20/18

Fla

13

16

-3

1/24/18

MSU

11

11

0

1/30/18

Vandy

7

9

-2

2/3/18

@Mzz

9

12

-3

2/6/18

Tenn

7

15

-8

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