Sidelines with John Clay

Five statistics that explain Kentucky’s Elite Eight loss to Auburn

After a deep dive into the data, here are five stats-based observations about what went wrong for Kentucky in its 77-71 overtime loss to Auburn in the NCAA’s Midwest Regional finals on Sunday:

1. The three-point shots would not drop

The main storyline Sunday was Auburn’s three-point shooting. The Tigers had been ridiculous from beyond the arc all tournament, and Kentucky did a good job of running the Tigers off the three-point line. Auburn was just 7-of-23 for 30.4 percent. The problem was that the Cats couldn’t make threes either.

UK was just 5-of-21 from three-point range for 23.8 percent. In games in which the Cats take at least 20 three-point shots, the 23.8 percent was the lowest since last year’s team 2-for-20 (10 percent) from three in a loss at Missouri.

Though it generally does not rely on the three-point shot, Kentucky is 4-9 in its last 13 games in which it shot less than 25 percent from three-point range. And poor three-point shooting marked many of the team’s seven losses this season

  • Duke 4-of-17 for 23.5
  • Seton Hall 5-of-20 for 25.0
  • Alabama 5-of-18 for 27.8
  • LSU 5-of-19 for 26.3
  • Tennessee 5-of-19 for 26.3
  • SEC-Tennessee 5-of-11 for 45.4
  • NCAA-Auburn 5-of-21 for 23.8

Total: 34-125 for 27.2 percent

Here is UK’s three-point shooting in the four NCAA games:

  • Abilene Christian 4-of-14 for 28.6
  • Wofford 3-of-13 for 23.1
  • Houston 4-of-12 for 33.3
  • Auburn 5-of-21 for 23.8

Total: 16-of-60 for 26.7 percent

Individual three-point shooting in NCAA:

  • Baker 2-of-4
  • Hagans 1-of-7
  • Herro 3-of-16
  • Johnson 5-of-15
  • Quickley 3-of-13
  • Travis 0-of-1
  • Washington 2-of-4

Total: 16-of-60 for 26.7 percent

2. Even without the three, Auburn’s offense produced

Kentucky averaged 0.960 points per possession on Sunday, the first time it has dropped below the 1.0 mark since posting a 0.791 PPP in the 71-52 loss at Tennessee on March 2.

The Cats were under 1.0 just four times all season:

  • 0.982 in win over North Carolina
  • 0.961 in loss at Alabama
  • 0.791 in loss at Tennessee
  • 0.960 in loss to Auburn in NCAA

Meanwhile, Auburn posted a 1.049 PPP average. That followed Tennessee’s 1.284 PPP against the Cats in the SEC Tournament.

The UK defense allowed a PPP of 1.0 or higher in 14 of its 37 games on the season. Kentucky was 8-6 in those games. It was 22-1 when it held opponents under a point per possession. The one loss was at Alabama on Jan. 5, when the Crimson Tide posted a 0.999 PPP.

3. A bad day to have a bad day at the foul line

The Cats were just 12-of-21 from the foul line for 57.1 percent. That’s the lowest percentage in a game in which UK took 20 or more free throws since UK went 17-of-32 from the line for 53.1 percent against Auburn on Jan. 14, 2017.

Under John Calipari, Kentucky is 18-12 when it shoots less than 60 percent at the foul line in a game in which it had 20 or more free throw attempts.

Here is UK’s free throw shooting in Calipari’s eight NCAA Tournament losses:

  • 2010 - West Virginia 16-of-29 for 55.2
  • 2011 - Connecticut 4-of-12 for 33.3
  • 2014 - Connecticut 13-of-24 for 54.2
  • 2015 - Wisconsin 9-of-10 for 90.0
  • 2016 - Indiana 15-of-19 for 78.9
  • 2017 - North Carolina 12-of-19 for 63.2
  • 2018 - Kansas State 23-of-37 for 62.2
  • 2019 - Auburn 12-of-21 for 57.1

4. As Calipari said, turnovers were a problem

Kentucky turned the ball over 14 times on Sunday, which figured out to 18.9 percent of its possessions. The Cats were 16-4 this year when it turned it over on 18.5 percent of its possessions or above. They were 14-3 when the turnover percentage was below 18.5.

Here is the individual turnover/assist ratio during tournament:

  • Baker 1/0
  • Hagans 12/11
  • Herro 14/4
  • Johnson 7/4
  • Montgomery 3/4
  • Quickley 2/2
  • Richards 0/2
  • Travis 4/7
  • Washington 1/8

Two notes: Ashton Hagans’ ratio in Kansas City was 4/11. And PJ Washington only played in Kansas City.

5. Kentucky failed to force turnovers

Meanwhile, Auburn committed just nine turnovers on Sunday, which figured to just 12.3 percent of its possessions. The Cats forced just seven Houston turnovers, for 12.1 percent, on Friday, but were able to beat the Cougars. They were not so fortunate against the Tigers.

On the season, Kentucky was 26-2 when it forced the opponent to turn the ball over on at least 12.5 percent of its possessions. That record dropped to 4-5 when that number fell below 12.5.

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