Sidelines with John Clay

Kentucky basketball’s three-point shooting a continuing problem

Kentucky guard Jamal Murray made just two of nine three-point shots in UK’s 88-67 win over Eastern Kentucky on Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2015 at Rupp Arena.
Kentucky guard Jamal Murray made just two of nine three-point shots in UK’s 88-67 win over Eastern Kentucky on Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2015 at Rupp Arena. Lexington Herald-Leader

Not to beat a dead horse here, but the more games this Kentucky basketball team plays the more evidence mounts that this collection of Cats is just not a good three-point shooting team.

In Wednesday’s 88-67 win over Eastern Kentucky, John Calipari’s club connected on just four of 19 three-point shots for a 21.1 percentage from behind the arc. It was the fifth game out of nine this season the Cats have shot less than 30 percent from three-point range.

Though 8-1, Kentucky has made just 39 of 142 three-point shots for 27.5 percent. NCAA stats had not been updated as of Thursday morning, but going into Wednesday night’s game, UK ranked 317th nationally in three-point percentage at 28.5 percent. Odds are its ranking has dropped a few more spots.

Last year’s team, the one that finished 38-1 and reached the Final Four, shot 35 percent from three-point range.

Of course, last year’s team had Devin Booker, who made 58 of 141 threes for 41.1 percent. The 19-year-old has carried his pinpoint accuracy into the play-for-pay ranks where through 19 NBA games he has made 15 of 21 threes for a ridiculous 71.4 percent. That is not a misprint.

UK had Tyler Ulis a year ago, as well, but the sophomore’s three-point percentage has taken a distinctive plunge this year. Last season, Ulis made 33 of 77 threes for 42.9 percent, highest on the team. This year, Ulis has made just nine of 32 threes for 28.1 percent.

Jamal Murray came to UK with a reputation as being a good three-point shooter. So far, the freshman has been so-so. He has made 18 of 54 for 33.3 percent. That makes him, to date, the Cats’ top perimeter threat and yet he rarely seems to be shooting his threes in rhythm. Murray was two-of-nine from three in the Wednesday night win.

“Just missed a lot of open shots,” Calipari said afterward. “I mean, he’s a good shooter. Made the couple that we needed to space the game, but when it’s (time) to bury people and put them out of their misery, we’re not making those plays and we're breaking down defensively.”

Isaiah Briscoe is a strong driver and slasher. He is not a strong perimeter shooter. Briscoe has taken just 13 three-point shots, but has made just three for 23.1 percent.

Alex Poythress has missed all seven of his three-point attempts this year. Dominique Hawkins has missed seven of his eight three-point attempts.

Derek Willis has made seven of his 23 three-point shots for 30.4 percent. But since going five-for-nine from three in the season's first two games, Willis has made just two of 14.

One of the reasons UK took junior college transfer Mychal Mulder from Vincennes University as because the 6-foot-4 guard shot 46.3 percent from three his sophomore season. But Mulder has barely made it off the bench so far, playing just 16 minutes in six games. Mulder has taken all of one three-point shot, a miss at South Florida. He has not played in UK's last two games.

Arizona State comes to Rupp Arena on Saturday. The 6-2 Sun Devils are shooting 30.4 percent from three-point range while ASU's opponents are shooting 31.7 percent from three. If UK hits 31 percent on Saturday, it would be an improvement.

Note: UK's opponents have made 42 of 143 three-pointers for 29.4 percent.

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