Sidelines with John Clay

Kentucky basketball: Three more things after crushing the Commodores

Kentucky Wildcats guard Jamal Murray (23) defended Vanderbilt Commodores guard Wade Baldwin IV (4) as UK hosted Vandy at Rupp Arena on Saturday Jan. 23, 2016 in Lexington, Ky.
Kentucky Wildcats guard Jamal Murray (23) defended Vanderbilt Commodores guard Wade Baldwin IV (4) as UK hosted Vandy at Rupp Arena on Saturday Jan. 23, 2016 in Lexington, Ky. Lexington Herald-Leader

In addition to my column, three more things from Kentucky’s impressive 76-57 win over Vanderbilt:

1. The Cats are now right in the middle of the SEC race

Not only did Kentucky look like a faltering team after last week’s 75-70 loss at Auburn, the Cats looked like a middle-of-the-pack team when it came to the conference race. Not anymore.

Texas A&M took care of business at home on Saturday, beating lowly Missouri 66-53. The Aggies remain the league’s only unbeaten team in conference play, now 7-0.

But South Carolina dropped to 5-2 after losing 78-69 at Tennessee. You have to wonder if the Gamecocks’ weak non-conference schedule has finally caught up with Frank Martin’s club. LSU improve to 5-2 with a hard-fought 72-70 win at Alabama. And Florida could improve to 5-2 with a win over visiting Auburn on Saturday night.

Then there’s Kentucky at 5-2. The Cats still have a tough road ahead. They race road games at South Carolina, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and Florida. But Calipari’s club is certainly in much better shape – it should go to 6-2 with Missouri coming to Rupp on Saturday – than it was after the loss at Auburn.

2. Crunching the numbers

Vanderbilt came to Rupp leading the SEC in field goal percentage defense with opponents shooting just 37.3 percent. Kentucky shot 55 percent, its highest percentage in an SEC game this season and its second-highest percentage in any game this season, behind only the 56 percent against Albany in the season-opener.

At the other end of the floor, Vanderbilt came into the game shooting 46.4 percent on the season. The Commodores shot just 32 percent Saturday. Vanderbilt was making 40.8 percent of its threes. The Commodores made just five-of-15 from three for 33.3 percent on Saturday.

After turning the ball over just six times at Arkansas on Thursday, UK turned it over just seven times against the Commodores.

After turning the ball over just six times at Arkansas on Thursday, UK turned it over just seven times against the Commodores. It turned it over on just 11 percent of its possessions. Vandy was forcing opponents to turn it over on 16.9 percent of its possessions.

This was the first game Vandy has lost this season in which 7-foot-1 forward Luke Kornet took more two-point shots than threes. Vandy was 9-0 in games when that happened. Saturday, Kornet was just one-of-three from three-point range while going one-of-five on two-point shots. Vandy lost anyway.

And Vandy’s Wade Baldwin scored 25 points in the Commodores win at Tennessee on Wednesday night. Baldwin was just one-of-nine from the floor and scored seven points on Saturday. He also turned it over five times.

UK averaged 1.190 points per possession. Vanderbilt averaged 0.892.

3. The Snow Effect

To beat Friday’s snow storm, Vanderbilt arrived in town on Thursday and John Calipari thought that may have an adverse effect on Kevin Stallings’ team.

“I've got to go watch the tape but I told Kevin after, I've been in the situation he's been in, which is, you gotta stay somewhere for three or four days and you're out on the road. I just was hoping like heck they'd be stale. I've been there. I can remember where I had a team go to a city and we stayed and we were there too long. And then we came out and played a team, and it was just so bad.”

Kentucky, meanwhile, was playing its second game in less than 48 hours. After whipping Arkansas 80-66 in Fayetteville on Thursday night, the Cats flew back home late that evening, arriving in Lexington around midnight.

They practiced Friday then held a shoot-around on Saturday morning, continuing the momentum from Arkansas with a 19-point home win.

No doubt some in Big Blue Nation got some satisfaction out of that, remembering that it was Stallings who complained in 2012 when UK did not have a Thursday/Saturday combination on its schedule.

Kentucky men’s basketball 2015-16

Date

Opponent

UK

Opp

Dec

Overall

SEC

11/13

Albany

78

65

W

1-0

11/14

NJIT

87

57

W

2-0

11/17

vsDuke (chicago)

74

63

W

3-0

11/20

Wright State

78

63

W

4-0

11/24

Boston

82

62

W

5-0

11/27

@South Florida (miami)

84

63

W

6-0

11/30

Illinois State

75

63

W

7-0

12/3

@UCLA

77

87

L

7-1

12/9

Eastern Kentucky

88

67

W

8-1

12/12

Arizona State

72

58

W

9-1

12/19

vsOhio St (brooklyn)

67

74

L

9-2

12/26

Louisville

75

73

W

10-2

1/2

Ole Miss

83

61

W

11-2

1-0

1/5

@LSU

67

85

L

11-3

1-1

1/9

@Alabama

77

61

W

12-3

2-1

1/12

Miss State

80

74

W

13-3

3-1

1/16

@Auburn

70

75

L

13-4

3-2

1/21

@Arkansas

80

66

W

14-4

4-2

1/23

Vanderbilt

76

57

W

15-4

5-2

1/27

Missouri

1/30

@Kansas

2/2

@Tennessee

2/6

Florida

2/9

Georgia

2/13

@South Carolina

2/18

Tennessee

2/20

@Texas A&M

2/23

Alabama

2/27

@Vanderbilt

3/1

@Florida

3/5

LSU

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