The game itself lacks the criteria it needs to be truly analyzed. In short, Kansas looked less terrible today than did Kentucky. With both teams shooting terribly in the first half, Kentucky went to the locker room with a 25-21 lead. The second half was a different story, at least for Kansas, when a 25% increase in their field goal percentage helped them to a win. Kentucky continued a poor shooting effort connecting on only 6 of its 26 three point attempts. Ravi Moss led the three point charge connecting on 2 of his 4 attempts. Patrick Sparks (1 for 8) and Kelenna Azubuike (2 for 7) failed to adjust their games away from the failed three point attempts helping with the loss.
The consistent faltering from behind the arc has been a Kentucky trademark for a few years now. We thought Patrick Sparks was the remedy to that as a consistent marksman. He is not; however, we will always thank him for his theatrics in holding off Louisville. Tubby Smith can continue to experiment from three-point range, but there is no excuse for tossing up 26 attempts at a 23% clip. The Wildcats need a sniper who can do it every day amongst the athletes in blue just as the Olympic team needed one this summer. Today, nobody broke the curse.
Perhaps shooting closer to the basket would help? Wrong. The Wildcats hit only 15 of 42 shots inside the arc not including a terrible free throw effort. That's a 36% (rounded up) field goal percentage from two-ball range. On rare occasions, Kentucky had the opportunity to shoot a free throw; 19 of them to be exact. Kelenna Azubuike and Ravi Moss did their parts from the charity stripe in their opportunities, but Kentucky still failed to break 60%.
Another glaring statistic, only 9 assists for the game, showed how Kentucky so poorly selected their shots during the game. Coach Smith has been pushing the idea of the extra pass for weeks, but his horses forgot that nugget this afternoon. The result was a barrage of bricks shot from leaning angles, fades away, and from double-pumps. The Wildcats missed a number of shots and looked very bad in doing so.
Keeping Kentucky afloat in the game was a Tubby Smith trademark. Defense. Kentucky recorded 13 steels led by Rajon Rondo's 5. Other bright defensive spots included 3 blocked shots by Randolph Morris and 4 steals from Chuck Hayes. Of course, Kentucky had plenty of lapses on defense, but they still at least showed some semblance of the team that Kentucky fans have loved this season.
Monday morning basketball chat will include re-stating the fact that Kansas was without Wayne Simien. Had Simien played, this game may not have even been close. Not so fast. Had Simien played, Kansas may not have had their big freshmen step up in such a big way. With the way the freshmen played, there is no telling how much of a difference he truly would have been.
Kentucky fans should always remember in this game how poorly we shot from behind the arc, and how we continued to attempt it. We should remember how poorly we shoot something as fundamentally simple as a "free" throw. Hopefully, the young Wildcats will learn from another loss. For certain, it will be interesting to see what Tubby Smith has to say.
Kansas was Kentucky's second opportunity for a top-5 win; the first being a humiliating loss to North Carolina. All numbers aside, one hates to say that Kentucky is just not a contender this year. Hopefully, this is not the case for fans of Kentucky. One thing is for certain, this game should not have been used as any kind of a gauge against top opponents. No offense to Kansas, but Kentucky would have lost to many teams today.