Analysis of the UK-MSU Game

Read the UK-MSU game break-down right here by BBN Basketball Analyst Brett Ayers, aka mikeness30.

Having one of my degrees be a history degree, I often like to use historical analogies in explaining certain aspects of a teams play and or what it is they need to reach and or accomplish to win.  I will use, in this case for all of you fine southern folks, the Mason-Dixon line.  When Kentucky is able to score 72 points or more they win.  It is really that simple.   Yesterday's game was one of ebb and flow, but above all it was on of physicality.  That was a very hard fought, Big-ten style game complete with grabbing, hooking, gouging and wonderful WWF style takedowns.


With all of the rough plays yesterday, with all of the missed defensive assignments on the perimeter players, Kentucky still could have won that game by simply making some free throws.   It really is as simple as that.  In tight games two things win those games for you, and you have to do well in both areas; free throws and rebounding. Well, the Wildcats did one of the two and in a tight game that is just not going to cut it.  Couple that with poor three point shooter recognition and you get yourself an L against a very disciplined and tough minded Michigan State team. But, those are the kind of games that UK needs to be in to get themselves better and if that game is perceived properly it can be a springboard to bigger and better wins as the season goes on for the Cats.


Offensive Schemes- Kentucky, for the most part, executed their offensive game plan well this game.  One of the things they have been doing is mixing things up very well in the early part of this season so far.  Two of the big keys for Kentucky in this game and in the UNC game was first having Keith Bogans look to drive the ball early instead of settle for jump shots and the second key was getting the ball inside to Estill and Camara early and often.  In this game with MSU the Cats did both of these things decently in the first half, but in the second half when MSU stepped up the physical defense the Cats started shying away and getting sloppy with the execution of their offense.  When the Cats ran they seemed at their best in this game.  Stockton really brought a nice element of this by pushing the ball up even after makes and always looking to kick ahead to stretch that MSU defense out.  I think that UK let this game get too slow for their own good. MSU did not have the over-all team speed, especially when Daniels was in the game, to keep up with UK when they ran.  MSU knew it had to keep this game in the half court where their depth and physicality would allow them to have a chance to prevail.


Jules Camara is a guy who the Cats have to have come to play every game. In this game there were shots that he should have finished but he did not go up strong enough with the ball against a very physically aggressive MSU team and thus he did not finish the shot.  He is a very capable athlete who should be dunking or trying to dunk everything around the basket.  Another thing I noticed is that when Bogans drives to the basket he will attempt to make some rather close and quick passes to either Estill, Camara or another UK player cutting to the basket and the closeness in proximity and speed of the passes usually leads to a turnover.  Keith, my man, go on up with those shots because your teammates are expecting the shot.  I admire your unselfishness, but you can and will finish those shots with either a make or a foul or both.   Another thing I have noticed about Kentucky, and particular Bogans, is that he and the other cats are much more effective driving after the ball has been reversed. Whenever the Cats tried to drive the ball after two or less passes they were often cut off and or ended up making a bad or off balance pass.  When the ball got reversed from corner to corner and then they tried to drive good things usually happened.  Or, when the ball went inside to Estill or Camara and then came back out there was also good things that happened in their offense.


Kentucky, as I said earlier mixed in all of their offensive weapons using flex, 4 out 1 in reversal with pick aways on the perimeter.  As I mentioned in the first paragraph of this section, when MSU really got into Kentucky in the second half there were periods where UK's guys started getting sloppy in their execution of their entry plays.  Guys setting screens did not set very good screens and guys waiting for the screens did not wait and took off too early creating some poor timing within the offense at times.    There was two more entry plays I saw in this game that UK had not displayed in fullness in the prior game I saw.  I have them listed below.


Entry Play 1


Fitch starts with the ball at the top of the key. Camara who lines up on the left side high post steps out diagonally and straddles the three point line facing Fitch and Jules sets a pick for Fitch to Dribble off  of going towards the left side wing.  Bogans is on the left wing, Estill is on the right side high post, at the elbow and Hayes is on the right side wing.  As Fitch dribbles off of Camara's pick, Bogans cuts through the key and comes up and sets a back pick on Estill's defender.  Estill cuts diagonally to the left side block. As soon as Camara sets that pick on Fitch he then waits for Estill to cut off of Bogans' pick and then goes down and over towards Bogans a bit and sets a pick for Keith to come off of towards Fitch outside the three point line for a shot.  So Fitch as the first option of Estill cutting to the block or the option of Bogans on the pick from Camara.



Entry Play 2


This is a simple pass and double staggered pick away play.  Hayes is on the right wing, Estill is on the right low block, Fitch has the ball on the right guard spot, Camara is up high at the left guard spot and Bogans is in the left wing/corner area.  Fitch hits Hayes on the right wing then both he and Camara go away to set a double staggered pick for Bogans to come up off of towards Hayes outside the three point line looking for the jumper. The first two 3's that Bogans hit in the first half came off of this play. 



Defensive Schemes- Here, along with free throws is where UK lost this game yesterday.  UK is still playing much better over-all team defense than many of the other teams I have seen this year.  Kentucky is having a problem not with necessarily playing a certain type of defense.  Whether or not the Cats are playing zone or man to man they seem to have problems guarding guys in a certain area of the floor and under a certain set of circumstances.  Let me explain further.


If you take the half court and divide it into three parts you get the areas I am talking about.  If you start from under the hoop and draw an imaginary line going out at a 45 degree angle on either side you get three sections.  Two that extend down from those 45 degree angles towards the baseline then you get that whole area up over and around the top of the key towards the wing area.  It is this middle section that is causing the Cats so much consternation right now. They simply are not defending very well here.  Hill lit them up for a few three points here and the MSU big guys cut in and got a lot of high post area shots or dump downs to the low post in this middle area.  One of the things that UK did not do well yesterday is handle down picks for guys like Hill for the three. Hill came off of the double pick at the high post area literally untouched with no one either bumping him or stepping out to at least get a hand in the passing lane to make him take one more step out to receive the ball hopefully enabling his man to get through or over the picks.  Getting through these down picks from the top of the key area seems to be something that UK needs to work on and that can maybe be better managed with some team defense help.  Either in bumping the guy trying to come off the pick or helping out on the high side of the pick(s) so that it enables the defender guarding the guy coming off to get through and or over the pick(s).   When the pick(s) are set along the baseline the Cats handle this pretty well and keep nice off the ball spacing. They stay high and get over the picks and out to their men with relative ease.  It is the down picks from the top that seem to kill them.


Two of the last things that Kentucky did not do as well as they should have was have player recognition. Hill should have never been that open down the stretch for that three.  Someone, anyone near him should have known the shooter was in the area.  UK sometimes jumps out on guys they should not be jumping out on and other times they seem to not be as aware of other guys as they should on the perimeter.  The second thing that the Cats have to work on is not giving up such deep post position. It is one thing to play behind a guy, it is another to let him get within three to four feet of the basket. 


Summation: While this was a game the Cats should have gotten, it was a hard fought game and the early team chemistry that has been formed still seems to be going strong. As long as the UK squad continues to grow and learn from their mistakes they are on their way to a very successful season in my estimation.


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