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Men's Basketball

What Went Wrong? Kentucky vs Gonzaga



UK Athletics

The Kentucky Wildcats traveled to Spokane to take on the No. 2 Gonzaga Bulldogs, with the goal of avenging their loss to Michigan State and getting their first ranked victory of the season. Yet, that is not how the game played out.

The first half couldn’t have been any worse for the Wildcats. Shooting just 25 percent from the field (8-32) and zero percent from three (0-11), Kentucky had just one player that had scored more than one FG, Oscar Tshiebwe. Pair that with being outrebounded y double digits, and the Wildcats entered the half with a 16-point deficit.

As for the second half, Kentucky cut the Gonzaga lead down to 4 at one point. However, Gonzaga extended that lead to back 13 after Oscar Tshiebwe picked up his fourth foul with more than 13 minutes left in the half.


The Wildcats continued to fight, but their poor first-half performance was just too much to overcome as they lost the game by a final score of 88-72, the same deficit they entered the first half with.

What went wrong? Let’s take a deeper look.

Dysfunctional Offense

Against inferior opponents, Kentucky’s offense has looked extremely dynamic, averaging 92.7
points on 52.9 percent shooting from the field and 47.8 percent from three.

However, against their two ranked opponents, the Kentucky offense has looked vastly different, averaging 74.5 points per contest on 39.6 percent shooting from the field and 26 percent from three.


From the jump, Kentucky looked rattled and John Calipari said as such. In the postgame press
conference, Calipari said that the Wildcats “blew” the first offensive play of the game. “It was so embarrassing, we couldn’t even run a play.”

While the Wildcats missed several open shots, ineffective lineups and no clear offensive
structure hurt them, especially in the first half. This was seen with some erratic shot selection

When Kentucky was able to make their run, it was with Wallace-Fredrick-Reeves-Toppin-
Tshiebwe, a lineup has five offensive threats with various strengths.

Foul Trouble

Fighting back from a 16-point deficit, Kentucky played the second half with a lot of energy on
defense, which led to some opportunities on offense. This continued as the lead dwindled to just four.


At that point, the momentum was halted as Tshiebwe was called for his fourth foul with more
than 13 minutes to go in the second half; then Lance Ware with more than 10 minutes to go.

This allowed Drew Timme to score 8 of 10 points within a span of just over three minutes, due to the lack of aggression that Kentucky was forced to play with inside. This in turn helped Gonzaga extend the lead back out to double digits.

In comparison, Kentucky had 11 fouls called against them in the first 15 minutes of the second
half, whereas Gonzaga had just 4 fouls called against them.

Looking at the final box score, there were four Wildcats with four fouls, with three of them being starters (Tshiebwe, Wallace, Wheeler). This definitely impacted the game down the stretch.


No Fight

There are several areas where Kentucky struggled Sunday night, but the most worrisome was their fight or lack thereof. With both teams coming off disappointing losses earlier in the week, a battle was expected, but it was one-sided for much of the first half.

This was most evident when you see that the Wildcats were outrebounded 24-14 in the first half. The second half was much better, as both teams played very evenly, but there shouldn’t be any worry about effort when playing against the No. 2 team in the country.

Senior Jacob Toppin was the first to admit it. “We had no fight in the first half and we put
ourselves in a hole that we couldn’t get out of,” Toppin said in the postgame press conference.

John Calipari echoed the same sentiment a little later. “The main thing is just to fight. We had no fight in the first half.”


Going forward, Calipari said he will find players that are willing to fight.

“I’ll just play different guys, whoever wants to fight,” Calipari said. “I’m going to play different
guys. We got enough guys. I let those guys get in there and fight.”

Kentucky doesn’t play another KenPom Top-100 team until Michigan on December 4th. That
gives this team 14 days to find some things that work and are effective offensively, and two
games to experiment.

When they take on the Wolverines in London, I hope a rejuvenated and more efficient Kentucky team can be seen.


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Men's Basketball

WKU Coach Rick Stansbury Says Dontaie Allen Was Ineligible to Play at Kentucky Last Season, UK Received Fine



Instagram/Dontaie Allen

Former Kentucky Wildcat, Dontaie Allen, had a rocky time in Lexington to say it best, averaging just 4 .2 points in 10.6 minutes per game. This led him to look for a change of scenery, and he ultimately transferred to Western Kentucky.

Through three games, Allen is averaging 8 points per game on 44 percent shooting from three, yet he hasn’t played since November 12th and has missed four straight games. Why?

On November 21st, Western Kentucky’s official Twitter account released a statement that explained that Allen was not available due to “an eligibility matter related to his previous school [Kentucky].”


While that left plenty of questions to be asked, WKU head coach Rick Stansbury addressed them on Saturday after the Hilltoppers beat South Carolina State.

Stansbury claims that Kentucky unknowingly allowed Dontaie Allen, who he says was also unaware, to play while ineligible during last season’s fall semester. While no specifics were given, Stansbury says the eligibility concerns arise from grade issues that were not found until Allen entered his name into the transfer portal.

As a result, Kentucky was fined $500 for each game Allen appeared in during the fall semester (seven games; $3,500 total fine), despite playing limited minutes. However, a decision has yet to be reached on Allen’s current eligibility status.

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Men's Basketball

Kentucky Basketball Introduces Most Impactful Player Belt, Oscar Tshiebwe First Winner



Twitter/UK Sports Network

On Thanksgiving Eve the Kentucky Wildcats got back to their winning ways as they beat the North Florida Ospreys 96-56 in impressive fashion.

Of course in the process, Oscar Tshiebwe, got his usual double-double with 16 points and 15 rebounds. After the game, Tshiebwe was seen sporting some new hardware called the “Most Impactful Player (MIP) Belt”.

In his postgame press conference, John Calipari talked about the new award that will be given out following each win this season. “Now we have a belt that we give out after wins, the most impactful player. Who impacted the game. The staff gets it and it’s a big shiny belt. Maybe they will show you,” Calipari said.


Despite twenty-point games from Jacob Toppin (also recorded a double-double) and Antonio Reeves, Calipari attributed Thsiebwe with doing the extra things.

“He[Tshiebwe] was the most impactful, not because of points and rebounds, because he had five assists, he had three steals, and two blocks. That’s impacting the game. He’ll have the belt until the next win. You don’t get, no belts on a loss. But maybe if he didn’t take it already, because he wore it. He was wearing it around the locker room.”

It will be interesting to see which players win this award over the course of the season, but as valuable as Tshiebwe is, it is safe to assume he will have the belt a lot.

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Men's Basketball

Examining Which Lineups Worked Against Gonzaga, Shot Selection Comparison



UK Athletics

The Kentucky Wildcats have looked dominant against inferior competition. In three games against sub-100 KenPom teams, the Wildcats have averaged 92.7 points on 52.9 percent shooting from the field and 47.8 percent from three, while only giving up 59.3 points per game.

However, against their two ranked opponents, Kentucky has looked vastly different on both ends of the floor. In those games, the Wildcats have averaged 74.5 points per contest on 39.6 percent shooting from the field and 26 percent from three, while giving up 82.5 points per game.

Struggling to find their early season footing, John Calipari is still experimenting with lineups and has cited injuries and a lack of practice time as reasons for this.


With that being said, let’s take a look at what lineups did and did not work against Gonzaga, as well as the shot selection.

Offensive Lineups

Following the Gonzaga game, there was one fan that compared the Kentucky offense to a “chicken running around with its head cut off”. At times it certainly looked like that.

Just take a look at the first offensive possession of the game. After getting the tip, the Wildcats forced a busted play and shot a contested three at the end of the shot clock.

This obviously is not the offense that Calipari wants. After the game, Calipari said that this specific play was one they had gone over in the huddle just seconds before tipoff and that he was “embarrassed” at the lack of execution.


So which lineups executed the best?

  • Wheeler-Wallace-Fredrick-Toppin-Tshiebwe: 20 possessions played, 31.6% FG, 14.3% 3P, .7 points per possession, Zero TOs,
  • Wallace-Fredrick-Reeves-Toppin-Tshiebwe: 20 possessions played, 56.3% FG, 60% 3P, 1.05 points per possession, 4 TOs,
  • Wallace-Fredrick-Reeves-Toppin-Ware: 12 possessions played, 18.2% FG, 0% 3P, .5 points per possession, TOs, Zero TOs
  • Reeves-Fredrick-Livingston-Toppin-Tshiebwe: 8 possessions played, 25% FG, 0% 3P, .5 points per possession, 2 TOs,

Unsurprisingly, the best lineup in terms of production featured Wallace-Fredrick-Reeves-Toppin-Tshiebwe, five players that are a threat to score in a variety of ways. This lineup was the only Kentucky lineup that average more than 1 point per possession.

The other most played lineup was similar but included Wheeler instead of Reeves. This isn’t to say that this lineup did not do good things, as there were no turnovers and the second-most points per possession. However, Gonzaga was able to sag off Wheeler, and could put more effort into guarding Fredrick and Tshiebwe in that lineup.

Proving himself as one of the best ball distributors in the country in back-to-back seasons, Wheeler deserves to play, but Calipari needs to scheme around his weaknesses, which he suggested he is doing on Monday’s call-in show.

Defensive Lineups

With the size and length of this roster, this year’s Kentucky Wildcats has the chance to be one of the best defensive teams of the Calipari era. However, they are from that at the moment.


Against Gonzaga, Kentucky rarely forced the Bulldogs into difficult shots. In fact, of their 88 points, they scored 44 of them in the paint.

With that said, Kentucky did have some lineups that were effective, but at the cost of offense. With the two aforementioned lineups above, Gonzaga forced the ball over, but still averaged more than 1 point per possession and shot well over 50 percent from the field.

  • Wallace-Fredrick-Reeves-Toppin-Tshiebwe: 20 possessions played, 58.3% FG, 1.2 points per possession, 4 forced TOs
  • Wheeler-Wallace-Fredrick-Toppin-Tshiebwe: 18 possessions played, 70% FG, 1.056 points per possession, 7 forced TOs
  • Wallace-Fredrick-Reeves-Toppin-Ware: 12 possessions played, 37.5% FG, .667 points per possession, 8 forced TOs
  • Reeves-Fredrick-Livingston-Toppin-Tshiebwe: 6 possessions played, 25% FG, .667 points per possession, 4 forced TOs

The two lineups that were effective included Ware and Livingston, and the one common denominator they bring is toughness.

Ware can be played in spurts, but has shown that he exceeds primarily on offense in pick-and-roll situations. Whereas Livingston is just a freshman and still has room to grow his offensive game, but hasn’t gotten the game time to do so.

Also, as the season goes along and he develops, don’t be surprised to see Ugonna Onyenso in some situations due to his elite shot-blocking ability.


Shot Selection

The shot chart on the left is against South Carolina State, just days before the matchup with Gonzaga, which shot chart is on the right.

What is the difference?

On the left, is the ideal modern offensive shot chart, showing strictly threes and shots inside the paint. In that game, Kentucky scored 80 of their 106 points in the paint or from three, showing that they played efficiently.

Whereas, on the right, shots are scattered across the county including plenty of mid-range shots. This shows just how much duress the offense was in.

Obviously, there is a different level of defense that the Wildcats are playing in each of the shot charts. With that said, ineffective lineups and lack of execution amplify the problems.


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