Cats need work defensively

By Les Johns | @KernelJohns

ljohns@kykernel.com

UK sophomore forward Kyle Wiltjer went wild from the field and freshman forward Alex Poythress scored 22 points in just 23 minutes to lead the Cats to a 101-49 win against over-matched Lafayette University.

The Cats were incredibly efficient offensively, but gave an uneven effort (at best) on the other side of the court.

For the Cats to truly become a great team, they will need to build on the defensive intensity exhibited in the second half.

UK was solid, if not spectacular on offense Friday night, dropping half a hundred in both halves.

The Cats shot 64.5 percent from the field, and 57.9 percent from long distance.

“We pass the ball to each other. Shot a high percentage from the three,” Calipari said. “We’re not a 58 percent 3-point shooting team, but I believe we’re a 40 (percent shooting team).”

In many ways, however, you could contend that the Cats only played twenty minutes of solid defense. Actually, Calipari thinks it was even less than that.

“We played great defense here, and sustained for the first time this year about six straight trips,” Calipari said. “Wow. Now could we ever get to where we could do that for 20 straight minutes?”

The Leopards took advantage of UK’s tepid defense in the first half, going 13-of-29 from the field for 44.8 percent.  The Cats blocked three shots and forced nine turnovers while allowing 4-of-11 shooting from behind the arc (36.4 percent).

“They had three offensive rebounds which led to baskets,” Calipari said. “It’s 15-10. You (the Cats) made every shot. It should have been 15-4, 15-2 or 15-3.”

Head coach John Calipari clearly encouraged more defensive effort in the second stanza, and the Cats responded.

The Cats forced a whopping 19 Leopard turnovers and held them to a sluggish 34.9 percent field-goal percentage (8-of-23). Three point attempts were also more contested, as the Leopards hit just 2-of-12 in the half.

That lock-down defense is what won the Cats several games last season and fueled the championship run.

The Cats will not shoot more than 60 percent from the floor in many games — this offensive efficiency will not be the norm.

In those games when their shots aren’t falling and the ball isn’t bouncing their way will be the games that will be decided purely by the team’s defensive intensity.

When November turns into February and March, six possessions (or minutes) will not be enough.