Great free throw shooting an unfamiliar new sight for UK basketball



John Calipari’s UK basketball team has never been known for its free throw shooting. During their storied 2011-2012 season, the Cats were 65th in the nation in that statistic. During the first Final Four season of Calipari’s tenure, the team ranked 111th from behind the free throw line.

However, the 2017-18 Cats seem to be bringing this unfamiliar comfort to fans that pack Rupp Arena. Over their first two regular season games, the Cats have made 79.4 percent of their free-throws, making an impressive 18-23 against Vermont on Sunday afternoon.

RECAP: UK basketball defeats Vermont 73-69

Against the Catamounts, only UK forward PJ Washington missed multiple free throws. Without Washington’s free throws, the Cats would’ve shot 93.75 percent from the free throw line. For reference, their shooting would place them in 7th among this year’s NBA teams, ahead of legendary Cat Karl-Anthony Towns’ Timberwolves.

Down the stretch against the Catamounts, UK needed every free throw they could get. They ended up winning the game by four points, making 11 more free throws than Vermont on 10 more attempts. Forward Sacha Killeya-Jones made all four of his attempts in the game, including two impactful ones late.

“Sacha [Killeya-Jones] making those free throws was big,” Calipari said after the game. “By the way, let me not forget him. Sacha played his butt off today.”

The improvement of Killeya-Jones at the free throw line is already showing up in the box score. During all of last season, Killeya-Jones made 6 of the 15 free throws he attempted on the year. In this season’s first two games, he’s already shooting 4-6, a 26.7 percent improvement from last season.

“I, personally, was just happy to make free throws today in general,” Killeya-Jones said. “I know I am a very capable free-throw shooter, but I’ve just been kind of slumped so far this season, and I guess a little bit last season. Y’all know what my numbers were.”

WATCH: Sacha Killeya-Jones full postgame interview

Aside from the improvement of Killeya-Jones, other Cats are stepping up at the free throw line as well during the young season. Point guard Quade Green and guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander have yet to miss a free throw, while forward Kevin Knox is shooting 90 percent on 10 attempts through two games.

Time will tell if this free throw shooting is sustainable. If it is, it’s likely that for the first time in quite a while, the Cats will be trying to get fouled any chance they get.