Happy Monday everyone! Hope everyone is attempting to have a good day today. Monday’s are the worst thing ever. Especially the Monday after the Super Bowl. But with all of the Super Bowl plans over and Andy Reid finally got his ring, let’s talk about the day before.
On Saturday, the Wildcats took their talents to Auburn, Alabama to face the Auburn Tigers in a Top-25 matchup. This was the third Saturday game in a row for the Cats to be on the road in a rowdy environment. With the loss to Auburn, the Cats went 2-1 these past three Saturday match-ups. To be honest, winning all three might’ve been great for the BBN but realistically, a 2-1 record on the road on Saturday’s is really impressive. As we learned last week, the Cats savor those moments on the road. They enjoy the crowd getting into them. They enjoy the challenge but the road magic finally ran out. So, what can this team learn from the 2014 in the “tweak-able” run that landed them in the National Championship game.
First, I have to give it to Auburn guard Samir Doughty. He went on a tear after the big Kentucky run to start the game in which started the fouling troubles for the Cats. Throughout Twitter this weekend, we all heard the chatter of; “the worst officiated game this season” or “44 free throws for Kentucky compared to 24 for the Cats.” Now, I will say on paper that looks horrendous but there is something to say about this. Watching that game, I believe that could’ve been arguably one of the worst performances this year defensively at the rim for Kentucky and it costed them.
The run of multiple foul trips for Doughty were happening because of the way he drove it in. It was textbook to what you need to do as you drive to the rim with rim protectors staring you down. Go into his chest and lay it in. The whole Tigers team followed that same gameplay and the fouls were just piling up on one another. This led to Kentucky’s offensive aggressiveness to go down exponentially. It seemed like they didn’t want to get an offensive foul called on them when driving into the lane and then have to go out because they collected their second foul in the half. Watching this game on my television, the graphic coming up and saying; “UK scoring drought Insert Time” or “UK 0 FG’s in Insert Time” were happening frequently. Playing like this can evaporate a 2 or 3 possession lead into being down by 4 with just 2 minutes and change left on the clock. That is the situation the Cats were forcing themselves into and it caught up to them. Not a lot of baskets were being created. Driving lanes were not being handled right, and it gave the guards a lot of touches but that’s not what this team is special at.
The foul trouble for Ashton Hagans, EJ Montgomery in the first half and Nick Richards in the second half really limited what this team could do offensively. As the fouls kept piling on, paint touches during offensive possessions does wonders for a team like this. When the ball is fed to either Montgomery or Richards in the post or at the free throw line, the offense flows a ton better. It creates opportunity for back-door screens, baseline runs and open threes when the defense crashes in the paint. This is something that the 2014 Runner-Up team had to figure out. That year, the moment you put the ball into Julius Randle’s hands and he creates something in the post or just simply at the free-throw line, something happened. Anyone remember this play in the Sweet 16 against Louisville?
The first shot of the video is what I’m talking about. By feeding the ball to Randle, he goes in and touches the paint and kicks it out against Louisville for the lead. There is going to be a time this month where they’re going to have to trust Richards to being fed the ball and make the decision to pass out or going in. Shots from Maxey deep are fun to watch in all but winning for this team is going to have to go through Richards’ hands. Am I saying Richards needs to be Julius Randle? No, but what this team and 2014 have in common is that early on and even into January there were times the ball was being passed around the perimeter and nothing was happening. A lot of late-second shots were being thrown in and it never was good for the Cats.
With the major foul trouble and Hagans collecting multiple turnovers, the Cats had no chance to win that game even with Auburn not shooting well from three. Kentucky’s paint presence can get very daunting for an offensive to overcome. When Cal puts Brooks in, it gets worse. Saturday though, it seemed like it didn’t matter. Offensive rebounds were being given up because the team was not playing hard or aggressive due to the major foul trouble and it really ended the game there for Auburn. All they had to do was wait and see if the shots were going to go in and start a run.
Now, I know Mondays are not great in all but in my opinion, Kentucky guards need to learn to give up the ball to create open looks. But hey, tomorrow is a new day and a new game for the Cats and they have an opportunity at home to bounce back after this weekend and start getting going. We are less than a month away from March being upon us.
Stay updated here at Cameron Mills Radio today for a preview of tomorrow’s game! Tomorrow is going to be a long night with a 9 P.M. tip.