Kentucky Insider: Cats D stepping up
Kentucky is shooting over 48 percent from the field and averaging better than 81 points a game, which is 32 more than its opponents, and that makes it awfully easy to overlook the Wildcats at the other end of the court.
But it is their play at the defensive end that is making a big difference for the Wildcats this season.
For one thing, it helped them overcome a 29.8 percent shooting and 20 turnovers to post their 69-62 win over Louisville on the last day of 2011.
Forcing the Cardinals into tough shots, the Wildcats held the visitors to just 32.3 percent shooting, including a meager 22.2 percent (4-of-18) from three-point range.
“You love winning games like that because there are going to be games that that happens,” coach John Calipari said. “You’re just not going to shoot the ball well.
“Teams are going to muck it up. They’re going to triangle-and-two, box-and-one, something you haven’t seen, and all of a sudden you look confused, can’t make a shot.
“You defend and rebound and you win anyway, and that’s what we want to do.”
The Wildcats were leading the nation in field-goal percentage defense going into the game, holding opponents to just 35.2 percent. That mark dropped to 35.0 percent after the victory.
The win was the fifth in a row for the Wildcats since their one-point loss at Indiana back on Dec. 10.
In improving to 13-1, the Wildcats had one more non-conference game remaining, against Arkansas-Little Rock on Jan. 3, before opening SEC play at home against South Carolina on Jan. 7.
Freshman F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist continued his outstanding play, coming up one rebound short of a 20-20 game in the win over Louisville. He led Kentucky in scoring with 24 points and had 19 rebounds. It was his seventh straight game scoring in double figures and his second double-double of the season.
“He wasn’t bothered as much as some of the other players by the physical play,” coach John Calipari said. “He almost relished it and just went after it, and that’s why he played the way he did.”
Sophomore F Terrence Jones has played in the last two games after sitting out the wins over Samford and Loyola-Md. before Christmas with a dislocated finger. He had nine points and six rebounds in the 86-64 win over Lamar on Dec. 28 and only two points but 11 rebounds against Louisville.
“With it being swollen and getting so much contact, any games with me trying to box out and use my hands so much, plus it being my left, sometimes it hurts a lot,” Jones said of the injured pinky. “I still just want to play and rebound and do the other things.
“When the game is on the line I’m not going to care about the pain.”
By beating Louisville, Kentucky extended its home winning streak over non-conference opponents to a national-best 44 games in a row. The Wildcats are 43-0 overall under coach John Calipari in Rupp Arena.
BY THE NUMBERS: 10 — Kentucky forced its 10th shot-clock violation by an opponent this season in the win over Louisville, matching its total for all of last season.
QUOTE TO NOTE
“A lot better. Me and everybody else on the team, we’re hungry.” — Freshman F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, asked how much better Kentucky can get.