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Cats shooting lights out

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MBSK 09_10 UK_UNC Ashville web 11.jpgBefore the season started, analysts looked for a weakness.

With a star-filled roster of John Wall, Patrick Patterson, DeMarcus Cousins and Darius Miller, and head coach John Calipari, the winningest coach in college basketball over the last four years, at the helm, there had to be a chink in the armor.

Experts pointed to UK's shooting. Gone was the Cats' sharpshooter, Jodie Meeks, to the NBA. Without him, UK was left with a roster stacked with athletes, but short on shooters.

Wall, the No. 1 recruit in the nation, had a laundry list of strengths coming to Lexington, but he was an inconsistent jump shooter on the high school scene. Darnel Dodson was known strictly as a pure shooter, but no one knew how his game would transition from junior college to major college basketball. Eric Bledsoe, another highly touted guard, had hops and speed, but his shooting was streaky at best.

Returning guards Darius Miller (41.3 field-goal percent last year) and Ramon Harris (24.0 3-point percent) weren't known to light it up from the field either.

Their logic was right. However, the results so far have proven different.

Through the first 10 games of the season, UK is shooting well above initial expectations. Entering the Austin Peay game, the Cats are hitting 49.7 shots from the field, 18th in the nation (rankings are through Sunday), including 38.0 percent from behind the arc.

What was perceived as a potential weakness has actually turned into a strength. UK's shooting marks are the best of this decade.

Year

FG pct.

3-point pct.

2009-10

49.7

38.0

2008-09

48.1

35.3

2007-08

46.5

38.6

2006-07

47.6

35.5

2005-06

44.7

35.0

2004-05

46.4

34.3

2003-04

47.2

35.7

2002-03

48.8

35.6

2001-02

44.8

31.7

2000-01

48.2

34.6


One could point to a number of reasons for the high shooting percentages. I'll side with the emphasis to take high-percentage shots. Of UK's 803 total points this season, 384 points, or 47.8 percent of the production, has come inside the paint.

Some of that has to do with John Calipari's emphasis to get easy transition baskets. Yet, despite running a similar offense the last several years, this is Calipari's best shooting team in his 17-plus years of college coaching (previous team best was his 1991-92 Massachusetts team, which shot 48.7 percent from the floor).

Credit must also go to UK's perimeter shooters. If Bledsoe is supposed to be a streaky shooter, he's riding one heck of a shooting streak to begin the season. In his first 10 games in college, the 6-foot-1 guard has hit 16-of-30 treys, a team-best 53.3 percent from behind the arc.

Dodson has lived up to his billing as a 3-point assassin, making 12-of-33 attempts in limited duty. Miller has made significant improvements in his perimeter game, knocking down 15-of-41 treys.

And let's not forget Patterson. Calipari raved before the season that the junior forward now had the whole package, including his ability to shoot the 3-point shot. For a guy who had never hit a perimeter shot in his career at UK, it was hard to believe.

Not anymore. Patterson has made the most of his long-range attempts, hitting 7-of-16 from beyond the arc.

Keep in mind that those numbers are strictly a sample of the season. UK's numbers could nosedive - or jump even higher - over the next 10 games.

Regardless, it's a reason for optimism as the season progresses. If UK can run, defend, keep Wall and Patterson healthy, and shoot the ball, what is its weakness?

Best of luck to rest of the nation in figuring it out.

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1 Comment

Eric's 53% from treyland is currently setting an all time record for UK freshmen. It'll probably go down from here, but when he's feeling it, he's deadly.

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  • davekersey: Eric's 53% from treyland is currently setting an all time record for UK freshmen. It'll probably go down from here, read more