Cat Scratches
Interactive Twitter Facebook

UK delivers virtuoso offensive performance to avoid IU deja vu

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds against Indiana. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds against Indiana. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
ATLANTA -- The circumstances were eerily similar and, in fact, even a little bit worse than the last time.

Less than six minutes into Kentucky's Elite Eight rematch with Indiana, Anthony Davis picked up his second foul, relegating him to the bench for the balance of the half a full six minutes of game time before the same happened in Bloomington, Ind.

Just as in that first matchup, the dynamic and opportunistic Hoosiers took advantage of Davis being tethered to the bench in foul trouble, scoring more first-half points than any UK opponent this season.

"It was kind of hard I think (with Davis on the bench)," Michael Kidd-Gilchrist said. "I think it was kind of hard for us on defense and offense."

Kidd-Gilchrist can sell the situation being difficult on defense. Offensively, not so much.

The Wildcats exploded for 50 first-half points with Davis only playing six minutes, and wouldn't slow down, literally or figuratively, after halftime. For just the second time this season, UK topped the century mark in an electrifying 102-90 victory over Indiana that brought John Calipari's team to within one win of a second straight Final Four. UK will look to secure that berth in a matchup at 2:20 p.m. on Sunday with third-seeded Baylor.

With Davis patrolling the paint, the Wildcats have developed a reputation as a defensive juggernaut. The title is hard-earned - UK set a single-season NCAA record for blocks on Saturday - but lost in their shot-swatting prowess has been Kentucky's coldly efficient offense.

Overlooking UK's offensive arsenal is going to be quite a bit more difficult after the way it laid waste to the Hoosiers.

The Wildcats have been in the top five nationally in defensive efficiency all season, but their effort against Indiana was extraordinary even considering their lofty standards. UK scored an average of 1.40 points on 73 possessions, a full 0.22 points per possession better than their season average, which ranks second nationally.

It was their third-best effort of the season in that department. Only outings against South Carolina and Marist were better, but those teams are not nearly the caliber of an Indiana squad that went punch for punch with UK for the better part of this Sweet 16 rematch.

There really wasn't an area in which UK didn't excel either.

The Wildcats shot 31 for 64 (48.1 percent) from the field, converting on 5-of-10 (50 percent) 3-point attempts. Continuing an NCAA Tournament trend, Kentucky ran with reckless abandon, scoring 18 points on fast breaks with Marquis Teague (14 points, seven assists and two turnovers) calmly running the show.

When UK did miss, Kidd-Gilchrist was there to indefatigably chase down offensive rebounds. Six of his 10 rebounds came on the offensive glass as he helped the Wildcats score 19 second-chance points on 15 offensive boards.

"That's my bread and butter, I think," Kidd-Gilchrist said.

Kidd-Gilchrist had scored just 11 points in his first two NCAA Tournament games, but he returned to the form that has come to be expected of him in big games.

"I was in a slump for a long time, I think. It was just confidence, I think. It was just building it," Kidd-Gilchrist said.

With UK halfway to the six wins it will take to bring home the school's eighth national championship, Kidd-Gilchrist's reemergence couldn't come at a better time.

Nor could the Wildcats' steady hands at the free-throw line.

Astoundingly, UK converted 35-of-37 (94.6 percent) attempts at the charity stripe, delivering the knockout blow missing in the regular-season game with the Hoosiers. Kentucky made its last 17 attempts as Indiana made a last-ditch comeback effort.

If not for that free-throw shooting and overall offensive effectiveness, UK likely would not have prolonged its season.

"If you told me the team we're playing today, Indiana, was going to score 90 points and shoot 52 percent from the floor, I was going to have to tell you, 'Wow, it's been a nice season,' " Calipari said.

No team this season has played offense against UK the way the Hoosiers did on Friday night (and early Saturday morning). The 1.23 points per possession Indiana tallied were the most of any UK opponent this season.

"Now, part of it was Anthony was out," Calipari said. "The other part was we were just getting broken down. We were playing pick-and-roll defense so poorly that they were getting whatever they wanted."

Christian Watford scored 27 points to help combat Cody Zeller's first-half foul trouble, while the IU star big man still managed to total 20 points, 12 of which came after halftime.

Having just won a game that will likely be remembered as among the best played of this tournament, Coach Cal could be accused of nit-picking. He certainly enjoyed coaching in and up-and-down affair, but he still is thinking about inspiring his team to reach greater heights, even as the season ticks down to its inevitable conclusion.

"My job is to get them to chase perfection," Calipari said. "I don't know if we're ever going to reach it, but how well can we play?"

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL:

Leave a comment

Recent Comments