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UK's 3-point specialists filling roles perfectly

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Kyle Wiltjer has converted 15 of 30 (50 percent) of his 3-point attempts in SEC play. (Phillip Andrews, UK Athletics) Kyle Wiltjer has converted 15 of 30 (50 percent) of his 3-point attempts in SEC play. (Phillip Andrews, UK Athletics)
Coming into the 2011-12 season, no one doubted the Kentucky Wildcats had the talent to be a dominant team, but there were lingering concerns that begged the question whether they would live up their vast potential.

Would the latest group of John Calipari-assembled talent be able to coalesce and play as one? Thirty games into the season, the fact that six different Wildcats have attempted between 221 and 265 shots has answered that.

Would Marquis Teague be able to be the latest prep star to successfully undertake the point guard mantle under Calipari? An assist-to-turnover ratio of 74:36 in Southeastern Conference play should tell you just about everything you need to know.

Would UK's seven- and sometimes eight-man rotation be deep enough to survive an entire season? That question likely won't be laid to rest until UK cuts down the nets at the Final Four, but a 21-game winning streak and an NCAA-leading scoring margin of 19.4 points per game is a pretty good indicator that depth won't be a major issue.

Lastly, would UK have enough outside shooters to cope with the inevitable zone defense the Cats figured to see?

Doron Lamb and Darius Miller had the credentials. The pair had one of the best 3-point shooting seasons in school history in the 2010-11 Final Four run, but reliable threats from deep were gone to the NBA in Brandon Knight and DeAndre Liggins. Kyle Wiltjer had the reputation as a dead-eye shooter able to step in, but it was unknown if it would immediately transfer to the college game.

At the end of non-conference play, the concerns persisted. Lamb (28 for 61 or 45.6 percent) was predictably reliable, but Miller (19 for 46 or 33.9 percent) and Wiltjer (12 for 37 or 32.4 percent) had been spotty.

In SEC play, they have been anything but. Through 15 conference games, UK ranks behind only Vanderbilt in 3-point shooting at 90 for 218 (41.3 percent). Players not named Lamb, Miller or Wiltjer have connected on just 16 3s in SEC games, but they haven't needed to. Here's why:

3-point shooting in SEC play
Doron Lamb - 31/61 - 50.8 percent
Kyle Wiltjer - 15/30 - 50.0 percent
Darius Miller - 28/63 - 44.4 percent
Combined - 74/154 - 48.1 percent

A 15-of-27 night from 3-point range like the one UK had against Georgia won't happen often, but with shooters like those three, it's no fluke. There will be few points during the rest of the season when at least one of those three shooters is not in the game and, more often than not, two or all of them figure to be.

In other words, zone at your own risk.

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