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Offensive lineup has turned momentum for UK

Quade Green (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Scoring points makes it a lot easier to win basketball games. That’s why Kentucky coach John Calipari finally decided maybe he was worried too much about defense and not enough about offense.

That’s why the lineup of Quade Green, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, P.J. Washington, Kevin Knox and Jarred Vanderbilt has turned out to be UK’s best group.

“When you have Quade out there you’ve got now Shai, Quade, you’ve got scorers, Kevin Knox. One of our issues was we weren’t scoring the ball and I just went back to, we’re worried about defense,” Calipari said after Tuesday’s win at Arkansas.

“Unless we hold teams to 32 points we can’t win. So let’s look at an offensive team and let’s see if we can get them to guard a little bit. Just guard somebody and I think we’re getting better.”

He’s right. Green especially has dramatically improved his defense and a healthy Vanderbilt alters shots and helps dominate the boards.

“We have to get some easy baskets and we have to fly. Now I’m going tell you, they get out on misses and makes as good as anybody the country and we worked for two days, throw it up and fly back, turn and run as fast as you can. Now I thought we did a pretty good job of that today,” Calipari said.

Washington says that lineup also has defensive versatility that made it hard for Arkansas to score in the final 10 minutes.

“We feel like we can switch every position, especially when it’s Shai and Wenyen with us also,” Washington said. “We feel like we can all guard the one through five so we try to do a good job.

“When they screen, we try to switch and then also on dribble handoffs we try to switch too. And we can all rebound. It’s great having us five out there on defense.”

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  1. Thanks for your excellent articles, Larry. The last game just felt different with that lineup and the energy and offense they bring. I think our bench players will continue to contribute and be challenged to get better. It’s really looking up for this team that I never gave up on! Coach Cal has really earned his paycheck this season!

    1. Thanks Judi

  2. A friend and occasional VV poster has said for years that one criteria that nearly every champion met for so many years is averaging 80 ppg, and perhaps more recent modification might lower that to 78 ppg. I think Calipari is acknowledging this type of criteria when he says teams must be able to score 78 ppg to advance in the tournament. I agree with that. However, it is equally true that champions are also terrific on the defensive end of the court. The vast majority of champions since 2002 have had offensive and defensive efficiencies in the top 20 in the season they won the championship.

    On a positive note, this UK team has the 19th most efficiency defense as of today, and this team’s issues have been greater on the offensive end of things, so Calipari’s focus on finding consistent offense is well placed if there is any hope for a deep March run.

    While I am still in the skeptical group, I can now see Calipari’s path to this success. In the Arkansas game, the adjusted offensive efficiency for the game was the 2nd highest of the season at 1.34 ppp (the highest was 1.40 ppp against WVU). However, that is only half of the story in the Arkansas game. The Adjusted Defensive efficiency against Arkansas was 0.88 ppp, the fifth best single defensive game of this season.

    Color me mildly encouraged about March as of this morning. 🙂

  3. Note: The #19 defensive ranking is Pomeroy’s not my ANE, which I have UK defense at #30 nationally.

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