Six Head-Scratching Stats from Kentucky’s Loss to Michigan State

If you watched Kentucky’s 86-77 loss to Michigan State, you were likely frustrated by some aspects of the Wildcats’ performance. If not, then you were likely really happy with what the Spartans did on both ends of the court or really happy that your team has avoided the Wildcats in the NCAA tournament until now. Either way, here are six stats from Kentucky’s loss that jumped out at me.


Kentucky committed 22 turnovers in the game. That’s a problem.

And it’s not just that they had 22 turnovers, it’s that they had a lot of careless turnovers too, especially early on when things were close and they could have been cutting into Michigan State’s lead.

They turned the ball over 15 times in the first half, compared to just three for MSU (two of which came with less than five minutes left in the game).

If you take away all their turnovers, Kentucky is up by 8 points instead of down by 10.

That would have made a huge difference at the end of regulation and probably would have allowed them to get more stops during MSU’s comeback at the end of both overtimes.

The Wildcats defense was also shaky at times. The Spartans shot 46% from the field, 41% from three, and 58% inside the arc.

The Spartans went 13-of-18 on two pointers in this one – those shots will kill you if you’re an average team.

The Wildcats weren’t much better offensively though – 27% shooting from three, 38% overall and 57% inside the arc (although some of those numbers are inflated because they took so many threes).

When it comes to college basketball teams, Kentucky has shown themselves to be far from average so far this year.
Free throws

  1. Kentucky missed 16 of its last 19 free throws, including both in the second overtime and on one possession in the first overtime.
  2. Jordan Nwora is a sophomore at UK, but he has only made 9 of his 20 free throws this season for a 45% clip.
  3. The Wildcats finished with just 18 points in the paint, with more than half (nine) coming in the first half.
  4. The Wildcats had four players shoot 50% or better from three-point range tonight: Keldon Johnson (3/6), Quade Green (2/4), Darius Perry (1/2) and Tai Wynyard (1/2).
  5. Michigan State’s Nick Ward is 6’8′′, but he outrebounded Kentucky by grabbing nine boards. He also outscored the entire Kentucky team by scoring 31 points on 12 shots.
  6. There were 27 fouls called between both teams in this game; 13 were called on Kentucky.

Three-point shooting

1) Kentucky was 3-of-19 (16.7%) in the second half and overtime.
2) The Wildcats had no three pointers in the final 13:38 of the game and shot 3-of-9 in overtime.
3) Louisville went 9-of-14 from behind the arc, including a 6-of-8 performance in OT.
4) Michigan State went 5 for 10 (50%) on two point field goals in the first half, but finished 8 for 18 (44%).
5) Tyler Ulis was 0 for 4 on his three point shots and 2 for 7 overall from long range. He also missed all six of his free throws. One more stat that is as confounding as it is embarrassing: UK didn’t score at all off the bench in double overtime.

In an almost meaningless game against Eastern Kentucky this past Saturday, the reserves were 14 for 16 from the field and scored 43 points, so it’s not like this is some new trend. What do you think about these stats?

Second-chance points

1) This game was decided by second chance points. When both teams were playing man defense, Michigan State had an offensive efficiency of 1.04 points per possession (PPP) and a defensive efficiency of 0.77 PPP.

That means that the Spartans only allowed one more point on average when they defended a second chance opportunity then they scored on offense when they got one themselves.

2) The Spartans are also really good at generating second chances with offensive rebounds: their OR% is 31 percent, which leads the nation by 6 percentage points, and their DR% is 33 percent, which ranks ninth in Division I basketball. On top of all that, they’re also third in the country in steals per game. So yeah, as you can see there’s a lot to be mad about.

3) What jumps out at me is how dominant Michigan State has been defensively against opponents who don’t have any size inside.

They have a defensive efficiency of 65 percent when defending opponents without anyone taller than 6 feet 8 inches tall compared to 56 percent for opponents with some height inside; this accounts for 27 extra points given up over 100 possessions.


Kentucky shot 37.5% from the field, which is not only a season low for this team, but also a huge drop off from their 51.4% shooting in November up until now.

That’s partially because they were outrebounded 38-25 by MSU; the Spartans had 11 offensive rebounds that led to 14 second chance points, while Kentucky had three offensive boards and scored just two second chance points.

The Wildcats lost the battle of the boards in all phases of the game—offensively, defensively and on the glass.

And it hurt them badly as they found themselves chasing after loose balls most of the night. Second Chance Points: UK got just three opportunities at an extra possession, scoring just two points off those chances.

Meanwhile, MSU was able to get 12 second chance points (11 from offensive rebounding).

There’s plenty more analysis we can do on these numbers, but suffice it to say Kentucky had its worst rebounding performance of the season and it really cost them against an opponent who was firing away from 3-point range with precision early and often (17 first half 3PT shots for Michigan State).

I’m sure Coach Calipari will have some thoughts about how to fix these problems going forward.

Bench production

The bench has been an issue all season. It was supposed to be the strength of this team, but it’s been a weakness. Here are some stats:
1) UK reserves rank last in the SEC in scoring (16.2) and minutes played (14.4) per game and second-to-last in rebounding (7.6).
2) UK reserves have taken just 28 shots this season, making 13 for a 39% field goal percentage; they’ve made just two three pointers all year.
3) UK reserves have accounted for just 10 assists this season, compared with 49 turnovers, accounting for nearly a third of all team turnovers this season.

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