No. 11 Kentucky entered Tuesday night’s matchup with Boise State coming off of a loss to Baylor at the Jerry Dome in Dallas, one in which the Wildcats were crushed on the offensive glass and cut up by the Bears in the pick and roll.
It was concerning. What has made John Calipari’s youthful rosters so good in the past is that he’s gotten his roster full of athletes to buy-in on the defensive end of the floor from Day 1, slowly but surely bringing them along offensively. This year it’s the opposite. Kentucky entered Tuesday night the nation’s third-most efficient team on the offensive end of the floor, according to Kenpom, while sliding in at No. 50 defensively.
Against the Broncos, however, we got a chance to see just how good Kentucky can be defensively when they want to be. Boise State entered the game as the nation’s highest-scoring team. They finished the night shooting 31.9% from the field and 29.4% from three is a 70-55 loss. That’s 0.833 PPP, also know as really, really good defense. It helps when Willie Cauley-Stein is blocking shots like he has been the last two weeks. He swatted nine Boise State shots tonight. Knowing their is a human eraser waiting at the rim makes it that much easier to get out and pressure on the perimeter.
There’s more good news. After allowing Baylor to grab more than half of the available offensive rebounds, Kentucky held Boise State to just a 30.4% offensive rebounding percentage. That’s a step up, but Kentucky still gave up seven offensive to Ryan Watkins, who is really the only big guy on Boise State.
So this team is still a work in progress, which goes without saying.
But the good news is that they seem to be able to respond to the coaching that they get. Their defense struggled last game, so they locked up on Tuesday. They were shooting too many threes against the likes of Eastern Michigan and Cleveland State, so they pounded the ball inside and beat up on Providence.
Eventually, it’s all going to come together for the Wildcats. And when they do, this team has a chance to be very, very good.