Kentucky: The Morning After

Kentucky: The Morning After

After spending a few hours re-watching and charting the Carolina-Kentucky game, then a few more sleeping it off, I’m feeling equal parts proud of how the Heels competed and disappointed in how they let it slip away with some questionable late-game decision-making. Well, maybe not equal parts: I’m more proud than disappointed. Sometimes, when an opponent had a game like Malik Monk did, you just need to tip your cap, accept the loss, and move on. Or, in my case: tip your cap, accept the loss, break down the defensive performance against Monk, and move on.

Defending Monk:

  • Kenny Williams—40 possessions: 5-10 FGs, 3-4 3Pts, 2 TOs, 13 points allowed
  • Transition— 4-4 FGs, 2-2 3Pts, 10 points allowed
  • Zone— 7 possessions: 3-4 FGs, 2-3 3Pts, 8 points allowed
  • Nate Britt— 6 possessions: 2-2 FGs, 1-1 3Pts, 1 assist, 5 points allowed
  • Justin Jackson— 4 possessions: 2-4 FGs, 0-1 3Pts, 4 points allowed
  • Joel Berry— 3 possessions: 2-3 FGs, 0-1 3Pts,, 4 points allowed
  • Halfcourt trap— 2 possession, 0-1 FGs, 1-2 FTs, 1 point allowed
  • Isaiah Hicks— 1 possession
  • Brandon Robinson— 1 possession
  • Seventh Woods— 1 possession
  • Roy Williams (technical foul)— 2-2 FTs, 2 points allowed

Kenny Williams did the heavy lifting, playing a career-high 34 minutes and defending Monk on 40 of the 57 non-zone, non-transition possessions that the star freshman was on the floor. As usual, he easily did the best job of denying Monk the ball and making things difficult on him (although Justin Jackson’s length was effective on a couple of occasions). “Difficult” is a relative term, of course, when you’re torched as a team for 47 points. Still, Monk was much more passive in attacking Williams and looking to get his shot off—especially after Williams’s back-to-back blocks near the end of the first half. Whenever Monk had a smaller (Britt or Berry) or slower (Jackson) cover on him, he (with help from some set plays called from the bench) immediately went into attack mode.

Let’s look at Monk’s 20 scoring plays (18 made FGs, and 2 trips to the line) in chronological order:

  1. Pindown screen: a set play called on UK’s very first possession of the game; Williams actually fought through this one very well and forced a contested 19-footer; this bit of NBA-level shot-making was probably an omen that Monk was in for a big night
  2. Pindown screen: UK came back to this set a few possessions later, and this time Williams did not navigate it so successfully, allowing a lightly contested 3-pointer after getting hung up fighting through the pick
  3. Isolation: Williams bit hard on a ball fake with an expiring shot clock, allowing Monk to knock down a 3-pointer at the top of the key; this was actually a good defensive possession, with Williams getting a deflection and near-steal by overplaying the wing pass; Kenny needs to stay on his feet here/know the clock is running low, but that’s tough against a big-time player
  4. Staggered screens: on Britt’s very first defensive possession of the game, UK ran another set to create a shot (or isolation opportunity) for Monk; although Britt navigated the pair of staggered screens well (I charted the shot as ‘contested’), Monk simply rose over the smaller Britt for another 3-pointer
  5. Staggered screens: UK went right back to this set, creating an isolation situation for Monk who was able to create separation from Britt off the dribble, then knock down a mid-range jumper
  6. Backdoor cut: after the Heels switched Jackson onto Monk, the ‘Cats ran a backdoor set for their young star; Jackson reacted well, and he and Bradley were able to deflect/disrupt the entry pass; it took an unlucky bounce, trickling through to Monk for an uncontested layup—guess you need a couple breaks on your way to 47 points
  7. Technical foul: Monk converted a pair of free throws after a Roy Williams technical foul
  8. Staggered screens: UK went back to this set—one of its favorites—to create an iso opportunity for Monk against Jackson; although Jackson contested well with his length, Monk was able to hit a tough step-back mid-ranger off the dribble; just good defense being beaten by better (NBA-caliber) offense here
  9. Zone: Monk attacked a gap in UNC’s 2-3 zone between Williams and Robinson (who had overcommitted to Willis in the corner), hitting a floater over Bradley
  10. Zone: UK used dribble drives by Briscoe and Fox to set up a kick-out opportunity to Monk against the zone; Williams made an excellent close-out to contest the shot, but Monk’s a pro
  11. Dribble hand-off: Willams and Berry switched on the guard-to-guard dribble hand-off exchange, allowing Monk to attack the smaller Berry and hit a pull-up jumper over him
  12. Halfcourt trap: a Briscoe drive-and-kick against a scrambling defense set up an open Monk from the right wing; Berry’s hectic close-out resulted in a foul (almost for 3 shots, but luckily on the floor) and 1-2 from the line for Monk
  13. Transition: Williams was battling for an offensive board after a missed face-up jumper from Hicks in secondary, allowing Monk to leak out in transition for an easy “and-1” (late, silly foul by Hicks; Monk missed the free throw)
  14. Transition: after a made Meeks layup, Jackson (being defended by Monk, but guarding Briscoe) did a poor job of locating Briscoe on the transition cross-match (looked like a mental lapse with how casually he was jogging back); this led to Williams needing to stop the ball (Briscoe) in transition, creating a clean drive-and-kick 3 for Monk over a late-recovering Jackson
  15. High ball screen: a baseline out of bounds situation created a mismatch, this time with Berry on Monk; Maye and Berry actually handled the ball screen effectively as Maye’s soft hedge prevented penetration, but allowed the lower-percentage (in theory) mid-range jumper off the dribble
  16. Transition: after holding down Monk in transition for the first 30 minutes—no small task as the graphic below from Synergy Sports shows—he got his third transition hoop in fairly rapid succession after a quick 3-point miss by Britt; Britt followed his shot to ill-advisedly fight for a loose-ball rebound, leaving Berry (and his 3 fouls) to stop Monk with a head of steam in transition; it wasn’t Berry’s best effort, as he essentially conceded the lay-up (although Monk’s slick crossover would have probably led to a hoop or foul even if Berry would have really competed—a risky alternative with his foul issues)
  17. Zone: This was just a poor job by Britt and Maye of locating the shooters in the zone. Britt was pestering non-scorer Dominique Hawkins near the top of the key, allowing a simple perimeter pass to Monk on the wing; Maye, meanwhile, was pre-occupied by some backline action by UK’s posts which delayed his close-out to the red-hot Monk; the Heels played their first handful of zone possessions of the season, and simple breakdowns like this were often the rusty result
  18. Curl: Monk ran Williams off a curl screen to create an isolation opportunity on the left wing (after a good initial navigation by Williams); Williams allowed Monk to drive middle, giving up a (fairly tough) jumper in the paint; Williams should have forced this baseline, but it was still a solid job of individual defense that was bested by superior shot-making
  19. Staggered screen: after the Heels ran a set to create a go-ahead 3 for Jackson, UK answered right back by running its staggered screen look for Monk; Williams again navigated it beautifully to prevent a clean look off the catch (and turning it into an iso opportunity)—unfortunately, Monk hit a really tough, contested 3-pointer off the bounce to tie the game at 98
  20. Transition: the game-winning hoop followed a missed lay-up by Berry that caused him to land several feet out of bounds; this left Williams in the lose-lose situation of allowing a game-tying layup by Fox or a possible go-ahead 3 by Monk after the kick-out; his “stop the ball” instincts took over, as Williams cut off the attacking Fox, opening up the perimeter chance for Monk (over a recovering Hicks); Hicks hustled to be in the right spot, but was in an unenviable position of trying to contain the dangerous Monk in space; 20-20 hindsight, of course, dictates that Hicks needed to run the shooter off the line in that situation but, like the Rivers-Zeller nightmare in Chapel Hill, big men are instinctively conditioned to give a step when isolated against a quicker guard

Monk, by level of contestedness, was:

  • Open: 1-1 (0-0 3s); 100 eFG%
  • Lightly contested: 11-14 (5-8 3s); 96.4 eFG%
  • Contested: 6-11 (3-4 3s); 68.2 eFG%
  • Heavily contested: 0-2 (0-0 3s); 0.0 eFG%

On the season (entering the Kentucky game), UNC has contested/heavily contested about 36% of all opponents’ FGAs. Against Monk, that number was an above-average 46%. Of course, UNC allows, on average, an eFG% of 56.5 on lightly contested shots and 23.4 on contested ones; Monk’s respective numbers on those types of chances were an ungodly 96.4% and 68.2%.  It’s hard to compete with that kind of sublime shot-making.

Just realized we’re almost to 1,500 words here. I have lots more to talk about related to last night’s epic battle (breakdown of UNC’s transition D/how UK created its transition opportunities, some thoughts on late-game decision-making, etc.), but I’ll save that for later today or (more likely) tomorrow at some point.

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6 thoughts on “Kentucky: The Morning After

    1. Why? If your offensive KNOWS their play, then you give the defense an opportunity to shore up their team defense. What is the advantage of calling a timeout when you’ve rehearsed the last second play time after time in practice?

  1. Very interesting, as always. Given that, like the Spanish Inquisition, nobody expects Lamar Mundane to show up I think Carolina did very well.

    Roy’s player use continues to puzzle me, however, as I’m not sure what is driving it. Possibles include:
    — trying to keep players fresh so that they can go full speed throughout the game
    — building experience and flexibility into the lineup by giving less experienced or capable players more game-time
    — honoring seniority in the Carolina tradition, or
    — sandbagging a bit, although less in this game than in the Indiana game.

    Curious to know your take…

    1. I am not puzzled by this at all.

      #1 – He uses substitutions to keep players fresh. This has worked in 95% of games where teams wear down in the end. Kentucky maybe wasn’t worn down, but we got back into this game and were not gassed.

      #2 Roy Williams, As Dean Smith’s teams did, ALWAYS improve as the year goes on. That is not the case for many top programs [some, but not all]. Part of improvement is giving players enough opportunities in important games to develop confidence within themselves, and confidence from the coaching staff, to be able to enter into a situation when called upon and produce without hurting us. You can see that in this game, minutes were pared down for 7th and Brandon, because they were not quite ready. However, they got in, got some feedback, and will work toward being more ready when it really matters.

      #3 There is no such thing as honoring seniority. That is a myth. If 7th woods could produce like Malik Monk, he would be starting over Kenny and getting the lion’s share of minutes. You play based on your practice. Being a Senior has little to do with it. Nate plays because Roy is more comfortable out there than he is with 7th. And he is right.

      #4 What the hell is sandbagging? That is just plain stupid.

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