Posted February 05, 2014

Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky own the paint in easy win over Ole Miss

Kentucky, SEC
Willie Cauley-Stein continued his strong play with 18 points and 11 rebounds in Kentucky's win over Ole Miss. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Willie Cauley-Stein continued his strong play with 18 points and 11 rebounds in Kentucky’s win. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

On Monday in this space, Brian Hamilton wrote about Kentucky’s Figuring It Out ’14 Tour. The Wildcats might end up looking at the second half of Tuesday night’s 80-64 win over Ole Miss as the show that truly got the tour rocking.

Kentucky, quite simply, is not good from behind the arc. Heading into the game with Ole Miss, the Wildcats were 234th in the country in three-point shooting at 32.7 percent. Still, that doesn’t always stop them from falling in love with shots from distance. That was exactly what happened in the first half against the Rebels, when they attempted 10 three-pointers, making just two. As such, they took just a one-point lead into the locker room at halftime.

On their first possession of the second half, Aaron Harrison knocked down a mid-range jumper. After a Willie Cauley-Stein block, Andrew Harrison made a driving layup. Their next two possessions resulted in layups for James Young and Alex Poythress. Young missed a three on their next possession, but Poythress grabbed the rebound and laid it in. By time another Wildcat put up a shot from behind the arc, Aaron Harrison with just less than 13 minutes left in the game, Kentucky had grown the lead to eight. Their final three-point attempt of the game — and just their third of the second half — came when they were up by 19 with 34 seconds left. In between, they dominated inside, with 25 of their final 27 points coming in the paint.

Cauley-Stein had one of his best games of the season, scoring 18 points on 7-for-8 shooting and grabbing 11 rebounds. Alex Poythress was 5-for-9 from the floor for 10 points with seven boards. Julius Randle made just two of his six shot attempts, but went 8-for-10 from the floor, finishing with 12 points. Few teams in the country can handle Kentucky’s size, and when the Harrison brothers and James Young are slashing and setting up the big men instead of jacking up threes, the Wildcats boast one of the best offenses in the country. Despite their struggles with the three, the Wildcats rank fourth in adjusted offensive efficiency on KenPom, trailing only Duke, Creighton and Michigan.

There has been a rock-concert-like atmosphere surrounding John Calipari and his band of merry underclassmen all season. The Figuring It Out ’14 Tour may not yet be over, but it took a step in the right direction on Tuesday. The Wildcats can only hope that the coda doesn’t come until the first weekend in April.

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