Kentucky’s ability to defend the three point shot
Through three games, opponents are shooting 28.3% (17/60) from beyond the arc, a big reason why their worst defensive game was against Kansas, where they posted a strong defensive efficiency of 87.5. Their ability to defend the three point shot and challenge many of these shots allows them to take away other aspects of the opponent’s offensive arsenal.
The athleticism of the Wildcat players and their closing speed gives them the ability to take away the pick and roll. The screener’s man can hedge on the ball screen and take away any penetration if the guard tries to turn into the lane. If the screener pops to the three point line after the screen, the help defender has the ability to close on the shooter and challenge the shot.
Kyle Wiltjer demonstrates this in the first play highlighted below. Watch as he hedges on the ball screen to not allow Tim Frazier to get open off the screen before recovering to challenge the outside shot by his man.
Since Kentucky’s big men can challenge these shots out of the pick and roll, they can take away the ball handler and rely on their ability to close quickly and challenge these outside shots. This will make it quite difficult for opponents to score using a ball screen.
This also allows Kentucky to clog the paint and close out quickly. The best example of this is Anthony Davis but Kentucky has several players who have the closing speed required to challenge 3 point shots. Kentucky will be content this season to not give up layups but allow their opponents to kick the ball out to the perimeter and close on shooters.
Here is Davis showing his closing speed on shooters to challenge a jump shot. In the first frame, you can see how Kentucky has cut off the paint, with help from both Davis and Wiltjer. Davis then takes two strides to the corner and leaps to challenge the shot. His presence has to be in the mind of the shooter, partly the reason for the missed shot.
Being able to contest three point shots also allows Kentucky to put a major amount of pressure on the ball as they believe in their ability to recover and close on shooters. While some of the 43 missed three point shots have been the fault of the offense, Kentucky has strongly challenged many of these shots and not allowed shooters to get a good look at the basket.
Kentucky’s capability to contest the three point shot will allow them to take risks elsewhere and close on the shooters. They can take away the ball screen and clog the paint, taking away easy shots, before contesting three point shots. This will make them a difficult defense to break this season.