4-Point Play: A one-and-done Rupp Arena floor

On3 imageby:Jack Pilgrim02/26/24

It’s about time for another mid-week test on the road. The Cats failed their test last time around by giving up a 15-point second-half lead in Baton Rouge following a statement win at Auburn. Now they’ve got a similar situation on the heels of a blowout win over Alabama, traveling to Starkville to take on Mississippi State.

How are we feeling one sleep away? Let’s talk through it tonight on 4-Point Play.

We won’t see the new floor again this season

As we focus on the two big matchups to close out the regular season, first at Mississippi State and then closing things out at Tennessee, how about those two middle home matchups vs. Arkansas and Vanderbilt? We’ve got plenty of time to talk about the Xs and Os, but we’ve got confirmation on what things will look like inside Rupp Arena.

Remember that brand-new floor that debuted against UNC Wilmington back in December? And went away after a single game when venue officials decided it needed to be replaced? With two games left, the Herald-Leader is reporting the new court will not be ready in time this season. Instead, the current playing surface — big stickers and all — will be used before finally going away for good next year.

Brian Sipe, the general manager of Central Bank Center, told the Herald-Leader there is not a specific date of arrival for the new court beyond the 2024-25 season. They did confirm the KHSAA Sweet 16 in March and The Basketball Tournament in July would be played on the old floor.

At least we’ll always have that UNCW game to forget.

NBA-level offensive explosion

It’s hard to wrap your head around what exactly unfolded inside Rupp Arena on Saturday, the how. Kentucky destroyed Nate Oats at his own game in a scoring clinic.

When previewing the Mississippi State matchup, UK assistant coach Chin Coleman was asked if he had ever seen anything like the 117-point explosion the Wildcats saw against the No. 1 scoring team in college basketball.

“No, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that personally in my career. Only in NBA games,” he said. “That’s kind of like what’s happening in NBA games, which is a ton of skill, a ton of shooting, a ton of analytic-style of games. We had an eruption and it was fun.”

Coleman was rather blunt in his assessment of the matchup and teams that try to get in track meets with this Kentucky team. Others may try, but they will fail. That’s exactly what happened to the Tide.

“As you can see in the Alabama game, not a lot of teams are going to beat us playing that way. I know a lot of people think Alabama is better at that game than we are, but they’re not. Nobody is better at that game than we are,” he said. “In order to have a chance to beat us, you’ve got to have a scout and make it a more deliberate game, make it a physical game, a half-court game. Make it a game where you can track down rebounds and give yourself an opportunity for more possessions.

“We emphasize that because we know how teams will try to beat us. If that’s the one way they’ll try to beat us, we have to make sure we’re on top of free-throw line block-outs, long shots and long rebounds — an emphasis last game against Alabama. When our guys are locked in, we’re a good basketball team. It’s about doing that consistently for 40 minutes a game, every game. Hopefully we’re starting to get to where we’re consistent at what we want to be.”

A shot at Bruce Pearl

Remember when Pearl whined about officiating after Kentucky kicked Auburn’s teeth in last weekend? He said he would be sending “a couple of plays” to the league that were “real physical,” despite his team shooting more free throws and being called for fewer fouls. It was embarrassing, to put it lightly.

Coleman indirectly addressed those comments in his own presser, saying the Cats are just playing other teams now the way they’ve been manhandled at times. Those are the “different set of rules” the SEC is calling nowadays. So that’s how they’ve decided to respond.

“We’ve stepped up our physicality in terms of collisions and car crashes. There are a lot more collisions and car crashes. There was one coach, I’m not going to say his name, after we played them and we beat them, he wanted to send in some film to the league. Me, myself, I was happy to hear that about our team,” Coleman said. “… There was just a different set of rules the game was being played by, we just weren’t up to the task at first. We realized, ‘Oh, this is how they want to play? This is how we’ll play.’

“It’s not fun if we start playing like that. We’re obviously talented and we have the opportunity to do some things offensively other teams don’t have. If we play by those rules as well, it makes us a different team.”

What’s next for Big Z?

Zvonimir Ivisic scored a career-high 18 points in the win on Saturday, his best performance as a Wildcat. Should that level of play be expected moving forward? As Coleman mentioned before, it all depends on his physicality and what he does on the defensive end of the floor.

He has to be ready for those fist fights. If not, he can’t play. But if he can, the world can see just how brilliant he is offensively.

“Z is a unicorn. He’s significant in what he does, he’s 7-2, skilled. He can pass, he can shoot, can dribble for a 7-2 kid. For him, like Coach has said, he’s a highly-skilled 7-footer,” Coleman said. “Unfortunately, this game is played — or the way teams are playing us — by the new rules. We’ve read the rulebook, now we know how to play the game. It’s a physical game. Z’s got to show some physicality, come up with some balls in a scrum. If he does that, he’ll be able to show all of the other stuff he can do on the offensive side.

“But it starts on the other end. We’re going to score no matter who we put on the floor. We’ve just got a team that’s filled with guys who can dribble, pass and shoot. We’re gonna score, we’ll always have an opportunity to score enough to win. We just can’t outscore everybody, all of the time. We’ve got to get some stops, get some rebounds.”

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2024-04-22