21 points, all in the second half. Depending on whether Kentucky won or lost, you can look at Reed Sheppard’s stat line with either an optimistic point of view or a pessimistic one. Unfortunately, the glass is profoundly half-empty after that brutal loss to Gonzaga, but we can at least identify one area that needs straightening out by March.
Throughout this season, Reed Sheppard has been at his best when he’s been aggressive. His tenacity off the ball on defense is one of the reasons he is on pace to become Kentucky’s single-season steals record holder.
On offense, when he attacks the glass and makes plays, he is one of the best finishers on the team, and when he’s open from 3, he doesn’t miss. Everyone calls him a great teammate, but sometimes, like in the first half against the Zags, he is just a little too unselfish.
Patience is a virtue, except in basketball
With Kentucky down 10 at the half, Sheppard came out of the locker room with a gotta-score mentality. And it worked. He led the ‘Cats to a six-point lead almost single-handedly. His aggressiveness was so intense, that he asked to come out of the game around the 12:00 minute mark just to get a breather.
With the quality of depth the Wildcats have on the bench, there’s no reason everyone shouldn’t play like that for every minute they are on the court. In other words, everyone should channel their inner Adou Theiro and Jordan Burks.
There is a lot to be said about setting the table for teammates and making sure certain guys get going. Don’t be a ball hog and whatnot. But there are multiple times Sheppard unnecessarily defers to others rather than attacking openings when they are available, and it would be awesome to see those occurrences minimized.
To be fair, he only played 11 minutes in the first half and was part of a throw-everything-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks substitution pattern that did not lend itself to cohesiveness. However, during his time on the court, he only took two shots. Kentucky needs his scoring too much for this to be the case.
Even in the second half amidst his scoring spree, Sheppard passed up multiple good looks from 3, only to have Calipari scream at him for not shooting the ball. Reed might be one of the best pure shooters in Kentucky history, but too many times he also seems to be one of the most reluctant as well.
Sheppard’s magnificent playmaking in the second half should be lauded, but unfortunately, a passive first half outweighed it, ultimately to Kentucky’s demise.