Kentucky makes history with all-offense lineup: "If they're going to score every time down, it doesn't matter."

On3 imageby:Jack Pilgrim02/24/24

John Calipari was fairly blunt when revealing Kentucky‘s strategy going into Saturday’s matchup vs. No. 13 Alabama. No, the Cats weren’t going to get into a three-point contest with the Crimson Tide, who entered the day ranked second nationally in makes, fourth in attempts and 13th in efficiency from beyond the arc. They wanted to run them off the line entirely.

“Our plan of what we were trying to do, it wasn’t to contest threes. It was not,” Calipari said. “It was don’t give them any. We are going to give them some dunks and layups. I didn’t think they could beat us shooting twos. We said if we are going to give up something, it’s going to be that.”

The team that averaged 22.4 threes attempted and 11.7 makes per game took just 17 and made six. They took 60 total shots and converted on 56.7% of them, but they weren’t daggers from deep. On the other end, Kentucky hit 13 of its threes on 24 attempts. That was the difference.

The Cats gave up 95, sure, but 117 points is 117 points.

“We may have to outscore these guys,” Calipari said of the gameplan. “That may be how we try to win the game.”

If Kentucky was going to push its chips in on offense, Coach Cal wanted the lineup to reflect that. He woke up Friday with a hunch he needed to play Zvonimir Ivisic — “When I wake up and my gut says that’s what I should do, I’m doing it” — as the first big off the bench. And he was going to put him next to four other guards, one being Justin Edwards.

“We had a different lineup. I was going to play Justin at the four today, and that worked out really well because now you have four guards out there with a big,” he said. “That’s why I keep coming back to — we can do this all kind of different ways. We just have to have everybody ready when their opportunity comes up.”

The result? Well, it was the lineup that helped put up 28 points in six minutes, essentially the difference in the game getting out of reach. Kentucky took a 68-54 lead at the 16:04 mark of the second half and turned it into a 33-point bloodbath, 96-63 with 9:57 to go.

Nate Oats was in disbelief upon hearing that stat. He had been destroyed at his own game as the offensive juggernaut of the SEC.

“Those three guards are obviously uber-talented. They can shoot it, score it. When you add in Edwards — he goes 10-10 and Z goes 7-11 — you’ve got three really talented guards who can all pass, dribble and shoot,” Oats said. “That’s a really good offensive group. We didn’t guard and we didn’t make them pay on our end.”

If Coach Cal questioned whether or not he could lean on a group that was all gas and no brakes offensively, but flawed defensively, he probably found his answer.

And Oats doesn’t love that it came at the expense of his team.

“I’m guessing that maybe that group doesn’t play as much together because they’re a poor defensive group, but if they’re going to score every time down, it doesn’t matter. They’re hitting threes every possession, scoring every time down,” he said. “I don’t know what they did on the defensive end over that six minutes, but I’m guessing it was good enough to look into playing that lineup more. We probably helped Cal out a little bit tonight figuring some lineups out that work.

“I mean, shoot. 28 points in six minutes. I’m guessing the point efficiency in that six minutes is like 2.0 or something, which is absurd. I don’t know what kind of records they set tonight on offense, but I’m guessing they set a few.”

Well, it was the most combined points in a home victory since 1968. It was also the most points scored for Kentucky against an opponent ranked in the AP Poll. So, yeah, a few.

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