Heading into the NCAA Tournament, it appeared that only two things could derail Kentucky: Inexperience and inability to shoot from the perimeter. Both of those things happened Saturday in Syracuse, as West Virginia brought the John Wall experience to a close with a 73-66 win over Kentucky.
To say the Wildcats struggled to shoot the ball would be an understatement.
Kentucky shot 34 percent from the field in the game, including a historically bad 4-of-32 from long distance. The Wildcats shot just 16-of-29 from the free throw line.
John Wall and Eric Bledsoe shot a combined 5-of-14 from the charity stripe.
Few teams in recent memory have featured the athleticism of this year’s Kentucky squad. Wall, Bledsoe, DeMarcus Cousins, and Patrick Patterson are among the most athletic players at their respective positions in the entire country. That means run-outs galore and easy baskets at a moments notice.
Statistically, Kentucky isn’t a horrible shooting team. But you would never know that by watching the Wildcats shoot.
As good as Wall is, he has a horrendous looking shot that rarely yields good results. He utilizes an old-school set shot when he shoots 3’s, barely getting off the floor and leading to awful misses, reminiscent of LeBron during his early years in the NBA.
Bledsoe is a 38 percent 3-point shooter, but has tendency to miss long and miss badly, especially when he decides to elevate on his shot. Patrick Patterson, Darius Miller, and Darnell Dodson can’t shoot unless they are wide open and standing completely still.
Wall took over numerous games this season by driving the ball to the rim with reckless abandon. But when teams are able to cut off the driving lanes, he doesn’t have the mid-range game to consistently be effective. He might be more athletic and assertive than Derrick Rose circa Memphis, but he certainly isn’t as smooth.
Rose’s shot got better during his one year in college. Wall’s seems to have gotten worse.
Regardless of athletic ability, the 3-point line is the great equalizer in college hoops. That’s why Kentucky is going home and West Virginia’s dream is still alive.