Home » Four key statistics that explain what went wrong for UK men’s basketball in 2022-23 season

Four key statistics that explain what went wrong for UK men’s basketball in 2022-23 season

The 2022-23 Kentucky men’s basketball season has come and gone.

John Calipari’s 14th season as head coach of the Wildcats ended Sunday with an NCAA Tournament second-round loss to Kansas State in Greensboro, North Carolina.

There were plenty of reasons that led to a topsy-turvy UK season that fell short of lofty preseason expectations.

Over the course of 34 games, several key patterns and trends emerged for the Wildcats (22-12) that help tell the story of a season gone wrong.

Here are four key statistics that help explain what happened since November for the Cats.

Kentucky perfect with halftime leads, unable to stage comebacks

Sometimes, the most evident statistic is the one staring you right in the face.

Kentucky was a perfect 19-0 during the 2022-23 season when leading or tied at halftime. The Cats were 3-12 in games in which they trailed at halftime.

Whether it was an early blowout like the infamous January loss at Alabama or a back-and-forth affair like the season-ending defeat to Kansas State, Kentucky was unable this season to get off the canvas after entering halftime at a deficit.

Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe (34) was a consensus All-American for the second straight season at UK.
Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe (34) was a consensus All-American for the second straight season at UK. Silas Walker swalker@herald-leader.com

Oscar Tshiebwe puts up gaudy numbers as college senior

Oscar Tshiebwe’s senior season at Kentucky didn’t go to plan.

From a knee procedure that sidelined the senior forward at the beginning of the season, to being repeatedly exposed in ball-screen defense, Tshiebwe’s stock as a professional prospect went down during his continued pursuit of college basketball success at Kentucky.

But that doesn’t mean what was likely Tshiebwe’s final college season was a failure.

He became the ninth two-time consensus All-American in Kentucky history with per-game averages of 16.5 points and 13.7 rebounds.

Tshiebwe had 20 double-doubles this season, which gave him 48 career double-doubles in 66 games played at UK. That’s tied for the second-most double-doubles by a player in UK history with Cotton Nash. Dan Issel tops the list with 64 career double-doubles.

Tshiebwe will probably finish the 2022-23 season as the top rebounder in men’s Division I college basketball.

His Kentucky career lacked the kind of team success he craved, but Tshiebwe’s statistical production in Lexington will be difficult to match.

Antonio Reeves was Kentucky’s most consistent scorer for the final two months of the season until an uncharacteristically off shooting day against Kansas State on Sunday.
Antonio Reeves was Kentucky’s most consistent scorer for the final two months of the season until an uncharacteristically off shooting day against Kansas State on Sunday. Silas Walker swalker@herald-leader.com

Reeves emerges as consistent scoring presence

Senior transfer guard Antonio Reeves largely lived up to his billing as a scorer for the Wildcats.

The former Illinois State guard scored 20 or more points in 10 games this season for UK: Kentucky went 7-3 in those contests.

Reeves also showed up when it mattered most down the stretch of the season. He recorded a double-digit scoring total in 17 of the last 20 games of the season, and he was averaging 22 points per game over the six games prior to UK’s season-ending loss to Kansas State.

Of course, Reeves shot just 1-for-15 (6.7%) from the field and had only five total points in that NCAA Tournament second-round loss, but the Cats probably wouldn’t have been in that position without the offensive value Reeves added throughout the season.

Kentucky guard Sahvir Wheeler walks off the court after UK’s loss to Vanderbilt in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament on March 10. Wheeler missed the final 11 games of the season for Kentucky.
Kentucky guard Sahvir Wheeler walks off the court after UK’s loss to Vanderbilt in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament on March 10. Wheeler missed the final 11 games of the season for Kentucky. Silas Walker swalker@herald-leader.com

Wheeler misses final 11 games

A significant “what-if” concerning the 2022-23 Kentucky basketball season revolves around injuries.

The Cats battled availability and injuries all season, rarely having a full roster of players on game days.

The most high-profile of those injury absences belonged to senior guard Sahvir Wheeler, who missed the final 11 games.

Wheeler last played on Feb. 4, before a right ankle injury and an unrelated medical procedure combined to sideline him for the rest of the season.

During his final weekly radio show of the season Monday night, Calipari said Wheeler would have played if Kentucky made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

Wheeler had returned to practice for Kentucky and went through pregame warm-ups before UK’s games against Providence and Kansas State in Greensboro, but Wheeler didn’t play in either game.

Wheeler is currently not expected to be back at Kentucky next season, although Calipari also said during his radio show Monday night that he will meet with all UK players individually next week to discuss their future plans.

Cameron Drummond works as a sports reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader with a focus on Kentucky men’s basketball recruiting and the UK men’s basketball team, horse racing, soccer and other sports in Central Kentucky. Drummond is a first-generation American who was born and raised in Texas, before graduating from Indiana University. He is a fluent Spanish speaker who previously worked as a community news reporter in Austin, Texas.