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Kentucky vs. Florida Part 2: TV/Streaming Info, Keys to the Game, and Predictions

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Kentucky Wildcats guard Antonio Reeves (12) celebrates with guard Reed Sheppard (15) after making a three point shot against Arkansas.
© Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a two-game road trip, the Kentucky Wildcats will return to Rupp Arena for a two-game home stand, starting with the Florida Gators on Wednesday night. This will be the second and last regular season matchup between the two teams, with the Wildcats beating the Gators in a close one in Gainesville, in their SEC opener, 87-85.

The last two games for Kentucky have been interesting. They put up their worst performance of the season against South Carolina and followed it up with a first half where they scored just 24 points against Arkansas. That said, they arguably played their best defense of the year against the Razorbacks and showed a lot of maturity to get that win in a College Gameday environment.

As for the Gators, they have won three straight, the second-longest streak in the SEC. That said, they are a team that struggles on the road, with just a 1-3 record and an average margin of defeat of 15.3 points.

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Kentucky has beaten Florida in 10 of the last 11 matchups, including 4 of the last 5 in Lexington. While the Cats will be expected to win again, it won’t come easy. Let’s take a look at the matchup.

Rebound

Just like the first matchup, rebounding will be a major factor in this game. Florida is still the best rebounding team in the country, averaging more than 44.5 per game. In their last game against Georgia, they outrebounded them by 21. For comparison, Kentucky only outrebounded Georgia by one in their win over them earlier this month.

The Wildcats have been a middle-of-the-road rebounding team this season, ranked 7th in the SEC. That said, they certainly have the size to rebound well, but at times lack the desire and physicality, both areas they have shown improvement in of late. The big especially will have to get Micah Handlogten out of position, who grabbed six offensive rebounds in the first matchup.

Defensive Consistency

As bad as last week’s performances were for Kentucky on offense, the strides in defense could be seen, holding opponents to under 41 percent shooting in back-to-back games for the first time this season. Their defensive KenPom rating jumped 20+ spots, but can they keep it up against the 13th most efficient offense in the country?

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Kentucky will first have to stop Florida in transition, which is where they were successful in Gainesville and gained a lot of their momentum. If they are successful in that, then it’s about fighting through screens and staying between the ball and the basket when Florida gets in their half-court sets. That said, Walter Clayton and Will Richard are two of the best shooters in the SEC.

If Kentucky plays with the communication and urgency they have shown of late, it will show that they are trending in the right direction.

Lineups

In his weekly call-in show, John Calipari talked about why he played so many lineups last week. “Play everybody in the first half and figure out who needs to play in this game,” he said. While he acknowledges February is here and there is not much practice time left, he finally has a full roster and is looking for some combinations and lineups that work.

The one lineup that Calipari mentioned several times was: DJ Wagner-Reed Sheppard-Antonio Reeves-Tre Mitchell-Ugonna Onyenso. They were “REALLY good,” Calipari said, and even said that that may be Kentucky’s best defensive/finishing lineup right now.

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It is clear that Wagner-Sheppard-Reeves-Mitchell is the base of the lineup right now, with the fifth rotating depending on the matchup and it will be interesting to see who challenges and cements themself there.

Opposing Players to Watch

G Walter Clayton Jr, 6-2, 195 lbs

  • 15.9 PPG (8th in SEC)
  • 3.8 RPG
  • 2.8 APG
  • 44 3PM (T-7th in SEC)

G Zyon Pullin, 6-4, 206 lbs

  • 14.9 PPG (14th in SEC)
  • 4.8 APG (2nd in SEC)
  • 3.6 RPG
  • 38.1% 3P (T-12th SEC)

G Riley Kugel, 6-5, 207 lbs (In three career games vs Kentucky)

  • 15 PPG
  • 48.2% FG
  • 50% 3P
  • 1.7 SPG

Kentucky Wildcats Basketball vs. Florida Gators

  • Date: January 31st, 2024
  • Time: 8:00 pm ET
  • Location: Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center in Lexington, KY.
  • TV Channel: ESPN
  • Announcers: Dan Shulman and Jay Bilas
  • Online Stream: WatchESPN and the ESPN app.
  • Radio: Tom Leach and Jack Givens have the UK radio call on the UK Sports Radio Network.
  • Replay: WatchESPN and the SEC Network (check local listings).
  • Rosters: UK | FLA
  • Stats to Know: UK | FLA
  • KenPom: UK | FLA
  • Odds: ESPN’s matchup predictor is much more confident in Kentucky than it was when they traveled to Gainesville, giving them a 71.4% chance to win. Bart Torvik and EvanMiya are in the same ballpark, still favoring the Cats by 67% and 69%.
  • Predictions: All the projects expect Kentucky to win in a high-scoring contest. Bart Torvik and EvanMiya have the Cats by five points, 92-87 and 88-83, respectively. Haslametrics gives Kentucky a little more cushion, 91-84.

Also published on A Sea of Blue.

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Men's Basketball

Tre Mitchell’s Stepfather Gives Injury Update, “Ridiculously Painful”

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Kentucky Wildcats forward Tre Mitchell injury is still "ridiculously painful"
© Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Tre Mitchell missed his third-straight game on Saturday, suffering a shoulder injury during the Ole Miss game, while also still trying to recover from a lingering back issue that kept him out two games prior.

His stepfather, Tony Bergeron, was on WPBK-FM on Friday, before Kentucky’s game against Alabama, where he gave an update on Mitchell. “I thought he came back a little too early (against Ole Miss), got hit, and sprained that shoulder like it was a football injury. The problem now is that it is ridiculously painful,” Bergeron said.

On a positive note, this may help Mitchell reach 100 percent. “He needs to just wait until his back is 100 percent,” Bergeron said. It’s clear that Mitchell hadn’t been himself while playing through the back pain, shooting just 35 percent (8-23) over the three games prior to his first DNP.

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With compounded injuries, it is best to just rest and recover fully until making a return. Kentucky will need Mitchell at his best for a post-season run.

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Men's Basketball

Kentucky vs. Mississippi State, Round 2: TV/Streaming Info, Keys to the Game, and Predictions

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After a dominant win over Alabama, the Kentucky Wildcats will take on Mississippi State on the road.
© Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

What a win on Saturday for the Kentucky Wildcats, who put up one of the best offensive performances in college basketball this season on Saturday in a 117-95 win over Alabama. Now they will go back on the road to take on a Mississippi State team in a quad-one opportunity.

With Kentucky coming out on top in the first matchup, back in January, Mississippi State will look to even the season series and defend their home court on Tuesday. The Bulldogs are playing some of their best basketball of the season, riding a five-game winning streak, including a twenty-point road victory over LSU, whom Kentucky just lost to.

Let’s look at the matchup.

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Interior Defense

Tolu Smith is arguably the best big man in the SEC. In the first matchup between these two teams, he certainly made his presence felt despite the loss, scoring a season-high 26 points on better than 70 percent shooting.

This time around will be a good test to see how an improved Kentucky defense handles a physical interior player. While improving and reportedly back at practice, Tre Mitchell is unlikely to play on Tuesday, so it will be up to the seven-footers.

Ugonna Onyenso is Kentucky’s most physical big, but Zvonimir Ivisic who just scored a season-high 18 points, gives Kentucky a higher offensive ceiling.

Rebounding Battle

Similar to the stereotypical SEC team, Mississippi State is a physical team that does well on the boards, ranking toward the top of the country in total rebounds, offensive rebounds, and rebound margin. In the first matchup, Kentucky outrebounded the Bulldogs 30-29, that effort will need to be there again Tuesday.

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Josh Hubbard

Mississippi State’s equivalent to Rob Dillingham is Josh Hubbard. The sub-six-foot electric guard is a similar microwave-type player who just won his fifth SEC Freshman of the Week honor this season after scoring 32 points against LSU.

Scoring just three points on 1-11 shooting against Kentucky back in January, Hubbard is motivated to have a better performance. The priority in defending Hubbard is chasing him off the three-point line or pushing him back as more than 64 percent of his shots have been taken from deep. Similar to what Kentucky did to Alabama, make him finish at the rim.

Opposing Players to Watch

F Tolu Smith 6-11, 245 lbs

  • 16.8 PPG (9th in SEC)
  • 8.1 RPG (3rd in SEC)
  • 59.7% FG (1st in SEC)

G Josh Hubbard 5-10, 185 lbs

  • 15.3 PPG (10th in SEC)
  • 76 3PM (1st in SEC)
  • 7.9 3PA per game

G Dashawn Davis 6-1, 190 lbs

  • 6.2 PPG
  • 3.0 APG (17th in SEC)

Kentucky Basketball vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs

  • Time: 7 PM ET on February 27th
  • TV Channel: ESPN
  • Announcers: To be announced.
  • Location: Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, Mississippi.
  • Online Stream: WatchESPN and ESPN app
  • Radio: Tom Leach and Jack Givens have the UK radio call on the UK Sports Radio Network.
  • Replay: WatchESPN and the SEC Network (check local listings).
  • Rosters: UK | MISS ST
  • Stats to Know: UK | MISS ST
  • KenPom: UK | MISS ST
  • Team Sheets: UK | MISS ST
  • Odds: DraftKings has yet to release the odds for the game, but check back on Monday evening. Despite a convincing win over Alabama, the projections are not in Kentucky’s favor. ESPN’s matchup predictor gives the Cats just a 40.9% chance at victory, with Bart Torvik right in line at 41%. EvanMiya and KenPom give Kentucky a slightly higher chance at the win, at 46% and 45% respectively.
  • Predictions: The projections have the game coming down to the wire. Bart Torvik and KenPom have Mississippi State winning by two points, 80-78 and 79-77. Haslametrics and EvanMiya have the Cats winning by just one point, 77-76.

Also published on A Sea of Blue.

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Recap and Takeaways From Kentucky’s Dominating Win Over Alabama

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The Kentucky Wildcats dominated Alabama in a 117-95 win.
© Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Rupp Arena was rocking on Saturday when Kentucky faced no. 13 Alabama, and the Wildcats matched that same energy in a fun one. The Cats absolutely demolished the Crimson Tide by a score of 117-95, one of the best offensive performances ever.

Justin Edwards had his breakout game, finishing with 28 points on a perfect 10-10 shooting, and 4-4 from deep. Antonio Reeves added 24 points, Zvonimir Ivisic had 18, and Rob Dillingham poured in 16 to lead Kentucky in scoring to go along with an impressive 63% from the field and 54% from three-point range.

Let’s take a look at how the domination happened.

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Justin Edwards Has His Breakout Game

Saturday’s game against Alabama will be known as the Justin Edwards Game. After having a rough season so far going through many mental battles, Edwards finally had his breakout game, and BBN and his teammates were so happy for him. Finishing with a career-high and team-high 28 points, he added 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals.

Edwards went a perfect 10-10 from the field, and shot 4-4 from deep. That makes Edwards only one of three players in UK history with at least 10 field goal attempts with no miss.

Kentucky Shows Historic Offensive Performance

The offensive performance on Saturday was one for the ages. Kentucky’s 117 points were the most scored against an AP Top 25 opponent in UK history. Shooting 63% from the field, it was one of the more impressive performances, while also shooting 54% from three-point range.

Kentucky had 5 players in double figures. The assist-to-turnover ratio was top notch, with a 24:10 ratio. It was a performance that will be remembered for a long time

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Three-Point Defense Improves

Kentucky’s defense as a whole wasn’t the best, with allowing 95 points, but the Cats forced 16 turnovers and had 29 points off of them, while also having 7 blocks and 11 steals. The three-point defense was really impressive. Holding a team that attempts nearly 30 three-point attempts per game to just 17 attempts, it was certainly running Alabama off the three-point line. Alabama only made 6 threes on those 17 attempts, shooting 35%.

Making Alabama score in other ways besides three-pointers seemed to be an emphasis for Kentucky. They definitely succeeded at that on Saturday.

Kentucky had their best offensive performance of the season, and one that was against a top-15 opponent, and much needed in the final stretch of the season. Next, Kentucky will head to Mississippi State on Tuesday. Tip-off will be at 7 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN.

Check out the box score and highlight’s from Saturday’s win.

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Box Score

Highlights

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