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Men's Basketball

Kentucky vs. UNC Wilmington: TV/Streaming Info, Keys to the Game, and Predictions

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Kentucky Wildcats guard Rob Dillingham (0) celebrates from the bench at Rupp Arena.
© Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

After making a national statement on Tuesday, beating No. 8 Miami by 22 points, the Kentucky Wildcats take the court again this Saturday against the UNC Wilmington Seahawks, where John Calipari played two years before transferring to Clarion.

When Calipari played there from 1978 to 1980, the Seahawks had just moved to Division 1. More than forty years later, they have arguably become the best team in their conference, the Coastal Athletic Association, winning the most regular season championships and winning the conference tournament six times since 2000. This season, they will make another run as they are projected to finish second in their conference.

Based on their KenPom rating, at 133rd, UNCW will be the fourth most difficult opponent Kentucky has faced this season. Kentucky should still control this game, but they will faced with a different look.

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Let’s take a look at the matchup.

Speed the Game Up

As John Calipari said in his postgame press conference after the Miami game, he doesn’t have to yell at this Kentucky team to “GO!”. Averaging 76.7 possessions per game, the Wildcats play at the 34th-fastest pace in the country. In comparison, UNC Wilmington averages 69.7 possessions per game, which is below average for 262nd in the country.

Through seven games, the Wildcats have been fortunate to mostly play teams that like to play a similar, up-and-down style. That said, UNCW will look to slow it down, which is easier to do than speeding a game up. This is why many projections have Kentucky scoring one of their lowest point totals of the season.

UNCW doesn’t turn the ball over, so Kentucky will need to take advantage when they do and create transition opportunities off of rebounds.

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Rebounding

Even after beating Miami 95-73, Calipari’s first comment in the postgame press conference was “got outrebounded again”. That has been the case in two straight games, including giving up 10+ offensive rebounds in three straight. UNCW is one of the worst rebounding teams Kentucky has played this season, averaging 33.3 per game, 270th nationally.

When Bradshaw returns, he will certainly aid significantly in that, but the team needs to do a better job as a whole. A game will come when the shots aren’t falling and having a rebounding advatange can be the difference in winning or losing a game.

Aaron Bradshaw

Speaking of Bradshaw, on Monday, he participated in his first full-contact practice at Kentucky, returning from an offseason foot injury that he had surgery on. Bradshaw followed that up on Tuesday by going through his first full pre-game warmup, looking as impressive as you can in a warm-up, as the seven-footer was hitting contested shots from all three levels.

The plan is for Bradshaw to make his Kentucky debut this Saturday against UNCW, likely in limited minutes. Bradshaw’s return will address Kentucky’s concerns of size, rebounding, and rim protection. With his perimeter skillset, Calipari reiterated on Tuesday that he will not change the way Kentucky will play.

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No. 12 Kentucky Wildcats (6-1) vs. UNC Wilmington (5-1)

  • Time: 4:00 pm ET on Saturday, December 2nd
  • Location: Central Bank Center at Rupp Arena
  • TV Channel: SEC Network
  • Announcers: Mark Neely and Daymeon Fishback will call the action.
  • 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 | UNCW
  • Stats to Know: UK | UNCW
  • KenPom: UK | UNCW
  • Odds: ESPN’s matchup predictor has a high level of confidence in the Cats at 86.1%, with Bart Torvik slightly more confident at 88%.
  • PredictionsBart Torvik projects Kentucky to score its lowest point total this season, but to win 80-67. EvanMiya and Haslametrics both project Kentucky to win by very similar margins, 83-67 and 82-66.

How do you see tonight’s game playing out?

Also published on A Sea of Blue.

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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Men's Basketball

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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