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Men's Basketball

Kentucky vs. Texas A&M Commerce: TV/Streaming Info, Keys to the Game, and Predictions

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The Kentucky Wildcats will take on Texas A&M Commerce at Rupp Arena on November 10, 2023.
© Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

After an impressive 40-point win in the season opener, the Kentucky Wildcats will retake the court this Friday against Texas A&M Commerce, the first of three games in the Wildcat Challenge presented by Kentucky Tourism.

While the Wildcats are coming off a blowout win, Texas A&M Commerce is coming off a blowout loss, losing by 32 points to No. 15 Texas A&M. Given that performance along with the fact that Texas A&M Commerce was picked to finish 7th in the Southland Conference, Kentucky shouldn’t have too much of an issue on Friday night.

That said, this will be Kentucky’s last game before a matchup against No. 1 Kansas in the Champions Classic in Chicago. Making it key to continue to play well, execute, and build up confidence.

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Let’s take a look at things to watch for in the matchup.

Continue to Play Through Tre Mitchell

Following Monday’s game, John Calipari mentioned a “tweak” in his postgame press conference and challenged the media to identify it. After watching the tape I, as well as other media members, have come to the conclusion that the tweak was to get the ball into the hands of Tre Mitchell.

Finishing with 9 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists, Mitchell’s impact could be seen in many areas of the game, and the reason why is simple, his versatility. In the last two seasons, as good as he was, Oscar Tshiebwe had to remain in the paint to be effective. That is not the case for Mitchell.

Currently playing the five, allowing Kentucky to play a five-out style, he doesn’t stop moving whether he is screening, passing, or flashing. With the improved spacing, that creates opportunities for himself and others. Simply, good things happen.

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Shot Selection

One of the biggest criticisms of John Calipari in recent years is that of his “archaic offense”. Through the exhibition games and the season opener, that is MUCH improved. In Monday’s game, nearly 85 percent of Kentucky’s shots came from layups/dunks or three-pointers, leaving just 15 percent for mid-range shots.

Even of those ten mid-range attempts, only three came outside of the paint.

In 2023, that is winning shot selection. Like Calipari mentioned post-game, it’s about building habits, and that goes for himself too, and not reverting on offense.

Adou Thiero

Playing twenty minutes, Adou Thiero had a solid debut with 5 points, 7 rebounds, and a number of things that don’t show up on the stat sheet. However, his night was cut short after a hard fall midway through the second half. Shortly afterward, he took himself out of the game and went on to the locker room.

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Not much has been said, but one could conclude he may have suffered a concussion. “Adou has a headache, so it’ll be a day-to-day thing with him,” John Calipari said after the game.

More should be known at the pregame press conference later this week, and hopefully, we will receive a positive update. With an already depleted frontcourt, losing Adou, who is playing as a big, would certainly hurt.

No. 16 Kentucky Wildcats (1-0) vs. Texas A&M Commerce (0-1)

Time/Date: 7:00 PM EST on Friday, November 10th
Location: Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center in Lexington, Kentucky.
TV Channel: N/A, streaming only
Online Stream: SEC Network +, WatchESPN, and the ESPN app.
Announcers: TBA local announcers.
Radio: Tom Leach and Jack Givens have the UK radio network call on the UK Sports Radio Network.
Replay: WatchESPN and SEC Network (check local listings).
Rosters: UK | TAMCOM
Stats to Know: UK | TAMCOM

Odds: DraftKings Sportsbook has yet to release the odds for the game. ESPN’s matchup predictor has the Wildcats as a near guarantee to win, giving them a 96.8% chance to win. Bart Torvik gives Kentucky a similar chance at 97%.

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PredictionsBart Torvik picks the Wildcats to win easily, 79-59. DRatings has the Cats winning 81-62. Haslametrics is going with an 81-58 victory, Kentucky!

Also published on A Sea of Blue.

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Men's Basketball

Lamont Butler Believes In Mark Pope And Will “Do Whatever It Takes To Put A Number Nine Up In Those Rafters”

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Lamont Butler transferred to Kentucky to prove that his more than just a defender.
Photo by Eddie Justice | UK Athletics

Lamont Butler has proven himself as one of the premier defenders in college basketball over the last four seasons at San Diego State, having earned MWC All-Defense honors in three straight seasons and winning the 2024 MWC Defensive Player of the Year Award.

With that level of defensive impact, Butler had no shortage of interest when he put his name in the transfer portal this Spring. In less than 48 hours after officially entering the portal, he had his decision, choosing Kentucky and becoming just the second commit of the Mark Pope era.

Butler’s parents, Lamont Butler Sr. and Carmicha Butler, recently spoke to KSR about how the family decided on Kentucky and what kind of player and young man the Wildcats are getting.

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“I can start off simply by saying that it’s Kentucky,” Lamont Sr. said. “Most kids in America, if they ever got the opportunity to play for a program like that, any kid would jump at it. With Lamont being in the position in life that he put himself in, it was the perfect move for him.”

While the brand of Kentucky Basketball is a big selling point, and one that Pope is emphasizing more than Calipari did, it was not the only selling point. The other big part was how Butler was going to be used at Kentucky, and Pope and his staff hopped on a plane to Las Vegas where he was working out, to do just that.

“We were at the gym working out, when, all of a sudden, we see the men in black coming in,” Lamont Sr. said. “I’m like, wow. It was the whole kit and caboodle. They were serious about Lamont.”

Before meeting with Butler and his family, Pope was already very familiar with his game having competed against him for three seasons at San Diego State in the MWC, and that certainly showed.

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“He practically broke Lamont’s game down,” Carmicha said. “He told him how he played, who he is, how he wanted to use him, his plans for him at Kentucky, and what he wanted to do with him. For me, it was amazing for Pope, who he never played for, to know that much detail about my son, on and off the court. That was a major plus, a major benefit.” 

Pope’s plan for Butler though is to show off his full game. While he is known as a defender, there is much more to his game, with his father highlighting his unselfishness and leadership.

“Lamont is the type of player who’s unselfish to a fault,” Lamont Sr. said. “I was telling someone, that Lamont scored 1,000 points but would’ve passed those 1,000 points up to make the right play. There are too many selfish players in the world. Everybody wants me, me, me, me, me. Lamont is about us, us, us. I told him that’s what’s going to take him far in life.” 

Those two characteristics are a big reason why Pope wants Butler on the ball, rather than off the ball which was the case most of the time he was at San Diego State.

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“It doesn’t matter to Lamont, but Pope is going to have him on the ball. That’s what a lot of people don’t know,” Lamont Sr. said. “That’s what it’s going to be, to lead the team and make sure he’s playing faster than he’s ever played.”

The primary thing though, Kentucky fans are getting a player who is willing to do whatever it takes to put another banner in the rafters.

“They’re getting somebody who’s going to give it his all on the court, injured or not,” Lamont Sr. said. “He’s going to be out there and do whatever it takes to put a number nine up in those rafters. That’s what Lamont is coming to do.”

Also published on A Sea of Blue.

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Men's Basketball

Trent Noah Says He Looks up to His Friend Reed Sheppard, On and Off the Court

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Noah: UK Athletics, Sheppard: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

The level of high school basketball talent in Kentucky is the best it has been in several years. Last year, Kentucky fans got to witness the emergence of Reed Sheppard, and they are hopeful more of “Kentucky’s own” can help the Wildcats on the court under Mark Pope. Two such players are coming in next season, Mr. Kentucky Basketball Travis Perry of Lyon County, and Trent Noah of Harlan County.

The latter was recently interviewed by a fellow Kentucky native and former Wildcat, Cameron Mills, and the UK Sports Network. In that interview Noah not only talked about his excitement to join his home-state program and preparation for this coming season, but he also talked about looking up his friend and former teammate Reed Sheppard.

“He’s (Sheppard) such a great player. One of the best I have ever been around,” Noah told Mills. That just doesn’t stop off the court either. “He is a really good person. A really good friend. Someone I look up to.”

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Noah is just one year younger than Sheppard, but both are from the 13th region and the two formed a friendship when they were teammates for two seasons in the Adidas 3SSB Circuit with Midwest Basketball Club. What does Noah look up to Sheppard most for?

“He’s such a great leader. He’s always leading by actions. He just knows how to play. He has that natural gift. He’s always in the right spot at the right time. He obviously shoots the cover off the ball.”

Noah notes that to take some of those attributes and apply them to his game wouldn’t do anything but help them.

Toward the end of the interview, Mills asked Noah a theoretical question: “In an NBA-style three-point contest, who’s winning, you or Reed?”

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We know that Sheppard just shot the third-best three-point percentage in Kentucky basketball history, but he shot just over 30 percent in high school. Whereas Noah shot 43% (102-237) from 3-point range as a senior. With that, Noah is taking himself. “He can shoot it, but I don’t know if I can say he would beat me.”

It’s pretty cool to see the connection that Kentucky’s own have with the program and share with each other. Check out the full interview below!

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BB Recruiting

2025 Five Star, Potential Reclass Candidate Will Riley Begins Kentucky Visit

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2025 five star prospect and reclass candidate, Will Riley, takes his official visit to Kentucky June 4th-6th.
IMAGN/USA Today

Will Riley, one of the top rising seniors in the class of 2025, is set to begin a two-day official visit to Kentucky on Tuesday. This was first reported by Kentucky Insider last week.

The 6-foot-8 small forward out of Malvern, PA, is currently down to five schools: Kentucky, Arkansas, Arizona, Illinois, and Alabama, and is leaving the possibility of playing professionally in the NBL in Australia. Riley is coming off a visit to Illinois and will visit Alabama later this week.

Already considered a consensus Top 25 prospect in the country according to 247 Sports, ESPN, and Rival, Riley’s stock is only continuing to rise. His calling card is his scoring ability and he has put that on display this Spring.

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Through the first four sessions of the Nike EYBL circuit, he is averaging 21.9 points per game, on fairly efficient numbers, shooting 49.6 % from the field,  31.7 % from three-point range, and 79 % from free throws. Riley also adds 4.7 rebounds per game and 2.5 assists per game in just under 30 minutes.

A possible reclass candidate, Riley is considering making the jump from the 2025 class to the 2024 class. That decision is yet to be determined, adding an element of suspense to his potential future in college basketball.

With one current scholarship remaining for the upcoming roster, Kentucky is open to Riley reclassing and joining this year’s roster, underlining the significance of his potential addition to the team.

However, Jaxson Robinson’s commitment makes it less likely that Kentucky would be the choice if he does reclass. If he decides to remain in the 2025 class, Kentucky would remain toward the top of his list.

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Does Riley become the first top 25 recruit in the Mark Pope era?

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