The No. 23 Kentucky Wildcats (8-3) travel to the River City to take on the No. 3 ranked Louisville Cardinals (11-1) as the two hardwood Goliaths renew their intrastate rivalry in a 4:00 eastern time tip-off at the KFC Yum! Center.
Looking to end a three year, four-game losing skid to Big Bro, the Cards will be searching for serious, end-of-year payback as they challenge the 'Cats with pressure defense and a quickly improving offensive ball club. Propelled by perhaps the nation's top back court duo, two-guard Russ Smith (19.7 points per game) and point Peyton Siva (6.3 assists per game), Louisville has won five straight since losing on November 24 to then No. 5 Duke, 76-71.
As part of A Sea of Blue's game day coverage of the biggest rivalry in college basketball, I review pertinent team and individual trending 'Cat stats:
- Through UK's first five games of the season, the 'Cats made 30-of-65 three-point shots (46.2 percent), in its last six contests Kentucky has connected on only 32-of-109 from beyond the arc (29.4 percent).
- In UK's first six games, the squad attempted 13.2 three-point shots per contest, in the last five games Kentucky has tossed up an average of 19 shots from long-distance.
- In the Wildcats first five games, the team made 125-of-219 two-point shot attempts (57.1 percent), in the six games since, UK has been true on 132-of-264 two-point shots (50.0 percent).
- Since making only 21-of-71 shots versus Baylor (29.6 percent), the Wildcats have made 124-of-255 shot attempts (48.6 percent).
- Against Notre Dame and Baylor, two UK losses, the 'Cats dished out 24 assists and turned the ball over 28 times, in the last four games Kentucky has recorded 69 assists and 49 turnovers (1.4 assist/turnover ratio).
- In Kentucky's last two games, the Wildcats have grabbed 35 offensive rebounds out of 74 chances, an outstanding 47.3 rebounding percentage.
- On the season, UK averages 7.9 blocks per game, but in the last four games the 'Cats have swatted 10.3 shots per game.
- Since attempting a season-low 47 shots against Notre Dame, UK has put up an average of 65.2 shots in its last five contests.
- In Kentucky's last five games, the 'Cats are averaging 10.0 steals per contest, after averaging only 6.3 steals through the first five games.
- Since averaging only 52.5 points per game versus Notre Dame and Baylor, the last four games the Wildcats are averaging 83.0 points per contest.
- Kentucky has posted 14 or fewer turnovers in every game this season with the exception of the 16 miscues recorded against Baylor.
- Kentucky is holding opponents to only 10.7 assists per game.
- On the season, the 'Cats hold an 87 to 36 advantage in blocked shots, which equates to 4.6 more blocks per game than their opponents.
- UK is on pace -- in a 30 game season -- to block 237 shots (which would be good for fifth all-time in Wildcat history, or at least since blocks have been tracked beginning in the 1978-79 season). FYI, last season's national champs blocked a school record 344 shots.
In UK's 11 games played, the 'Cats have made 65-plus-percent of their free throws only three times, including the last contest versus Marshall when Kentucky connected on 21-of-27 tries from the charity stripe (77.8 percent).
Nerlens Noel: In UK's first seven games, Noel averaged 9.1 shots per game and took double-digit shots four times, in the last four games he has taken an average of 6.0 shots per game ... In those four games, Noel has made 15-of-24 attempts, good for 62.5 percent, after making an even 50 percent through his first seven contests ... UK's big man recorded his first collegiate double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds in UK's last game against Marshall ... Noel has recorded at least three steals in seven games and is averaging 2.7 steals per contest.
Archie Goodwin: UK's two-guard took a season-high 17 shots in UK's game against Marshall, making only four (23.5 percent) ... Goodwin made 7-of-12 from long-range through Kentucky's first eight games, but is 0-of-6 from distance in the last three contests ... In UK's season opener against Maryland, Goodwin connected on 9-of-11 free throws; in UK's game against Marshall, Goodwin made 10-of-11 from the charity stripe, good for a combined 86.4 percent (19-22). In UK's other nine games, Goodwin made only 38-of-61 from the stripe (62.3 percent) ... In UK's first four games, Goodwin handed out 13 assists and committed 14 turnovers; in the last seven games, he has dished out 33 assists and turned the ball over 22 times (1.5 assist/turnover ratio) ... UK's leading scorer has scored in double-digits in 10-of-11 games.
Ryan Harrow: In his first 37 minutes of action, covering three games ( Maryland, Notre Dame, Baylor), Harrow scored four points on 2-of-17 shooting (0-5 trey attempts), grabbed four rebounds, had four assists, two turnovers and two steals while attempting zero free throws ... In his last four games, in which he's averaged 27.5 minutes of floor time, UK's point guard averaged 11.3 points per game on 20-of-40 shooting (2-10 treys, 18-30 two point shots), dished out 16 assists and committed only three turnovers ... In his first four games, Harrow had but two steals (.5 per game); in his last three games he has recorded six thefts (2.0 per game).
Alex Poythress: Poythress took double-digit shots in five of UK's first seven games ... In the last four games he's not reached double-figure shots ... Through the first six games of the year, Poythress took two 3-points shots, connecting on one; in the last five games he's made 4-of-9 from beyond the arc (44.4 percent) ... In the last six games, he's snagged an average of 5.8 rebounds per game, after pulling down 7.4 boards per game in UK's first five contests ... Poythress averaged 18.4 points per game in UK's first five games; in the last six contests he's averaging 12.0 points per game.
Julius Mays: In UK's first eight games, Mays made 15-of-39 shots from distance (38.5 percent), in the last three games he's connected on only 1-of-13 from three-point land (7.7 percent) ... Mays has made 20-of-21 free throws on the season (95.2 percent) ... In his last four games, Mays has dished out 14 assists to only one turnover (on the year, Mays has 40 assists and 11 turnovers, a 3.6 assist/turnover ratio) ... Mays has zero turnovers in his last 93 minutes played, covering three games ... Through UK's first eight contests, Mays made 26-of-63 overall shots (41.3 percent), in the last three games he's netted only 7-of-29 from the field (24.1 percent) ... In his first six games, Mays grabbed 1.8 rebounds per contest, in the last five games he's snagged an average of 4.2 boards per game ... Mays recorded only four steals through UK's first nine games (.4 per game), but has three steals in the last two contests (1.5 per game).
Kyle Wiltjer: In Kentucky's first seven games, Wiltjer scored in double-figures twice (he averaged 10.3 points per game in those contests), but he's scored in double-digits in three of the last four games, averaging 13.3 points per game ... Versus Maryland, Lafayette, and Lipscomb, Wiltjer combined to find the bottom of the net 18-of-26 times from long-range (69.2 percent), in UK's other eight games he's connected on only 8-of-37 from distance (21.6 percent) ... An 84.6 percent free throw shooter on the year (11-13), Wiltjer has attempted only one free throw the last three games ... Wiltjer recorded 12 rebounds against Lipscomb, but no more than seven in any other game ... He has 14 offensive rebounds on the season (1.3 per game), seven in the last two games (3.5 per game) ... In his last 118 minutes played, covering five games, Wiltjer has committed only three turnovers.
Willie Cauley-Stein: In UK's first seven games, WCS had only two steals (.3 per game), but in the last four games he has nine thefts (2.3 per game) ... He has at least three blocks in three of the last four games, and in five games overall ... Cauley-Stein is averaging 2.0 blocks per game in an average of 20.1 minutes per contest ... UK's back-up big man has 35 rebounds in the last five games (7.0 per game), after recording 23 boards through the Wildcats' first six games (3.8 per game) ... After snaring 11 offensive boards through the first seven games (1.6 per game), WCS has 13 offensive rebounds the last four games (3.3 per game) ... He has five assists and two turnovers in his last 45 minutes of play (two games).
Thanks for reading and Go 'Cats, beat the Cards!
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