Kentucky Basketball: Eastern Michigan at UK Game Preview

Kyle Wiljer has been hot from the arc. Can he shoot up EMU's zone tonight? - USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, Kentucky takes on Eastern Michigan in their final non-conference game of the regular season.

Tonight at 6:00, the Kentucky Wildcats take on the Eastern Michigan Eagles in Rupp Arena for their final game of the regular season against a non-conference foe. The Eagles are coming off a win against NAIA Sienna Heights, while we all know Kentucky is coming off a narrow loss to the Louisville Cardinals in Rupp Arena last Saturday.

Getting to know EMU:

Quick Facts
Name of school Eastern Michigan Unviersity
City/Zip Ypsilanti, MI 48197
Founded 1849
Enrollment 23,000
Nickname Eagles
School Colors Dark Green (349) & White
Stadium/Built Convocation Center (1998)
Capacity 8,824
Affiliation NCAA Division I-A
Conference Mid-American Conference
Last NCAA appearance 1997-98
Head Coach Rob Murphy
Years at EMU 2
Record at EMU 21-23
Career record 21-23
Overall record last yr. 14-18
Conf. Record last yr 9-7

Team comparison

Via Statsheet.com:

Rank and Records EMU UK
RPI #178 #51
Strength of Schedule #82 #35
Overall 7-5 8-4
Conference 0-0 0-0
Home 7-1 7-1
Away 0-4 0-2
Top 25 0-2 0-3
RPI Top 50 0-3 0-3

Personnel

EMU likely starters:

Number Player Status Pos Ht. Cl. GP GS MPG PPG FG% RPG APG SPG BPG
#1 DaShonte Riley S C 7'0" Jr. 12 10 22.7 3.9 43.5 6.3 0.6 1.1 2.9
#32 Jamell Harris S F 6'9" Sr. 12 3 20.3 4.1 42.9 4.1 0.3 0.7 1.4
#21 Jalen Ross S G 5'11" Fr. 12 10 22.2 4.6 31 1.8 3.2 0.8 0
#2 J.R. Sims S G 6'3" Fr. 12 1 14.1 3.1 30.8 1 0.2 0.8 0
#35 Daylen Harrison S G/F 6'6" R-Jr. 12 12 29.1 10.8 47.4 6.2 1.6 1.3 0.2

Reserves (MR=Major Reserve)

Number Player Status Pos Ht. Cl. GP GS MPG PPG FG% RPG APG SPG BPG
#45 Matt Balkema MR C 6"10" Sr. 11 2 13.5 1.8 47.1 2.6 0.2 0.4 0.1
#23 Glenn Bryant MR F 6'8" So. 12 11 26.1 10.3 40.3 4.3 0.2 1 1.2
#5 Derek Thompson MR G 6'3" Sr. 12 7 22.9 12.2 40.2 2.2 1.2 1 0.1
#0 Ray Lee MR G 6'3" Fr. 8 0 14.1 5.5 40.5 1.1 2.1 0.5 0
#3 Austin Harper R G 6'2" R-Fr. 12 2 7 1.5 33.3 1 1.2 0.2 0
#12 Antoine Chandler R G 5'10" So. 7 0 7.3 2.6 35 0.6 0.9 0.1 0
#33 Anthony Strickland R G 6'5" R-So. 8 0 6 1.8 50 1.2 0 0.5 0
#22 Josh Lyle R G 6'4" So. 6 0 6.3 0.8 18.2 0.7 0.5 0.2 0
#4 James Still No Longer With Team

The Eagles' leading scorers are Harrison, Bryant, and Thompson, all averaging around 10 ppg. Thompson comes off the bench, but he is #10 in shots%, and he takes the majority of them from 3-point range, where he shoots an impressive 39%. Thompson is dangerous from the arc and must be guarded at all times.

Glenn Bryant off the bench is more of an inside player, but he will take 3-pointers if left open. Unfortunately for the Eagles, he's only made 4 out of the 20 he's taken this year.

Riley, the seven foot center, is a very good shot blocker, currently ranked 5th in Division I in block%. His matchup with Nerlens Noel should be interesting in that aspect.

Jalen Ross is the point guard, has a fairly high assist rate at 30.3%, but he also turns the ball over at over 29%. Jarnell Harris is a starter, but he's more of a defensive specialist. J.R. Simms is also a starter, but like Harris, he makes little impact on the stat sheet offensively, and is a poor shooter from distance.

Four Factors Analysis

As far as the four factors are concerned, UK is better in virtually every statistical area, save offensive rebounding. Note that EMU also turns the ball over a lot, but they rebound the ball slightly better than Kentucky. I wouldn't put too much stock in that, though, because 36% OR's is not great,it's just barely good.

EMU rarely gets to the free throw line, which is a bit of a surprise

Game Analysis

Eastern Michigan is your typical mid-200 level mid-major squad, similar in many ways to teams like Lipscomb and Samford. They have a little bit of front-court size, but really struggle to shoot the ball from two or three point range. EMU, as you can see, is quite a young team, and they have been beaten convincingly when they played quality BCS conference teams like Michingan and Syracuse.

However, like most mid-major teams, EMU has been known to pull a surprise or two, as Purdue found out this year when they were upset by the Eagles. The real question I have is this: What is Purdue doing going on the road to Ypsilanti? We may never know, but that is the one surprising win for the Eagles this year.

EMU plays a deliberate style and zones a lot. They are not a good three-point shooting team, although they have defended the three rather well. In fact, EMU is a decent defensive team, they have just really struggled to score this year against anyone, even Purdue -- that final score was 47-44.

EMU will shoot a fair amount of threes, particularly Thompson. They don't shoot them well at all as a team, averaging under 30% on the year, but Thompson is the kind of player that can light you up if you don't guard him, so UK must pay attention.

EMU simply has nobody to match up with Kentucky's bigger guards. The problem will be whether or not Kentucky has finally learned zone offense. If not, this could be one of those closer-than-it-should-be ugly games that leave UK fans unsatisfied even in victory

EMU should be no real threat to Kentucky, especially in Rupp Arena. The low quality of this team is really just another hit to UK's RPI, and it wouldn't surprise me if that didn't come back to haunt the Wildcats come March. Look for a slow-down game that could revert into a gridning, ugly foul-fest. If UK brings their A-game and makes open shots, it could get a lot prettier fast if the Wildcats can force the Eagles to match up.

One thing Kentucky has to watch for in this one are the quick guards and active hands. EMU is a good team for steals, #62 in the nation in that statistic. But a Kentucky blowout is all but certain for this game.

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