Eastern Michigan Eagles at Kentucky Wildcats: Game Preview

Kentucky handled EMU easily last year, but this year it could be different. - USA TODAY Sports

EMU comes to Rupp Arena toting an undefeated record, and having handled the Cleveland St. Vikings much easier than Kentucky did.

Afer a very close shave with the Cleveland St. Vikings, the Kentucky Wildcats welcome the Eastern Michigan Eagles into Rupp Arena tonight for the final home game before Kentucky heads off to neutral and semi-away courts to take on Providence and Baylor. After the trouble that UK had against the Vikings on Monday night, this game becomes rather more important due to the fact that the Eagles handled the Vikings with much greater ease than Kentucky, and are currently undefeated, if not highly thought of.

General

About Eastern Michigan

  • Conference: Mid American
  • Mascot: Eagles
  • Head Coach: Rob Murphy, (hired 2011)
  • NCAA Appearances: 4 (most recent 1998)
  • Founded: 1849
  • Enrollment: 12,774
  • Last season's record: 16-18 (7-9 in conference)
  • Source: Basketball State

History with Kentucky

This is the second meeting between the Eagles and Kentucky, the first of which occurred slightly less than a year ago in early January. Kentucky handled EMU with tremendous ease, 90-38. The big difference is that Kentucky played EMU last season after having 2 full months of competition under their belt. This season, it's a different story, and the experience edge by the Eagles makes a difference.

Season so far:

The Eagles this season are undefeated, including victories over three teams that Kentucky has defeated this season: Robert Morris 69-64, Cleveland St. 81-69, and UT-Arlington 74-69.

Eastern Michigan Roster

NO NAME Status POS. HT. WT. YR. HOMETOWN / HIGH SCHOOL PREVIOUS SCHOOL
0 Raven Lee S G 6-3 170 R-Fr. Detroit, Mich. / Romulus
1 Mike Talley S G 6-0 176 R-Jr. Detroit, Mich. / Melvindale ABT Duquesne
10 Da'Shonte Riley S** C 7-0 240 Sr. Detroit, Mich. / Detroit County Day Syracuse
14 Karrington Ward S F 6-7 186 Jr. Lockport, Ill. / Lockport Township Moraine Valley Community College
35 Daylen Harrison S** G/F 6-6 214 R-Sr. Akron, Ohio / St. Vincent-St. Mary Wyoming
25 Darell Combs MR G 6-2 175 So. Chicago, Ill. / Thornwood Blinn College
21 Jalen Ross MR* G 5-11 176 So. Greensboro, N.C. / Greensboro Day School
23 Glenn Bryant MR* F 6-8 210 R-Sr. Detroit, Mich. / Oak Hill Academy Arkansas
2 J.R. Sims R* G 6-3 175 R-Sr. Fort Wayne, Ind. / Snider
3 Mo Hughley R F 6-7 240 Gr. Queens Villiage, N.Y. / Martin Van Buren CSU Bakersfield
5 Jodan Price R G/F 6-7 172 So. Indianapolis, Ind. / Detroit Country Day DePaul
12 Olalekan Ajayi R F/C 6-11 245 So. Winston-Salem, N.C. / Quality Education Academy Collin College
13 Trent Perry R G 6-4 175 Fr. Irving, Texas / Independence
20 Ali Farhat R G 6-0 160 Fr. Dearborn, Mich. / Dearborn
22 Jordan Martin R G 6-3 195 Jr. Detroit, Mich. / Chandler Park Academy Oakland Community College
33 Anthony Strickland R* G 6-5 219 R-Sr. Ypsilanti, Mich. / Dearborn Heights Robichaud Adrian










Legend






S Starter






MR Major reserve






R Reserve






* Returning player






** Returning starter






Player notes

  • Junior forward Karrington Ward is the leading scorer and rebounder 1(8.2 ppg/6.2 rpg). He is an efficient scorer and an extremely dangerous 3-point shooter at 53%. This is a guy that can get it done from everywhere, and is among the most efficient shooters in the nation.

  • Freshman guard Ray Lee is a close second in scoring to Ward. He is shooting 40% from three, but his preferred method is to get to the rack and get fouled, which he does at a prodigious rate.

  • Senior forward Glenn Bryant comes off the bench to average 12.2 ppg and 4.2 rebounds. He is coming off an ankle injury against UT-Arlington, and this will be his first game back. Bryant is a very good rebounder and provides instant energy off the bench.

  • Junior guard Mike Talley may be small, but he gets it done in assists, having the 35th best assist rate in the nation at over 4 per game.

  • Da'Shonete Riley is the best shot blocker in America right now. That's all you need to know about him. He is a 7'0" senior defensive specialist who scores little, but has a dramatic impact on the game.

  • Like the Vikings, the EMU Eagles have a ton of 3-point shooting. Unlike the Vikings, the Eagles get to the rack a lot, exceeding even Kentucky in fouls drawn per field goal attempt.

Injuries

There are no injuries to report for either team.

Likely matchups

Starters

  • Mike Talley vs. Andrew Harrison: This is another size mismatch for Kentucky at point guard, but so far, these have gone against, rather in favor of Kentucky. Andrew Harrison has not been able to handle smaller, quicker guards well at all, and it got him in serious foul trouble in the last game. Harrison has the advantage in size and skill, but so far, those things have made no difference.

    Advantage: Draw

  • Raven Lee vs. Aaron Harrison: Lee brings many of the same skills to the floor that Bryn Forbes did for Cleveland St. This is a tough matchup for Andrew defensively, and he's going to have to play much better than he did against CSU. Still, I give him the edge.

    Advantage: Kentucky

  • Daylen Harrison vs. James Young: This is a good matchup size-wise, but Harrison is a bit one-dimensional and focused more on slashing and defense, and rarely shoots from the perimeter. Young is more athletic and a much more dangerous scorer.

    Advantage: Kentucky

  • Karrington Ward vs. Julius Randle: This is a very even matchup, as both these guys are scorers and both are very hard to stop. Ward has good size, and can really stretch the floor against Randle, forcing him to guard away from the basket. He is no match whatever for Randle inside. The nod goes to Randle, but watch this one.

    Advantage: Kentucky

  • Da'Shonte Riley vs. Willie Cauley-Stein: To me, this is the best matchup of the night. Riley is not as mobile or athletic as WCS, but he is an outstanding shot blocker and intimidator at the rim. He will make it very hard on Randle and Young with his weakside shot blocking, and will challenge WCS inside on the glass.

    Advantage: Draw

Bench

EMU has a deep bench, but it isn't particularly experienced or big. Glenn Bryant is a big guy who can do a lot, and he came from a school you might have heard of; Oak Hill academy. Jalen Ross and Darell Combs are smallish guards, but Combs can shoot and Ross can defend. On paper, though, Kentucky's bench should be superior in most respects.

Advantage: Kentucky

Game analysis

Eastern Michigan is undefeated for two reasons: They have played beatable teams and they have risen to the occasion in every one of their contests. This team is not the most efficient offensive team in the nation, but they defend you, and defend you well. They are going to zone and collapse on Kentucky perhaps even more so than the Cleveland St. Vikings did on Monday, and as before, it is likely to give the Wildcats trouble.

Until Kentucky becomes adept at giving the energy necessary to fight through this kind of tough, disciplined opponent, they are going to have trouble with it and could lose games. This game is no different from CSU, and keep in mind, this team beat CSU way more convincingly than Kentucky did.

After seeing Kentucky struggle against the Vikings, this EMU team has to be considered a threat. The high probability is that Kentucky will win the game, but I consider it likely that the Eagles will give Kentucky a substantial amount of difficulty unless CSU somehow woke them up to the extent they are able to recognize a good shot from bad, understand that they have to move the zone to score on it, exercise patience on offense and get in a good stance on defense. The Eagles are going to be as quick on the outside and even taller on the inside than the Cleveland St. team that just about handed the Wildcats a loss.

This is a game Kentucky should win, but as we have seen, UK is vulnerable to being out-worked at this point in the season. I'd like to think that the recent scare put the season in perspective for the young Wildcats, but my experience warns me to doubt that is so. Also, EMU will not be intimidated by Rupp Arena; they have been here and done that. They know what it's like to get run over by a Kentucky team, and they will be ready for it.

This is a game that Kentucky should easily win, but like the CSU game almost was, the Eagles can take it from them if Kentucky is not fully engaged.

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