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Tennessee State at Kentucky: Open Game Thread

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This is the official A Sea of Blue open game thread for the Tennessee State Tigers vs. Kentucky Wildcats basketball game at Rupp Arena, Monday @ 7:00PM.

This is another one of those combination Open Game Threads and previews that I am sometimes forced to do when time constraints make a normal pre-game examination impossible. The Tennessee State Tigers are located in Nashville, Tennessee, which brings to mind one of my favorite songs relating to Music City:

Sat right beside me as the meter hit sixty
'splainin her travels and her family background
When she got through I could not help but thinkin'
Shes a long way from a west Nashville grand ballroom gown

-- Jimmy Buffet, West Nashville Grand Ballroom Gown

Particulars of this game are as follows:

The Tigers of Tennessee State won't be showing up in ballroom gowns for this game, which is probably a good thing -- gender ambiguity on the basketball court is never a comfortable feeling in the Bluegrass state. But so far, Tennessee State have more closely resembled debutantes than their namesake felines, dropping a game to an NAIA school and limping into Rupp Arena with a 3-6 record having dropped four of their last five games.

Let's look at a quick statistical run-down of the major players for the Tennessee State Tigers:

Gerald Robinson Jr. 6'0”/165# G So 9 9 34.6 18.7 38.7 4.9 4.2 2.2 0
Darius Cox 6'7”/200# F So 9 9 32.9 13.3 52.3 7.2 1.4 0.7 0.9
Stephen Evans 6'8”/235# F Sr 9 9 23.8 9.3 52.4 7.1 0.7 0.4 1.8
Jerrell Houston 6'8”220# F Sr 7 7 30.3 14.6 48.2 7.4 1.6 1.3 1
Jeremiah Crutcher 5'10”/180# G Jr 9 5 22.7 2.6 22.2 1.8 3.1 0.2 0
Emmanuel Gaiter 6'5”/225# G/F Sr 9 1 19.6 7.2 47.2 3.1 0.8 0.3 0
Parker Smith 6'3”/165# G Fr 9 5 16.4 7.1 32.7 1.4 1.2 0.9 0
Wil Peters 5'10”/180# G Fr 9 0 12.6 1.8 33.3 2.2 1.4 0 0.1
Lonnie Funderburke 6'7”/210# F Fr 9 0 7.4 1.1 44.4 0.7 0 0.1 0
Gershom Jordan 6'6”/309# C So 7 0 6.7 2.7 53.8 2.7 0 0 0.1
Derek Shoecraft 6'3”/180# G Fr 4 0 2.5 2 60 0.3 0.3 0 0

The yellow highlight represents likely starters.

Front Court

As you can see, the Tigers aren't exactly small in the front court. You might recognize Jerrell Houston, as he was a transfer from Mississippi State. He is a good low-post scorer and rebounds extremely well. Darius Cox is shooting a high percentage from the floor, and Stephen Evans is the team's best front-court defender.

Tennessee State will be very hard pressed to handle the combination of Patterson and Stevenson defensively. This is another opportunity for Kentucky's front line to excel in the rebounding area. However, Tennessee State's front line is big enough to keep Patterson and Stevenson from dominating them physically, and they do rebound very well.

Back Court

Tennessee State is very small in the back court compared to Kentucky, and they don't shoot the ball well from the perimeter at all. What they do is drive the ball into the lane and get fouled, and these guys are quick enough to disadvantage Kentucky's bigger guards off the dribble.

On the other side of the ball, though, the Tiger guards will have to stop players who have 4-6 inches on them, and that may be very difficult.


Yet again, UK finds itself in a game against a much inferior opponent. The Tigers are struggling mightily this year and figure to be in a very tough spot against a Kentucky team that has learned how to put games against weaker teams out of reach early. I expect the same tonight.

Five things UK needs to do to win:

  1. Put 'em away early. UK has mastered this lately. No need to give this team hope.
    Run the floor. Kentucky can get some opportunities against this team on the fast break.
    Continue to work inside-out. UK did this well in its last game, and this would be a great follow-on.
    Keep the pressure on TSU's guards. Tennesee State will turn the ball over.
    Rebound. On both ends.

Five things UK can do to lose:

  1. Play sill basketball. We have seen this a time or two, mostly in a bad half. If UK does it again, it could give TSU hope.
    Allow open looks from three. TSU shoots the three poorly, but when you give teams like them a chance to get hot from outside, it can go downhill in a hurry.
    Foul a lot. TSU shoots good free throws, and an erratic game would favor them.
    Allow offensive rebounds. The Tigers are a very good offensive rebounding team. UK needs to take care of the defensive glass.
    Throw the ball away. The Tigers are not known for turning over opponents, but the Wildcats are known for giving away lots of possessions.

Tennessee state is a weak team playing very poorly at the moment. They will have a "Nothing to lose" attitude coming in to Rupp Arena, and Kentucky needs to squelch any hope they may have in being the underdog early and convincingly.

Go 'Cats!