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UT Arlington Mavericks at Kentucky Wildcats: Game Preview

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The UTA Mavericks travel to Rupp Arena tonight to take a shot at upsetting the nation's #1 team.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Just two days after their last contest, the Kentucky Wildcats jump back into the fray, this time against the  Texas-Arlington Mavericks of the Sun Belt conference. If you recall, the Mavericks were a visitor to Rupp Arena last season. This is a continuation of the exempt event now named the Cawood Ledford Classic. The event winds up on Sunday when the Wildcats welcome the Providence Friars to Rupp Arena.

Alex Poythress is likely to return tonight after missing the last two games due to an undisclosed illness. That should return Kentucky to the normal platoon rotation, at least early in the game. We’ll find out as the game progresses to what extent that lends stability to the substitution pattern, which has been more random than usual lately in terms of when the players appear.

General

About UT Arlington:

Location: Arlington, Texas
Conference: Sun Belt since 2014, previously WAC (2013) and Southland (prior to 2013)
Head Coach: Scott Cross (since 2007)
NCAA Appearances: 1
Most recent NCAA appearance: 2008
Most recent NCAA win: None
Founded: 1895
Enrollment: 32,249
Last season’s record: 15-17, (9-9 conf.)
Source: Basketball State

Season so far for UT Arlington:

Season record: 3-1, (0-0 conf)

So far this season, the Mavericks have lost only to Buffalo in a close contest, 74-68. They defeated Grand Canyon on the road, Bradley on the road, and Houston Baptist at home.

Series history

This will be the second year in a row that the Wildcats have faced the Mavericks. Last season it was at home in the exempt event that preceded this one, the Keightey Classic, named after long-time UK equipment manager Bill Keightley. Kentucky won that contest 105-76

Stats

UT Arlington Roster:

NO NAME STATUS HT/WT POS Year/EXP Hometown/High School/Last College
45 Bilbao, Jorge S* 6-8/225 Forward SO/1L Bilbao, Biscay, Spain//Loiola Indautxu
25 Hervey, Kevin S 6-7/210 Forward FR/HS Arlington, Texas/Bowie
4 Charles, Drew S*+ 6-2/193 Guard SO/1L Azle, Texas/Azle
10 Hill, Johnny S+ 6-3/180 Guard JR/TR Chicago, Illinois/Glenbard East/Illinois State
3 Outler, Jamel S** 6-2/183 Guard SR/2L Houston, Texas/Bellaire/Texas Tech
22 McClanahan, Lonnie MR** 6-1/175 Guard SR/1L Oak Ridge, Tennessee/Oak Ridge/Kilgore College
1 Neal, Erick MR 5-11/160 Guard FR/HS Dallas, Texas/Lincoln
5 Wilson, Kaelon MR 6-2/180 Guard FR/HS Lancaster, Texas/Lancaster
30 Austin, Courtney R* 6-0/185 Guard JR/1L Dallas, Texas/Kimball/Paris College
15 Eubanks, Kennedy R&- 6-6/185 Forward SR/TR Pendelton, S.C./Pendleton/Tennessee State
21 Gainey, Greg R*+ 6-5/212 Forward SR/1L Dayton, Ohio/Marshall/South Plains College
13 Gober, Colten R 5-11/170 Guard FR/HS Colleyville, Texas/Heritage
20 Harris, Julian R 6-5/220 Forward FR/HS Mansfield, Texas/Lake Ridge
33 Hawkins, Nathan R&- 6-7/208 Guard SO/TR Garland, Texas/Rowlett/Nebraska
44 Walker, Anthony R* 6-9/220 Forward SR/1L San Antonio, Texas/Johnson/South Plains College
11 Williams, Brandon R* 6-10/215 Forward SO/1L Houston, Texas/Episcopal








Legend




S Starter
MR Major reserve
R Reserve
* Returning player
** Returning starter
+ Eligible redshirt/transfer
- Ineligible redshirt
@ Walk-on – Note: I could not find a source for this information, but clearly 3 players are non-scholarship.
& Transfer

Source: UT Arlington Website

Team Comparison

Stat UK UTA
Record 4-0 3-1
RPI 23 162
Home 4-0 1-1
Away 0-0 2-0
Neutral 1-0 0-0
Top 25 1-0 0-0
Sched. Strength 257 291
AP Rank 1 NR
Coaches Rank 1 NR
Kenpom.com 1 208

Four Factors

UTA-Kentucky pregame four factors

UT Arlington Team Notes

  • UTA is a deadly 3-point shooting team, averaging 42.5% from the arc, and they shoot a lot of them at 37.3% 3PA/FGA;
  • This is a man-to-man UTA team. Kentucky should use a lot more dribble penetration;
  • The Mavericks are loose with the ball;
  • UTA gets to the line quite a bit. Kentucky has to watch the fouls;
  • The Mavericks are well below NCAA average defensively;
  • UT Arlington’s defensive rebounding is suspect;
  • UTA is a smallish team of the sort Kentucky has ruthlessly exploited with their size.

UT Arlington Player notes

  • The Mavericks have no bad 3-point shooters that take a significant number. Lonnie McClanahan is the most dangerous, but 7 of their players have taken over 10 3-point shots, and none of them is shooting below 33%. McClanahan is also the 3rd best player in the nation at drawing fouls.
  • Point guard Erick Neal is the 26th-best assist man in the nation;
  • Kevin Hervey is the leading rebounder, but UTA gets rebounding done by committee;
  • Jamel Outler is one of the top 50 most efficient offensive players in the nation with an offensive rating of 146.2;
  • Johnny Hill is the Mavericks’ best defensive player.

Injuries

  • Alex Poythress is expected to return for Kentucky tonight.
  • UTA’s Greg Gainey is suspended and will not be available for the game tonight.

Likely matchups

Starters

  • Drew Charles/Lonnie McClanahan vs. Andrew Harrison/Tyler ULis — McClanahan will be a tough matchup for both Andrew and Ulis. Andrew’s size on the perimeter should limit his looks at three, but McClanahan’s really good at getting into the lane and drawing fouls. Andrew’s propensity to foul could get him in trouble. Overall, though, the position favors Kentucky very slightly.

    Charles is less of a challenge, as he doesn’t score as much as McClanahan. Also, Erick Neal will sub in for Charles and McClanahan will move off the ball when those two are in.

Advantage: Kentucky

  • Jamel Outler vs. Aaron Harrison/Devin Booker — This is another tough matchup for both Aaron and Booker, for all the same reasons as McClanahan above. You can’t leave Outler open, or he’ll knock down the shot; he’s averaging 50% from outside. He doesn’t penetrate like McClanahan, though, so he should be easier to guard.

Advantage: Kentucky

  • Johnny Hill vs. Alex Poythress/Trey Lyles — UTA plays 3 guards, and Hill is more of a slasher. He will have a quickness advantage over Poythress and Lyles, but he gives away so much size that his quickness won’t help him against the tall trees inside UK’s interior. Lyles and Poythress do have to stay home on him, though and trust their help.

Advantage: Kentucky

  • Kevin Hervey vs. Willie Cauley-Stein/Marcus Lee — Hervey is smaller, but he’s big enough to give WCS and Lee some difficulty, and he rebounds very well for his size. he’s limited offensively, though, and is more of a perimeter player, which will make it easier for Kentucky, since Lee and WCS are the team’s best perimeter defenders.

Advantage: Kentucky

  • Jorge Bilbao vs. Karl-Anthony Towns/Dakari Johnson — Bilbao can shoot it, but his lack of length compared to Kentucky will be a big problem. He may be able to force Kentucky’s bigs away from the basket, but it’s hard to see how that helps UTA’s cause, since UK’s guards are so big.

Advantage: Kentucky

Bench

UTA has a decent bench, especially since their leading scorer comes off the bench (Lonnie McClanahan). Erick Neal is just a frosh, but he’s a solid assist man and decent ballhandler. Kaelon Wilso is a good shooter, and Brandon Williams has great size at 6‘10", but lacks mass at only 215 lbs. He’s still a solid rebounder and can get them some inside scoring.

Advantage: Kentucky

Analysis

UT Arlington is one of the better teams Kentucky will play in the Cawood Ledford Classic. They can really shoot the ball and Kentucky will have to do a good job on their perimeter players to avoid running into trouble. The Wildcats have shown the ability to do that, though, but they can’t take this team lightly like perhaps they could Montana State. UTA is a team that knows how to take advantage of what they do well, and what they do well is shoot the ball from outside and get to the line.

Pressure defense should really hurt the Mavericks, because they don’t handle the ball very well and will have trouble defending Kentucky on live ball turnovers. They are also too small to stay in a man-to-man defense, so they’ll be forced at some point to go to zone to try to force UK to beat them from the outside. Lord knows, Kentucky (particularly Aaron Harrison) needs practice shooting the ball from out there.

This should be another 20+point win for Kentucky, but as we learned against Boston U. and Buffalo, you can’t take it easy on teams like this, or they will rise up and hit you in the mouth.