The Kentucky Wildcats are back at home Tuesday night as a surging Georgia Bulldogs team comes to Rupp Arena.
The Cats are coming off an impressive 80-61 win over Florida this past Saturday. It was a game UK dominated from the start and led by as many as 24 points before cruising to the 19-point win. Kentucky extended its home-court winning streak to 33 games and is now 32-7 under Calipari in bounce-back games after losses.
UK has never lost more than two in a row in Calipari’s seven seasons, but they were in danger of that last week thanks to losses at Kansas and Tennessee. Despite all of the Cats' setbacks this season, they're just a game behind LSU for the outright SEC lead and are sitting in the 20s of the most recent top-25 polls with plenty of time to make a run and get a good seed in the NCAA Tournament.
As for the Bulldogs, they improved to 13-8 overall and 6-4 in SEC play with a pair of home victories last week. Georgia topped No. 25 South Carolina, 69-56, on Tuesday before besting Auburn, 65-55, on Saturday. That's put the Dawgs in position to make the Big Dance with a strong finish to this season. They're currently on the Last 4 In line of Joe Lunardi's latest Bracketology.
Junior guard J.J. Frazier leads Georgia offensively with 16.3 ppg to go with 4.9 boards and 4.4 assists per contest. He has seven scoring efforts of 20+ points, including three in his past five games.
Three more Bulldogs are contributing points at a double-digit rate. Junior forward Yante Maten has been UGA's biggest surprise of the season and has given the Dawgs a viable presence in the paint. A year ago, Maten averaged 5.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 18.2 minutes per game. This season, Maten has more than tripled his scoring (15.6 ppg) and also has upped both his rebounding (7.9 rpg) and playing time (29.6 mpg).
Senior guards Kenny Gaines (14.0 ppg) and Charles Mann (10.7 ppg) round out Georgia’s double-digit scorers. They'll attack UK with a smaller three-guard lineup that doesn't have anyone over 6-8, but does have four guys listed over 6-2.
Defensively, Georgia currently leads the SEC and ranks No. 6 nationally in field-goal defense with opponents shooting just 37.5%. The Bulldogs have held 19 of 21 opponents – and all 11 non-conference foes – under their season FG percentage.
During the 2015 calendar portion of the schedule, Georgia’s opponents connected on just 36.6% of their shots from the field against the Bulldogs. Georgia also has held eight of its 10 SEC foes under their season FG percentage.
Here is everything you'll need to watch and follow the Cats take on the Dawgs.
When: Feb. 9, 2016
Location: Rupp Arena
Game Time: 9 p.m. ET
Announcers: Brad Nessler (PxP), Sean Farnham (Analyst) and Shannon Spake (Sideline)
Online Stream: Watch ESPN
Radio: UK Radio Network with Tom Leach and Mike Pratt (info and affiliates)
Odds: Kentucky opened as an 11-point favorite, per Vegas Insider.
Projected UGA Starters
#30 G - J.J. Frazier, 5-10, 155 lbs, Jr.
#12 G - Kenny Gaines, 6-3, 205 lbs, Sr.
#4 G - Charles Mann, 6-5, 215 lbs, Sr.
#25 F - Kenny Paul Geno, 6-6, 210 lbs. Jr.
#1 F - Yante Maten, 6-8, 240 lbs, So.
Projected UK Starters
#3 G - Tyler Ulis, 5-9, 160 lbs, So.
#13 G - Isaiah Briscoe, 6-3, 202 lbs, Fr.
#23 G - Jamal Murray, 6-4, 207 lbs, Fr.
#35 F - Derek Willis, 6-9, 220 lbs, Jr.
#22 F - Alex Poythress, 6-8, 230 lbs, Sr.
#00 F - Marcus Lee, 6-9, 224 lbs, Jr.
My Prediction: Kentucky has shown they're a different team in Rupp Arena, one that's been demolishing teams recently. Though Georgia is a sneaky-good club, they don't have the firepower to take down Kentucky if the Cats bring their A game.
At this point, UK pretty much needs their best effort every game going forward and cannot afford a bad loss at home with so many bad road losses already on their resume. The Bulldogs meanwhile are hungry for an NCAA Tournament berth, and while they put up a good fight, the Cats are able to pull off a win and remain unbeaten at home.
Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray have big nights while Derek Willis records a double-double, and UK grinds out a double-digit win.
Final Score: Kentucky 73, Georgia 63