After Tuesday night’s complete and total destruction of Tennessee, a team that had previously beaten Kentucky, it appears that the Wildcats are back on the right track. Saturday's game will be a good test on the road against another team that gave them fits earlier in the season.
Georgia jumped on Kentucky earlier in the previous meeting at Rupp Arena and bolted to a 12-0 lead. Kentucky was saved by a late Malik Monk shot that sent the game into overtime, and the Wildcats pulled away in the extra period for a 90-81 win. While the Wildcats dodged a bullet, the Bulldogs have been giving the SEC teams fits for a while.
In a three-game stretch, Georgia played all three of the SEC teams atop the conference. They gave Kentucky all they wanted and then almost knocked off South Carolina, losing to the Gamecocks 77-75 on the road. They then lost to Florida 72-60. The Bulldogs also have a close loss on the Gators home court to the tune of 80-76. So, Georgia being a pesky team is not a new thing.
Granted, this is still a team that Kentucky should be able to beat, even on the road. The Bulldogs have an RPI of #52, which is still respectable, but still, places this team in NIT territory given all of the at-large bids that are handed out. Georgia is just 1-7 against top 50 teams, and that was a 76-75 win over Tennessee. The Bulldogs also have a loss to #141 Oakland.
Never the less, a road game against a SEC foe that battled the Wildcats at Rupp will give Kentucky fans reason for apprehension. Let's meet the Bulldogs.
#30 G - JJ FRAZIER (SR 5'10, 155) 16.6 PPG, 4.3 APG, 3.5 RPG
#3 G - JUWAN PARKER (JR 6'4, 205) 9.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.0 APG
#2 G - JORDAN HARRIS (FR 6'4, 185) 5.2 PPG, 1.8 APG, 1.6 PPG
#34 F - DEREK OGBEIDE (SO 6'8, 245) 7.0 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 0.7 APG
#1 F - YANTE MATEN (JR 6'8, 240) 19.4 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 1.6 APG
JJ Frazier is a tough and gritty floor leader, and he can score from all over the court. He is shooting a career-low 30.6% from three-point range but has been on fire, averaging 21 points over his last five games. Over that span, he has hit 11-23 treys. He is also pesky defensively and averages 2.0 steals a game. Juwan Parker rebounds well but is an inconsistent scorer. In his last five games, he has scored 16. 11, 4, 11, and 4 points. He is not an accurate shooter as he hits just 18.2% of his three-pointers and 38.7% overall.
Freshman Jordan Harris has been in and out of the starting lineup recently, but he is usually impactful whatever role he plays. He is a former four-star commitment that can play either guard position, but he has been slumping as of late. He is a good three-point shooter hitting 46.7%. He has just 2 points in his last three games and has played just 34 minutes.
Derek Ogbeide is a solid rebounder and has averaged over 10 boards over his last five games. He is also solid defensively with 1.3 blocks a game. He is an effective shooter inside (55.9%) but has limited range. Yante Maten is making a strong argument for the NBA Draft right now as he is one of the top big men in the SEC, if not the country. He hits 52.6% of his shots overall and has added a three-pointer to his arsenal, hitting 47.5% of his treys. Maten also averages 1.6 blocks a game.
#0 G - WILLIAM JACKSON (SO 6'4, 185) 3.5 PPG, 1.1 APG, 1.0 RPG
#32 F - MIKE EDWARDS (SO 6'9, 225) 4.1 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 0.3 APG
#5 F - PAPE DIATTA (JR 6'7, 220) 2.4 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 0.7 APG
#13 F - E'TORRION WILBRIDGE (SO 6'6, 220) 1.4 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 1.0 APG
If Jordan Harris does not start, you may want to look for Mark Fox to go with E'Torrion Wilbridge. The seldom used Wilbridge got his first start against Mississippi State and played well. He had six rebounds, 5 points, a block and four assists. It's hard to project his long term success as he has just taken 22 shots on the season. William Jackson has also several starts on the season, but the former four-star player has struggled to score in his nearly two seasons at Georgia. He hits 34.1% of his shots and has just 3 points in his last 32 minutes on the floor.
Mike Edwards has been playing better lately and adds some rebounding and muscle from the bench. He has just six blocks on the season, but half of those have come in a recent two-game span. He has limited range but hits 51.9% of his shots. Pape Diatta has seen his time dramatically cut recently and has three games recently where he has played just four minutes.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN?
Every time that Kentucky goes on the road, there seems to be a reason for apprehension in the Big Blue Nation, and John Calipari is just 3-2 in true road games versus Georgia. Granted, one of those was in the 2013 season when Kentucky was not a NCAA team. The other was 2011 before the Final Four team fully found itself.
Granted this is a tough team that will get up for Kentucky and will give them a good game. They are a good, but not suffocating defensive team, and their offense is nowhere in the same league as Kentucky's when they are clicking.
Aside from Maten, there is not a Bulldog player that I envision seeing Kentucky a lot of trouble although Frazier has played big against Kentucky in the past and should be ready for a big performance in his last shot against Kentucky at home.
It's a small sample size, but I like what I have seen of Kentucky when they face a team for the second time. They were a totally different team against Tennessee, and I think this team learned a lesson when they nearly went down to Georgia the first time, Fox and Mulder should be able to have their way against the Georgia backcourt and team speed will be a factor, I also am feeling better about the Kentucky four spot as well. Both Gabriel and Willis seem to be playing their best ball later in the season.
I think this could be another good test for Kentucky as the Bulldogs won't go away easily as they are a pesky, well-coached team. Kentucky has just too much talent and is playing with confidence, and that will carry over to an 85-71 road win.