Tennessee State Tigers (2-3) at Kentucky Wildcats (4-1)
- Game time: 7:00 pm EST on Nov. 23 in Rupp Arena
- TV Channel: SEC Network
- Announcers: Courtney Lyle and Pat Bradley will be on the call.
- Radio: Tom Leach and Mike Pratt will have the UK radio network call on 630 AM and 98.1 FM in Lexington. You can listen to an online radio stream via UK Athletics.
- Satellite Radio: Sirius 98 | XM 190 | Internet 961
- Online Stream: You can watch it online using Watch ESPN, the Watch ESPN app and fuboTV. You can listen to an online radio stream via UK Athletics.
- Replay: WatchESPN and SEC Network (check local listings)
- Odds: Kentucky is a 28.5-point favorite. KenPom projected the Wildcats to be a 26.5-point favorite.
- Predictions: ESPN’s matchup predictor gives Kentucky a 95.8% chance to win. KenPom gives the Wildcats a 99% chance of winning and projects an 88-62 win for the home team. numberFire is going with a 79-62 Kentucky win. TeamRankings has the Wildcats winning 90-62.
- Rosters: Kentucky | Tennessee State
- Live Stats
- Digital Gameday Guide
Here’s a look back at Kentucky’s win over Winthrop on Wednesday:
Kentucky is getting on track
There wasn’t much of a before Thanksgiving lull for Kentucky, as the Cats put up what was probably their best performance of the season on Wednesday afternoon, beating Winthrop by a score of 87-74. The offense showed signs of really coming around and transitioning into something special, while the defense is still struggling to guard the perimeter. But overall, it was a solid performance with noticeable improvement on both sides of the ball.
Kentucky is now 4=four games removed from the Champions Classic embarrassment, and for the most part, this young team has responded well to the extreme adversity that was handed out courtesy of the Duke Blue Devils in the season opener.
The next challenge for UK will be Tennessee State, a matchup that will be Kentucky’s third game in only six days. The Cats have been genuinely challenged by some of these mid-major programs, and they will continually be tested all season long.
John Calipari is still clearly in the experimental phase with this team and is continuing to try different things, including moving Nick Richards into the starting lineup against Winthrop. It is very possible that you will see a different starting lineup on Friday night than you did for Wednesday’s game.
Aside from P.J Washington and Reid Travis, there has not been a player to show much consistency from game to game. This is a major reason why Kentucky has yet to really lay the hammer on a team and blow them out by a wide margin. I anticipate Friday night that UK will put it all together and destroy an inferior Tennessee State squad.
Will Kentucky guard Tennessee State?
The Tigers are 2-3 on the season, with their only two wins coming against Carver Bible College and Fisk University. I’m no expert, but those two teams likely will not possess the same caliber athletes that the Tigers will see in Rupp Arena on Friday night. But the good news for Tennessee State is that they are averaging over 11 made threes per game, including 19 makes in the win against Fisk University.
As fans know, the Cats have struggled tremendously to guard the three this season, the last two games in particular. Over the last 80 minutes of game play Kentucky has given up 32 three-point field goals. That kind of defense isn’t going to cut it once conference play rolls around, and especially in the post-season.
There were signs of life against Winthrop and you could tell that the UK players are putting forth effort to improve perimeter defense. But this team is a long way away from where it needs to be and guarding the three-point shot will continue to be a major point of emphasis for Calipari and the coaching staff. The Tigers, like VMI, have hit 19 threes in a game this season so there needs to be sustained improvement or it could make this game a lot closer than it should be.
For this season’s home games, the Tigers are averaging 1,027 fans. There is no doubt that the Rupp Arena crowd should help UK keep all of the momentum.
The team is led by Donte Fitzpatrick-Dorsey, who is averaging 15 points a game, followed Kamar MckNight who is getting 14 per game.
The Tennessee State Tigers are led by Head Coach Brian “PENNY” Collins. Yes, their head coach, according to their athletics website, goes by “Penny”. What an odd coincidence after the news of long time Kentucky recruit, James Wiseman, choosing to play for Memphis. Maybe I am reading way too much into this story line, but what are the chances?
Tennessee State has not had an impressive start to the season and this is a game where Kentucky should really destroy its opponent. I would consider anything other than a 25 point win to be a disappointment.
Friday’s game will be after the Thanksgiving holiday so it really is time for the Cats to put an entire 40 minutes together. After the Winthrop win, Calipari said, “This team is just not disciplined enough to play for 40 minutes.” That has to change sooner than later.
PJ Washington has been a monster
Washington became the first player since Bam Adebayo to record consecutive double-doubles after his great performances against VMI and Winthrop. That stat really surprised me, but also speaks to just how good Washington has been. In the last two games, he has scored 38 points and grabbed 29 rebounds while treating his opponents like children in the paint. This is the PJ Washington that most people expected to see as a sophomore.
When he is playing possessed like he is it turns Kentucky into a totally different team. There have been times during his college career where Washington will disappear from game to game, so showing consistent effort is great for Kentucky moving forward. Being able to rotate Washington, Richards, Montgomery, and Travis in the lineup presents a match-up nightmare of any other team.
Tennessee State has been out-rebounded by all three NCAA Division I opponents that they have played so far this season. On the flip side, Kentucky has absolutely owned the paint over the last four games with a rebounding margin of 173-78. Owning the glass should be easy for the Cats on Friday night.
Tyler Herro is finding his groove
During the Winthrop game it was excellent to see Herro locate his rhythm. For stretches of the game he was the best player on the court and was playing with contagious intensity. For the game he finished with 15 points, 7 assists, and 3 rebounds. Herro was also able to knock down 3 triples, which had to be comforting for the Big Blue Nation to see.
A hard fall on a drive to the basket sent Herro to the locker room in the first half. But he returned and did not seem to have any lingering effects from the tumble. Getting Herro on track could be exactly what this team needs to take a step forward. UK is a totally different team when they are making outside shots. Herro possesses the ability to stretch the floor and get his own shot. But it was his terrific passing that caught Coach Calipari’s eye in the win against Winthrop.
“That was surprising. I told him. I said for the worst passer I’ve ever coached in my history to have seven assists, that’s an amazing accomplishment. And he says he’s not that bad a passer. I say, well -- but he did good today. But again, making him catch and shoot, all we worked on. And believe me I was all over him. If he brought that ball down or if he dipped before he shot, I was -- no. Now he doesn’t make as many because he hadn’t ever practiced that way, he’s never ever worked that way.” Calipari Said.
It’s easy to forget that this was just Herro’s fifth college game. He and the other freshman are still learning what it takes to be successful consistently. Stick with this team.
Hopefully Kentucky can thump Tennessee State and continue on the journey of getting better each game.