Monmouth Hawks (0-7) at Kentucky Wildcats (7-1)
- Game time: 8:30 pm EST on Nov. 28
- Location: Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky
- TV Channel: SEC Network
- Announcers: Richard Cross and Barry Booker 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 134 | XM 190
- Online Stream: 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)
- Rosters: Kentucky | Monmouth
- Odds: Kentucky opened as a 24-point favorite. KenPom projected the Wildcats to be a 23.5-point favorite. They are 1-5 against the spread this season.
- Predictions: ESPN’s matchup predictor gives Kentucky a 95.7% chance to win. KenPom gives the Wildcats a 98% chance of winning and projects an 86-62 win for the home team. TeamRankings projects an 86-60 win for Kentucky.
- Live Stats
- Digital Gameday Guide
Double dose of basketball today. @KentuckyWBB today at noon at Memorial and then we look to make it six straight wins at 8:30 p.m. on the @SECNetwork. #MUvsUK #DreamBIG pic.twitter.com/ocbLOkuR8z— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) November 28, 2018
The Kentucky Wildcats are back at home Wednesday as they host the Monmouth Hawks in Rupp Arena.
Kentucky has now won five games in a row but have yet to put together a full 40-minute effort. It was discouraging to watch UK botch another chance to blow a team out in Friday’s match-up with Tennessee State, which ultimately ended up as a 15-point victory.
After the game, Coach Calipari mentioned that his team doesn’t currently possess the discipline to play well for an entire 40-minute game. Offensively, Kentucky seems to be finding their groove and are now averaging 84.5 points per game on the season through the first six games.
The obvious point of emphasis moving forward needs be improving defense, specifically on the perimeter. I was very surprised to see Tennessee State only attempt 16 three-point shots on Friday. Previous opponents had averaged more than 25 attempts when playing Kentucky and had been quite successful in doing so.
To the Cats credit they have at least identified that attacking the basket and winning the rebounding battle is their key to victory. Kentucky shot 41 free throws against Tennessee State, 18 of those coming from Keldon Johnson. That, among other things, is reason to be optimistic about this team through six games. Calipari seemed worn out when recapping the win against Tennessee State and tried to provide some perspective on exactly where his team is at right now.
“Look, folks, the reality of it is we’re a ways away. We’re not a very good team right now. We have no confidence defensively, which bleeds into your offense. Then have you no confidence offensively.” Calipari told the media on Friday evening.
Next up is a winless Monmouth team.
The Hawks are 0-7 on the season and should be an easy opponent for Kentucky to finish a game and finally lay the hammer down. Monmouth is located in New Jersey and is a member of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC). They are led by head coach King Rice, who is in his seventh season. King’s overall record at Monmouth is 117-112.
It has been a disastrous start to the season for the Hawks, who were the MAAC’s conference regular season champions last year. A trip to Rupp Arena is probably the last thing that Coach King wants to do right now.
Monmouth averages only 60 points per game; the fewest points Kentucky has scored all season is 71. If the law of averages holds true, then UK should win by 24 points or more.
There is no way that this team should be able to keep it close with the Cats during any segment of this game, period.
Kentucky has a bad habit of not starting and finishing games with any type of execution or intensity. I would like to see the guys come out fired up and have a good lead at the under 16 time-out to begin the game and then follow that up with a good effort to begin the second half. Part of the problem has been that UK is letting teams believe that they can hang around with them instead of punishing them early to diminish any confidence.
Scoring has been a huge issue for Monmouth who is only getting more than 10 points per game from one player on the roster. Deion Hammond is scoring 12.9 points per game and has taken considerably more shots than anyone else on the team. His season high of 21 points came in the opener against Lehigh. Hammond has also attempted almost double the three point attempts compared to his teammates. In seven games, the Hawks have taken 131 threes, 50 of them have come from Hammond. Hopefully there are no more Bubba Parham moments in Rupp Arena this season, and I do not think Hammond has that kind of stroke, so you can relax.
The good news for Kentucky is that, as a team, Monmouth is only making 25 % of their attempts from behind the arc. It would be concerning if UK can’t shut down the Hawks perimeter play on Wednesday night because their opponent has shown next to nothing offensively.
For home games, Monmouth is only averaging 4,274 fans in stands. I thought the crowd at Rupp Arena was great for UK’s last game and expect it to play a factor in this game as well. Aside from focusing on defensive principles, this should really be a game where schemes are irrelevant and Kentucky can use their athleticism to just completely dismantle the Hawks. You may remember Monmouth going viral for their wild antics on the bench but there hasn’t been much to celebrate this season.
The big key for Kentucky in this game is to keep owning the paint. The Wildcats have now out-rebounded their opponents in all but one game this season. Yep, you guessed it, the Duke game. But even in the blow out loss, the Cats were only out-rebounded by 1.
Since the Champions Classic, UK has won the rebounding battle by a margin of 210-106. With all of the struggles this team has had, that is an extremely promising stat moving forward. Especially when you start to look ahead to the NCAA tournament knowing that Kentucky should beat just about anyone on the glass every single night. PJ Washington leads the team with 8.5 rebounds a game, but it really has been a group effort because 5 total players are grabbing 4.5 or more boards each game. This group needs to play with more intensity and focus during stretches of the game but they are not soft. Being able to rotate Washington, Travis, Richards, and Montgomery is a luxury that every coach wishes they had at their disposal. If Nick Richards can find his groove it will be hard to find a better frontcourt in the nation.
Not only has Kentucky dominated the rebounding battle in the paint, they are also attacking the rim with ferocity. Keldon Johnson had a coming out party against Tennessee State when he went to the line 18 times. Johnson was having his way with anyone who tried to stay in front of him and made the Tigers pay at the line. UK did only make 27 of their 41 free throw attempts Friday night but on the season, the team is knocking down 74% from the line.
The Cats’ 24 free throw attempts per game is an incredible 15 more attempts than their opponents. Credit the players for identifying a strength and capitalizing on it with consistency.
Owning the paint is a key element of why this Kentucky team can make a special run in March. But it starts with continuing to get better and pummeling a winless Monmouth team on Wednesday night.