UNC-Greensboro Spartans (7-1) at Kentucky Wildcats (6-1)
- Game time: 1:00 pm EST on December 1
- Location: Rupp Arena
- TV Channel: ESPN2
- Announcers: Tom Hart and Jimmy Dykes will be on the call.
- Satellite Radio: Sirius 81 | XM 81
- 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.
- 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)
- Rosters: Kentucky | UNCG
- Odds: Kentucky opened as a 10-point favorite. KenPom projected Kentucky to be an 11.5-point favorite, by far the smallest margin Kentucky has been favored by since the Duke game.
- Predictions: ESPN’s matchup predictor gives Kentucky a 81.8% chance to win. KenPom gives the Wildcats a 85% chance of winning and projects an 81-70 win for the home team. TeamRankings projects an 81-67 Wildcats victory. numberFire projects Kentucky to win by just a 76-71 margin.
- Live Stats
- Digital Gameday Guide
- @UNCGBasketball— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) December 1, 2018
- 1 p.m.
#⃣ - #DreamBIG, #UNCGvsUK pic.twitter.com/rsZrra4Jxg
The Kentucky Wildcats will get their first real test since Duke on Saturday when the UNC Greensboro Spartans come to Rupp Arena.
For it to be this early in the season, Kentucky has seen a wide disparity in the level of competition that they have faced. The Wildcats opened the season against Duke, whom most believe is the best team in the nation, have faced some decent mid-major schools, and most recently destroyed a winless Monmouth team.
I would have to assume that playing against a variety of talent levels will serve UK well over the course of a long season. This young team will at least have the experience of getting ready to play uniquely equipped schools while understanding that anyone can beat them if they come out flat.
That will especially be true Saturday against likely the best mid-major school Kentucky will face this season.
The Spartans are legit
UNC Greensboro is a member of the South Conference and are led by head coach, Wes Miller. In 2018 the Spartans did make the NCAA Tournament for only the third time in school history. Miller’s team wasn’t just there for fun either, as a #13 seed UNCG gave #4 Gonzaga a hell of scare before losing 68-64. In his 8th season, it is obvious that Coach Miller is building his program around applying pressure to opposing team.
Kentucky will have their hands full on Saturday when UNC-Greensboro comes to Rupp Arena. Unlike Monmouth, the Spartans are 7-1 on the season. Their only loss comes against another SEC opponent, LSU, in a game where UNC Greensboro gave the Tigers all they wanted.
Ultimately, LSU won the game 97-91, but it was made very clear that UNC-Greensboro is talented enough to beat just about anyone. If you want more proof, on Tuesday the Spartans beat a neighboring D-III school by 78 points - the final score was 111-33. UNCG only allowed a total of 12 points in the second half of that game.
I know what you’re probably thinking, that an opponent demolishing a Division III school is hardly something to cause concern. But Kentucky did struggle with a Division II opponent in an exhibition game this season and have shown very little ability to really beat a team into submission. I am not convinced Kentucky would beat any team by 78 points. Here is what Coach Miller said about the record setting win.
“I thought we did some nice things tonight, I thought our pressure really wore them down, particularly in the second half.” Miller Said. “I thought we came out in the second half and our pressure took a step forward and I thought it made it really difficult for them to get into their offense and really difficult for them to get quality shots.”
1️⃣3️⃣ consecutive wins on our home floor‼️ pic.twitter.com/DGFDMTa4So— UNCG Basketball (@UNCGBasketball) November 28, 2018
UNCG has three players averaging double figures in scoring. The Spartans are led by Francis Alonso who is getting 19 point per game, while Kyrin Galloway and Isaiah Miller both average 14 points per. This team has weapons that could expose Kentucky’s defense. Alonso is also really good at taking pictures, the one below is from UNCG’s media day.
UK needs a quick start
For most games this season, Kentucky has not come out with enough intensity or execution to begin games. Even against Monmouth, the game was tied 6-6 at the 15:30 mark before a barrage of Wildcat threes gave the home team a double-digit lead. Then another lull allowed the Hawks to cut into the lead by the under 8 timeout.
Winning the first segment of the game is extremely important for this team, especially when playing in Rupp Arena. UK has the athletes to immediately let opponents know that they cannot compete with them and snuff out any confidence before it even builds.
Winning the glass is the most obvious way to take advantage of UNC-Greensboro or any other team for that matter. Kentucky out rebounded Monmouth 21-13 in the first half of Wednesday’s game.
If Kentucky comes out sluggish on Saturday, the Spartans can do enough damage to keep themselves in the game for 40 minutes.
The best improvement Kentucky can make on defense may actually be to just shoot the ball better. The first half against Monmouth really proved how making some outside shots can open up everything else and increase energy. Remember, before Tyler Herro’s breakout segment ,the Cats weren’t really playing very well defensively early on.
But after three made threes. two from Herro and one from Green, Kentucky started picking it up on both ends. Scoring points cures a lot in the game of basketball. If Tyler Herro can play to his potential, this team becomes totally transformed into a dominant force. I was thrilled to see Herro gain even more confidence and look forward to seeing him play fearless moving forward.
Kentucky ended up hitting 10 of their 24 three-point attempts, good for a 41.7% clip. If they shoot like that Saturday, they should win going away. But if the Cats struggle like they have in most games this season, then the Spartans could make this a ballgame going into the final minutes.
The Wildcats hit just eight threes in their first two games and have hit six or fewer in five of their seven games. They’ve shown they can score plenty in the paint and at the free-throw line, but against good teams like UNCG, they’ll need to stay consistent from deep to keep a comfortable lead.