Utah Utes (4-4) at Kentucky Wildcats (7-2)
- Game time: 5:00 pm EST on December 15, 2018
- Location: Rupp Arena
- TV Channel: ESPN2
- Announcers: Tom Hart and Jimmy Dykes will be on the call.
- Live Online Stream: You can watch it online using Watch ESPN, the Watch ESPN app and fuboTV.
- Radio: Tom Leach and Mike Pratt will have the UK radio network call on 630 AM and 98.1 FM in Lexington. Listen to an online radio stream with UK Athletics.
- Satellite Radio: Sirius 94 | XM 190 | Internet 961
- Replay: WatchESPN and SEC Network (check local listings)
- Rosters: Kentucky | Utah
- Last meeting: March 25, 2005 in the NCAA Austin Regional Semifinal, Kentucky won 62-52.
- All-Time record: Kentucky leads the series 9-2 and has won seven straight
- Utah record last year: 23-12
- Head coach: Larry Krystkowiak
- Returning players: 1 starter and 6 reserves
- Odds: Kentucky opened as a 135-point favorite. KenPom projected Kentucky to be a 14-point favorite.
- Predictions: ESPN’s matchup predictor gives Kentucky a 94.3% chance to win. KenPom gives the home team a 90-percent chance of winning and projects an 80-66 Wildcats victory.
- Live Stats
As Kentucky Wildcats fans know, the Utah Utes are who Kentucky played in the 1998 National Championship game. Coach Tubby Smith and the Cats came away with a 78-69 victory to win the school’s 7th National Championship.
Last season, the Utes had a solid year going 23-12 compared to 26-11 for Kentucky. The Utes were on the bubble of making the NCAA Tournament, but ultimately fell short of being in the field and landed themselves a No. 2 seed in the NIT Tournament. They made it all the way to the championship game before losing that game 82-66 to Penn State.
Coming into the year Utah has a lot of talent, but they will have to replace four senior starters from a year ago. They lost a lot of experience in their roster and will have to have the young guys step up in a big way.
Let’s take a look at the roster.
Sedrick Barefield is the lone returning starter from the end of the year and is also one of three seniors on the roster. He is the Utes catalyst on offense and plays over 30 minutes per game. So far this season, Barefield averages 14 points, 3.1 assists and 1.4 rebounds while shooting 37% from the field. Kentucky has not been very successful slowing down the other team’s best player this year. On Saturday, Barefield will be that guy.
Donnie Tillman is a returning sophomore and was on the floor a lot for the Utes a year ago. The 6-7 forward played in 28 games and averaged 20 minutes a game. Tillman is one of the younger guys that the Utes will need to step up, and he will be looking to have a big second year. Tillman is the Utes’ second leading scorer so far this season at 11.4 point per game, and he is also playing a ton of minutes at nearly 30 per game. Tillman is also Utah’s leading rebounder at over 8 per game.
Both Gach is a skilled freshman forward who averages 8.1 points per game. He had a season high 15 points against BYU where he hit 3 three-pointers. Gach and others will be relied upon to bang down low with Kentucky’s bigs.
Riley Battin is a 6-9 freshman forward can really shoot the ball. On the season he is averaging 8 points while making 40% of his shots from behind the arc. Battin has made 10 of his 45 three-point attempts in 8 games this year. The Utes have several taller players that can step out to make shots. Battin may be the best of them all.
Timmy Allen is another talented freshman that Utah will be relying on for production. Allen does a little bit of everything for the Utes. He is averaging nearly 8 points a game while getting just under 4 rebounds. His last game was the best of the season, when he scored 13 points and went 4-4 from the field. His confidence should be at an all-time high when he arrives in Lexington.
Parker Van Dyke is another senior on the roster and played in 35 games and started 12 of them a year ago. This season, he averages 20.4 minutes, 5 points, and 1 rebound while shooting 41% from the field. The Utes will need him to step up as a senior leader when the Utes some to Rupp Arena on Saturday.
Novak Topalovic is the third senior on the roster and he transferred in from Idaho State. The 7-foot center is going to be a solid player for the Utes and will be a good matchup for opposing bigs. The big guy leads his team in blocks with 7 on the year.
Jayce Johnson is a returning junior who played significant minutes last year for the Utes. This season, he has started 4 of the 8 games while averaging about 5 points and 5 rebounds. His experience will be a valuable asset on Saturday.
Charles Jones, Jr. is a JUCO transfer player from the College of Southern Idaho and will be a junior for Utah this year. He had a great career in JUCO and last season was named the NJCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Player of the Year. He put up 19.7 points a game last season, and during his team’s run to being the runner up in the NJCAA National Tournament he increased that amount to 24 points a game. So far this season, Jones Jr. has not seen that JUCO success translate to division I as he is only averaging about 1.8 points in his 10 minutes per game.
Coach Krystkowiak has also brought in some freshman talent, and they will be expected to step up in order to help this team throughout the season. However, Kentucky will be the favorite in the game and should be able to defend home court and take the victory over the Utes.