Kentucky Wildcats (12-3) at Georgia Bulldogs (9-6)
- Location: Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Georgia
- Game Time: 7 pm EST
- TV Channel: ESPN
- Announcers: Karl Ravech, Jimmy Dykes and Laura Rutledge will be on the call.
- Live Online Stream: You can stream the game online or on a mobile device using WatchESPN, 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 or online at UKAthletics.com.
- Replay: Check local listings on the the SEC Network and WatchESPN.
- Rosters: UK | UGA
- Odds: Kentucky opened as a seven-point favorite, and it’s up to eight as of Tuesday afternoon. KenPom projected Kentucky to be a 5.5-point favorite. Kentucky has failed to cover the spread in three-straight games after covering the spread in five of their previous six games.
- Predictions: UK has a 74.4% chance to win, according to ESPN’s matchup predictor. KenPom gives Kentucky an 70% chance of winning and projects an 75-70 win for the Cats. numberFire projects a 78-74 win for the Cats. TeamRankings is going with a 78-70 win for Kentucky. Check out our own breakdown and prediction for tonight’s game.
- Digital Gameday Guide
A 2-1 start to SEC play hasn’t been the prettiest picture for head coach John Calipari and his Kentucky Wildcats.
After opening with a road loss at Alabama, the Wildcats have been able to string together consecutive wins. However, while a win is a win, both came via a rather unimpressive fashion.
Kentucky struggled early but was able to withstand a strong effort from the Vanderbilt Commodores, beating them 56-47.
As Calipari moved to 66-0 when holding his opponent under 55 points, it was encouraging to see second half improvements on the defensive side of the ball. Kentucky held Vanderbilt to just 17 second-half points.
On deck for the Wildcats is a road trip to Athens. The Georgia Bulldogs are 9-6 so far this season, but a certain coach on the Bulldogs’ bench will draw most of the attention on Tuesday.
Tom Crean, Georgia’s first-year head coach, was with the Indiana Hoosiers in 2011 when Christian Watford took down Kentucky at the buzzer. Crean was also responsible for eliminating Calipari’s 2016 team from the second round of the NCAA tournament.
In his first year with the program, Crean has a young but strong nucleus of players. However, their SEC slate has certainly brought an early challenge. In their first four conference games, Georgia will have played Tennessee, Auburn, Vanderbilt and Kentucky.
Their lone SEC win came against the Commodores on January 9th. Despite being away from Rupp Arena, Kentucky will still be favored. It would serve the Wildcats well to come out with increased energy than the previous few games.
Keys to the Game
A Quick start
Kentucky has been significantly disengaged to start their last two games, having to grind to get back into both contests.
On Tuesday, Texas A&M who got off to a hot start leading Kentucky 10-0 five minutes in. On Saturday night, Vanderbilt opened the game by taking it to Kentucky on both ends of the floor. After just five minutes of action, the Commodores were up 16-4. Fortunately, the Wildcats were able to rally back and win both contests. However, playing with such fire will present a higher rate of difficulty on the road.
Calipari is well aware of the slow starts and immediately addressed the situation during Saturday night’s postgame presser.
“We have got to figure out how we start games. It’s getting ridiculous. It’s five halves in a row where we just start the game and we’re getting smashed,” Calipari said.
Only getting 10 shots between PJ Washington and Reid Travis is ill-advised. Taking the ball inside should open things up for Kentucky’s perimeter game.
Despite how painful it was to watch Kentucky’s 56-47 win against Vandy, it was rather satisfying to see the Wildcats hold their own on defense.
Heading into Tuesday’s game, Georgia is shooting 32% from behind the arc this season and 46% from the floor. The Bulldogs do have a balanced scoring attack, led by sophomore Rayshaun Hammonds. Overall, five other players averaging eight or more PPG, which will require a team-effort on defense.
Establish Nick Richards
Further involving Nick Richards is more so for the “big picture” than Tuesday night’s outing. However, Calipari was once again adamant about the impact that Richards can have on the game. He was pleased with his effort in just 10 minutes of play against Vandy and mentioned the possibility of Richards receiving more minutes moving forward.
“The other guy again made a big difference in the game is Nick (Richards). Big difference in the game. Blocking shots. I mean, again, if he’s that guy and he keeps playing that way, we’re going to be alright. We need him to play a little more than he played, probably another five, seven, eight minutes but he played good again today,” Calipari said.
Richards is Kentucky’s only shot-blocking threat, which is something the Wildcats desperately need.
Players to Watch
Rayshaun Hammonds: 13.6 PPG, 6.6 RPG
At 6’8, 235 pounds, sophomore forward Rayshaun Hammonds is able to take advantage of certain matchups when he has the ball. He is a versatile player who plays inside and out. Hammonds has made just 14 three-pointers this season, with the bulk of his efforts coming from the painted area.
Nicolas Claxton: 12.6 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 3.3 BPG
Sophomore forward Nicolas Claxton has tallied 47 blocks this season. In comparison, Nick Richards leads Kentucky with just 19. Putting Claxton in foul trouble starts with getting Travis and Washington the rock inside.
Tyree Crump, 10.6 PPG, 32 made three-pointers
Junior guard Tyree Crump leads Georgia with 29 made threes. Finding him in transition will be a priority, as Crump is shooting nearly 40% from behind the arc this season. He has attempted and made the most three-pointers of any Bulldog, so he’s a strong candidate for the ‘random guy lights up Kentucky from deep’ player in this matchup.