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Kentucky vs. Abilene Christian Game Thread

The Cats begin their hunt for Minneapolis against the Wildcats from Texas.

Ashton Hagans Jamie Boggs - Sea of Blue

Well BBN, it’s time.

The Kentucky Wildcats begin their march to Minneapolis tonight as they make their NCAA Tournament debut.

The first opponent standing between the Cats, the No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region and the Twin Cities are the Abilene Christian Wildcats, the 15 seed in the Midwest Region. Game time for the Wildcat battle is 7:10 EST from Jacksonville at the VyStar Arena on CBS.

For UK, the Cats enter the matchup with a record of 27-6 and 15-3 in SEC play. The Cats were eliminated from the SEC Tournament by Tennessee in their last game, earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The Cats are led in scoring and rebounding by All-American forward PJ Washington at 14.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. However, PJ will miss tonight’s game due to a lingering foot injury.

Tyler Herro (14.2 ppg) and Keldon Johnson (13.4) aren’t far behind and will need to pick up the slack tonight with PJ out.

Freshman Ashton Hagans leads UK with 4.5 assists and 1.8 steals per contest.

The Wildcats of ACU out of the Southland Conference with an identical 27-6 mark. ACU is making their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament in only their second year of eligibility for the tournament.

ACU is led in scoring by their own star in forward Jaren Lewis’ 13.7 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Guard Jaylen Franklin averages 4.9 assists.

What To Watch For

UK without PJ - On Tuesday, it was revealed that Washington’s ankle was in a walking boot after suffering an apparent injury in the SEC Tournament. Then on Thursday, it was revealed that Washington is now in a hard cast and won’t face ACU. This is a huge turn of events prior to the opening game of the tournament, and his teammates will have to step up big time to account for his loss. Expect to see Keldon Johnson playing the 4 more against a smaller ACU lineup.

ACU From Deep - The Wildcats are not shy about putting the ball up from deep. The Cats shoot around 40% from distance and could give UK problems if they can’t get out and defend the line. Early in the season, the Cats struggled with this; hopefully that is in the past with the three teams in their early bracket (ACU, Wofford, and Seton Hall) having the ability to shoot the trifecta.

Survive and Advance - Every team remaining in the tournament are there because they can play and play well. Kentucky knows this. “Every team, it’s who is playing well. It’s just trying to survive each game,” coach John Calipari said. The UK coach is also stressing to his young team the need to not look too far ahead to potential matchups because most of them won’t happen anyways. Sage advice.

Cat Scratches (The UK Edition)

  • UK is 126-51 all-time in the tournament, ranking first in NCAA history in wins.
  • UK is 22-7 as a 2 seed in the tournament.
  • UK has been in the NCAA tournament 58 times, the most all-time also.
  • Since John Calipari took over in Lexington in 2009-10, the Cats own the most wins (28), Final Four trips (4), Elite Eights (6) and Sweet 16’s (7) in the NCAA tournament in that time span.

Pregame Reading