After coasting to a 79-44 victory over an outmatched Abilene Christian squad Thursday night, the Kentucky Wildcats face a much tougher opponent Saturday afternoon in the seventh seeded Wofford Terriers with a date in the Sweet 16 on the line.
Game time is set for approximately 3 pm EST from Vy Arena in Jacksonville. The game will be aired on CBS and can be streamed on NCAA March Madness Live.
While you may not know a whole lot about the Southern Conference champions, rest assured the Cats (28-6) are not looking past them. The Terriers (30-4) are an excellent ball club and most capable of springing the upset.
Although capable of scoring all over the court, Wofford does most of its damage from deep. The Terriers shoot nearly 50% from the field and a blazing 41% from the three point line. In their 84-68 throttling of Seton Hall, senior guard Fletcher Magee set the NCAA record for three point baskets in a career with 509. The Terriers also extended their winning streak to 21.
For the Wildcats, the win over ACU allowed many UK players to get their collective feet wet in the NCAA Big Dance atmosphere without too much of a grind. Freshman guards Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson combined for 39 points against the Wildcats, and senior forward Reid Travis had a dominant game in the post with 18 points and nine rebounds.
UK used its superior size and athleticism against ACU, something that could be a factor as well against the Terriers. While they are skilled, the Terriers aren’t a big club. UK had a 44-17 rebound advantage over ACU. If UK can dominate the boards and the defensive end again, then the Cats should be in prime shape to advance.
What to Watch For
Bigs stepping up with PJ out - The Cats played Thursday night without their All-American forward and fortunately his presence wasn’t required as UK had its way. But as the games become tougher and the opponents improve, it goes without saying Washington significantly helps the Wildcat cause. UK coach John Calipari said Washington had a cast on his foot as a precaution, but the prevailing feeling is the Cats will be without Washington again Saturday afternoon. The good news is Reid Travis stepped up and went for 18 points and nine rebounds vs. ACU, while Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery combined for 11 points and 15 boards. UK needs a similar effort to beat the Terriers.
Defend the Three- The Cats did a pretty good job defending ACU from distance, but this Terrier squad (led by Magee) is another animal entirely. Several Terriers can step out and shoot, but none like Magee. The sharpshooter can get his shot off from anywhere at anytime. Wofford coach Mike Young runs some really good stuff to get his shooters open looks. The Cats ability to get out on shooters and force misses or at least contested shots will make the difference in whether the Cats advance or not.
Size Matters- While Wofford has a talented big man in forward Cameron Jackson, UK has a fleet of bigs in Washington (if healthy), Travis, EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards that should be able to have its way around the basket on both ends. If the Cats can force misses, clean up the glass, and allow guards Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley chances to push tempo and get easy looks for Herro and Johnson, then the Cats win chances multiply.
- A UK win puts the Cats in their 27th Sweet 16, second most all-time.
- It also would give UK the seventh Sweet 16 in John Calipari’s 10 seasons in Lexington.
- A win today would be the team’s 19th victory in 22 games.
- UK is 38-4 in the NCAA Tournament in the shot clock era when their opponent shoots worse than 40% from the field.
- Against ACU, UK last had the largest rebounding margin in an NCAA Tournament game since rebounds were included in box scores beginning in 1957 (+27).
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