Kentucky Wildcats (4-8) at Georgia Bulldogs (8-4)
- Game Time: 7:00 pm EST on Wednesday, January 20th.
- TV Channel: Tonight’s game can be seen on the SEC Network.
- Location: Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Georgia.
- Online Stream: Catch the game online with WatchESPN and fuboTV (free trial).
- Radio: Tom Leach and Mike Pratt will have the UK radio network call on 630 AM, 98.1 FM in Lexington and on the UK Sports Network.
- Replay: WatchESPN and the SEC Network (check local listings).
- Rosters: UK | UGA
- Last Game Box Scores: UK | UGA
- Stats to Know: UK | UGA
- Odds: Kentucky opened as a 2.5-point favorite, and it’s since grown to 4. ESPN’s matchup predictor gives Kentucky a 55.4% chance at winning. KenPom gives the Cats a 59% chance of winning.
- Prediction: TeamRankings has Kentucky winning 75-71, while numberFire has the Dawgs coming away with a 73-72 win. KenPom projects a 74-71 victory for Kentucky.
While we wait for the game, check out this all-access look at the women’s team taking down Vanderbilt.
After watching Kentucky frequently labor to score just 59 points, it’s becoming difficult to see this team figuring out their offense fast enough to string together enough wins to work their way into the field of 64.
So, despite John Calipari’s well-documented distain for conference tournaments this year, you can only assume his opinion will differ a bit considering it’s possibly the only chance his team has to avoid missing the Big Dance for just the second time since his arrival in Lexington back in 2009.
Unfortunately, last Saturday’s loss to Auburn mirrored much of what fans have seen all season: An embarrassing offensive output that resulted in a loss to a mediocre opponent.
In the Cats’ 66-59 loss to the Tigers, it was yet another example of points coming anything but easy.
Davion Mintz led UK in scoring with just 11 points on 5/12 shooting. John Calipari continues to search for some form of offense, but many are arguing that the tools are there yet the head coach just isn’t using them correctly.
Calipari continues to take heat for his management of the rotation and specifically his stubborn stance on playing time for former Kentucky Mr. Basketball, Dontaie Allen.
A few weeks ago, the Big Blue Nation was riding the wave of the hometown hero. After finally getting some legitimate playing time, Pendleton County native Allen burst on the scene and appeared to be an obvious solve for the Cats’ shooting woes.
Allen’s ability to step in the game and immediately create spacing for himself and teammates should have helped this team reconcile some of their offensive deficiencies, yet it hasn’t exactly went that direction since Allen was introduced to the lineup a few weeks ago.
Even after scoring eight first-half points, Allen found himself on the bench for a good portion of half No. 2 at Auburn, which ignited a fire under many fans who understandably can’t comprehend why a proven shooter isn’t on the floor.
After the game, Calipari commented on why Allen didn’t play more minutes, and his response did anything but subdue the outrage.
After the game Coach Cal spoke to the media via Zoom and provided this explanation for the puzzling decision to leave Allen riding the pine.
”At the end of the day, we were running stuff for Dontaie and he wouldn’t shoot the ball. That’s why I took him out one time...You’re in there to make shots. That’s one thing. Dontaie wasn’t the issue.” Calipari told reporters via Zoom.
He would go on to say that benching other players could “take their heart away.”
Those comments sure didn’t provide much confidence that there is a plan moving forward. But the Cats must move forward nonetheless.
The good news is Georgia is one of the worst teams in the conference. They just picked up their first SEC win on Saturday after defeating a mediocre Ole Miss team 78-74. UK desperately needs a win so seeing the Bulldogs next on the schedule should be a sigh of relief (maybe) for the Big Blue Nation.
The Dawgs are led in scoring by Sahvir Wheeler (14.5), K.D. Johnson (17.5) and Toumani Camara (14.0), who are averaging over 45 points per game together. Justin Kier (10.8) and Tye Fagan (10.4) round out Georgia’s double-digit scorers per contest.
Much like the Cats, Georgia is heavily dependent on a young backcourt. That’s really evident with Johnson, who has played just two games this season but already looks like he could be Georgia’s best player.
A four-star recruit out of Hargrave Military Academy (VA), the 6-0, 170-pound Johnson was expected to be a key contributor this season. However, a certification issue forced him to miss Georgia’s first 10 games before the NCAA ruled him eligible to play last week.
Johnson, who was just named SEC Freshman of the Week, racked up 21 points on 9/19 shooting Wednesday vs. Auburn, the third-highest effort ever by a Bulldog in their Georgia debut behind only Dominique Wilkins and Anthony Edwards. He added seven boards, four steals, two assists and two steals.
On Saturday, Johnson scored 14 points on 5/8 shooting in the Dawgs’ win at Ole Miss. That included a pair of three-point daggers in the final minutes to give Georgia its first SEC win and some real momentum heading into this week’s clash with Kentucky. Johnson looks poised to be a major offensive threat that Kentucky must be prepared for.
Before Johnson’s mini breakout, Wheeler was leading the team in scoring, assists (7.6) and steals (3.1). He scored 19 in the loss to Auburn and 18 in the win over Ole Miss. After a horrific start to the season shooting from deep (he’s hitting 28.2% for the season), Wheeler is shooting 6/12 from deep) over his last four games.
Camara, a native of Belgium, leads the Dawgs in rebounding (7.3 per game) and total blocks (11 this season). He’s scored 11+ points in 10-straight games.
Scoring enough points to stay competitive has been an issue for Kentucky the entire year, so meeting a team who averages nearly 80 points per contest on their home floor is another concerning challenge.
But if Calipari and the Cats can’t figure out how to beat a bottom tier SEC program like Georgia, then things really are in horrible shape.