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Kentucky vs. North Florida viewing info, what to watch for, odds, and predictions

Everything you need for Kentucky Wildcats vs. North Florida Ospreys.

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Kentucky Wildcats Basketball vs. North Florida Ospreys

Following an embarrassing showing against Gonzaga, the Kentucky Wildcats will look to get back in the win column on Thanksgiving eve, playing the North Florida Ospreys.

This will be the second time the two teams have matched up, with the inaugural game being played last season with Kentucky winning 86-52. This season, the final score should look similar, with the Osprey’s being a sub-200 KenPom team for the second straight season.

Interestingly enough, the Ospreys and the Wildcats have three common opponents. Here is how the two teams have compared against those teams.

  • Duquesne: UK won by 25, UNF lost by 1
  • Gonzaga: UK lost by 16, UNF lost by 41
  • South Carolina State: UK won by 43, UNF won by 6

North Florida’s star player is Carter Hendricksen, who is originally a Kentucky native from Mount Sterling. Prior to the season, Hendricksen received his third preseason All-ASUN First Team selection, and he is living up to that, averaging 14,7 points and 8 rebounds per game.

With the basics out of the way, let’s take a closer look at Wednesday’s matchup.

Could this be a Damion Collins breakout game?

Coming into college as a freshman, Collins stood 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan but just 200 pounds. Returning with the same physically gifted length, Collins has added some extra weight and added to his skill set.

This paid off leading up to the season, with John Calipari saying that Collins was the best player in the team’s practices on his first call-in show of the season. However, Damion’s father Ben passed away just before the start of the regular season.

Calipari said it’s about helping Collins through the tragedy and getting him back to that level of confidence.

What better way to do that than to face a familiar foe?

Last season, Collins had one of the best performances of his college career against the Ospreys, recording his second-highest career totals in points (12) and rebounds (6).

Offensive Structure

Following the Gonzaga game, there was one fan that compared the Kentucky offense to a “chicken running around with its head cut off.” At times, it certainly looked like that.

Look at this example, where poor execution and improvisation leads to a forced a 15-foot turnaround by Oscar Tshiebwe.

This is clearly not the offense that John Calipari wants, but he is the man in charge and has the task of fixing it.

Thus far, the Kentucky offense has been a tale of two sides.

Against inferior opponents, Kentucky’s offense has looked extremely dynamic, averaging 92.7 points on 52.9 percent shooting from the field and 47.8 percent from three.

However, against their two ranked opponents, the Kentucky offense has looked vastly different, averaging 74.5 points per contest on 39.6 percent shooting from the field and 26 percent from three.

One of the biggest reasons for this has been the lack of production from Fredrick-Reeves-Livingston in these big-time games. It’s important to play to their strengths and get them comfortable within the offense.

Last season, Kentucky lost early season matchups to Duke and Notre Dame and was seen as a title favorite in late January before injuries. I would argue that Michigan State and Gonzaga are better-quality losses, so hope is not lost for the Wildcats.

Yet, lineup and offense issues need to be examined and fixed in the coming weeks before competition starts to ramp back up.

More Effort

Kentucky came out of the gate unprepared. Pair this with a 5/5 start from the field from Gonzaga — including two three-pointers — vs. a 1/7 start from the Wildcats, and the wind was taken out of their sails.

With that being said, that does not excuse a lack of effort. Which was made most evident by their 24-14 rebound disadvantage to Gonzaga in the first half.

Senior Jacob Toppin was the first to admit it. “We had no fight in the first half, and we put ourselves in a hole that we couldn’t get out of,” Toppin said in the postgame press conference.

While North Florida shouldn’t pose a threat to win, the Wildcats need to respond to Sunday’s performance with fight. This needs to be shown on the boards and on the defensive end.