The Kentucky Wildcats are coming off their best win of the season as they traveled to London and beat the Michigan Wolverines 73-69. Coming off of a five day break, the Wildcats will return to Rupp Arena to play the Yale Bulldogs on Saturday.
Yale may be a world renowned academic institution, but they also have a talented basketball team. Over the past six seasons, the Bulldogs have appeared in the NCAA tournament three times - most recently last season - even upsetting Baylor and nearly Duke back in 2016.
This season, the Bulldogs are projected to finish top three in the Ivy League, as they are currently 8-2 and off to their best start since the 1945-46 season. Doing so, despite losing two all-conference selections from last season’s roster.
Saturday’s matchup will be just the second time that the two teams have faced, playing for the first time in 1961 as the Kentucky Wildcats - highlighted by Cotton Nash - beat the Bulldogs 79-58.
Let’s take a closer look at the matchup.
This season, Yale has made their mark on the defensive end, holding all but two of their opponents to 62 points or less. In terms of averages, they rank in the top-50 in opponent scoring average (57.8 ppg) and opponent shooting percentage (39%).
Similar to Bellarmine, the Bulldogs are also a well coached group - head coach James Jones is a three time Ivy League Coach of the Year - and they play disciplined on both ends of the floor.
Saturday’s game will be another test of how well Kentucky can execute and play within themselves. In the Wildcats’ game against Michigan, they showed improvement compared to their early struggles, assisted on 17 of their 27 made field goals, playing through the offense and making the right plays. They must do the same against Yale.
Win the battle on the boards
Despite some early season concerns, this year’s Kentucky team has responded and started rebounding much better as of late. Of course having Oscar Tshiebwe is a big help to that.
Currently, ranked 5th in the country in rebounds per game(42.5), Kentucky will play a Yale team that is a top five team in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage (81.9%). Meaning, the Bulldogs don’t give up offensive rebounding opportunities easily.
However, Yale has just only player listed over 6-foot-8, and that is freshman Danny Wolf, who averages the least amount of minutes on the team. Given the Wildcats size advantage, they should be able to get their opportunities, but they must fight for them, which is something they haven’t done at times this season.
Contain Matt Knowling
The Bulldog’s best player without a doubt is Matt Knowling. The junior is averaging a team-high 16.2 points and 4.7 rebounds, and ranks second in the country in field-goal percentage with over 100 attempts (64.6%).
As the Big Blue Nation knows, there have been many opposing players come into Rupp Arena and have a career game, and Knowling has the ability to be the next on that list. With his ability to play inside and out, Jacob Toppin and Chris Livingston will most likely be matched up against him, which are two of Kentucky’s better defenders.
With that said, the Bulldogs’ success is pretty reliant on Knowling, as he is responsible for 2 win shares (value of winning two games), which is amongst the highest in the country. If Kentucky can limit him, it should make for a much easier game.
Time/Date: 1:00 pm ET on Saturday, December 10th, 2022.
Location: Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY.
TV Channel: SEC Network
Announcers: Roy Philpott and Mark Wise will call the action.
Radio: Tom Leach and Jack Givens have the UK radio network call on the UK Sports Radio Network.
Replay: WatchESPN and SEC Network (check local listings).