The ship is back afloat as the Kentucky Wildcats picked up an impressive, resume-building, win against a very good Tennessee team in Knoxville. The next task at hand is a surprising Georgia Bulldogs team at Rupp Arena on Tuesday.
Coming into the season, the media picked Georgia to finish second to last in the SEC. Four games into conference play, and the Bulldogs are 3-1 with impressive victories over Auburn and Mississippi State.
Now led by former Florida head coach, Mike White, Georgia will come to Lexington trying to grit out another win. Let’s look at the keys to the game.
Repeat Defensive Performance
Entering Saturday’s contest, Kentucky’s biggest weakness on the season had been their defense. After holding Tennessee to their lowest points total of the season (56), they showed they can be a good defensive team.
After the game, John Calipari noted that the Wildcats forced Tennessee to win on inside shots inside, rather than on threes. This game plan would likely work against a Georgia team that shoots just 46.8% on twos, ranked 290th in the country.
To show that this Kentucky team truly has turned a corner, they will need a repeat performance on the defensive end.
Offense Continues to Show Improvement
While not a great offensive team, Georgia is a top-50 defensive team, giving up just 64 points per contest. However, in their four losses, the Bulldogs have given up at least 79 points.
With that said, a slow and gritty game will play into Georgia’s favor. Fortunately for Kentucky, they are coming off one of the most physical games they will have this season and ground it out.
However, Calipari would ideally like to score more than 63 points. While Kentucky has not consistently shown the ability to score a lot of points, CJ Fredrick and Antonio Reeves look to be finding their stride, which has opened up the floor and is a promising sign for an offense that is still improving.
After shooting 88 percent from the free-throw line against Tennessee, it would be great to see the Wildcats continue to shoot well from the charity stripe.
Win the Rebounding Battle
Georgia’s best trait is their rebounding, but have lost the rebounding battle in three of their four losses. On the season, the Bulldogs (39.1 rpg) rank fourth in the SEC in average rebounds just behind the Wildcats (39.3 rpg).
After absolutely destroying Tennessee on the boards (43-23), Kentucky showed that they can outrebound any team in the country. On Tuesday, Kentucky must show that same fight, and from the start to prevent Georgia from gaining any confidence.
Kentucky Basketball (11-6) vs. Georgia Bulldogs (13-4)
Time/Date: 9:00 pm ET on Tuesday, January 17th, 2023
Location: Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY
TV Channel: ESPN
Online Stream: WatchESPN, ESPN+, SEC Network+ or ESPN app
Radio: Tom Leach and Jack Givens have the UK radio network call on the UK Sports Radio Network.
Replay: SEC Network (check local listings).
Odds: DraftKings Sportsbook has Kentucky as 9.5-point favorites. This is a matchup where computer models differ greatly. ESPN’s matchup predictor gives the Wildcats an 85.3% chance to win. Bart Torvik is less confident in the Cats at just 68%, while KenPom is at 77%.
Predictions: Bart Torvik picks the Wildcats to win in a close one 69-65. KenPom is going with a 72-64 victory, Kentucky!