- Time: 7 pm ET on Friday, November 17th.
- Location: Central Bank Center at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky.
- TV: N/A
- Online Stream: This game is online stream only via ESPN+, SEC Network+, and the ESPN app.
- Radio: Tom Leach and Jack Givens have the UK radio network call on the UK Sports Radio Network.
- Replay: WatchESPN and the SEC Network (check local listings).
- Rosters: UK | STC
- Stats to Know: UK | STC
- KenPom: UK | STC
- Odds: DraftKings Sportsbook has Kentucky favored by 38 points with an over/under of 146. ESPN’s matchup predictor has the Wildcats as a near lock to win at 97.6%. Bart Torvik is slightly higher at 99%. KenPom has it at 99.8%.
- Predictions: Bart Torvik picks Kentucky to win big 89-59. Haslametrics is going with an 84-55 win for the Wildcats. KenPom went with an 88-57 win. EvanMiya projects an 86-54 victory, Kentucky!
Back home in @Rupp_Arena for this Wildcat Challenge matchup.— Kentucky Men’s Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) November 17, 2023
⏰ 7 p.m. ET
️ https://t.co/sIKpB89aHT pic.twitter.com/eNSI0BBqEs
How do you see tonight’s game playing out? Send us your score predictions in the comments section!
Following one of the most anticipated games of the season, the Kentucky Wildcats are back in action on Friday night against, statistically, their worst opponent of the season, the Stonehill Skyhawks, in game two of three of the Wildcat Challenge.
Stonehill, just in their second year of Division I competition, is ranked 349th (out of 362 teams) in KenPom. This season, they have just one win, coming against Army, but three losses, by an average of 43 points.
This is a get-right game, and if they play close to what they’re capable of, the game should be comfortably in hand before the end of the first half.
Let’s take a closer look.
Justin Edwards and DJ Wagner Come Back Game
While there was a lot to like in Kentucky’s performance against Kansas, the biggest disappointments were clearly Justin Edwards and DJ Wagner, the Wildcat’s two highest projected draft picks. Against the Jayhawks, the freshman duo combined for just 5 points on 1/18 shooting, including 0/6 from three.
As talented as they are, it’s hard to fathom they will have that poor of a performance again this season, especially in the same game. Their Kentucky teammates have been described as “dawgs” by players and coaches, but tentativeness did show against the top-ranked Jayhawks in Chicago.
That said, Wagner and Edwards need to respond against a much lesser opponent and display that aggression and toughness, and I fully expect them to.
When you look at their statistics, Stone Hill is ranked near the bottom of the country in nearly every statistical category. The one exception is three-pointers attempted per game, as the Skyhawks average 26.8 per game. That said, they only convert on 27.1% of those three-point attempts.
If there is one thing we have learned, visiting teams have consistently shot unreasonably well from deep inside Rupp Arena. Coming off a game where Wagner and Dillingham lacked discipline while defending the perimeter at times, it is an area of focus.
Given the talent disparity, Kentucky’s transition offense, and the fact Stonehill turns the ball over at a high rate, I do expect the Kentucky guards to gamble some and get plenty of easy scoring opportunities.
Play Loose, Have Fun
Let’s be honest for a moment: Kentucky Basketball has lacked excitement since the 2019-20 team. The Wildcats’ first-half performance in the Champions Classic may have been the most exciting since at least the 2022 win over Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse.
The players were playing loose, running and gunning in space, getting stops on defense. The staff was coaching loose, and Calipari was smiling. That went away once Kansas made their run. Kentucky’s young players could feel the tension, and that quickly faded away.
Reed Sheppard and Adou Thiero said as much after the game.
“Coming in, it was just, ‘have fun and enjoy playing,’” Sheppard said. “I think we were doing that in the first half, but then Kansas went on their run.”
Having a short-term memory of the Kansas loss and having fun is one of the biggest keys to this game. Given the player’s and staff's postgame comments, that should not be an issue.