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Kentucky vs. Stonehill viewing info, what to watch for (no TV coverage), and predictions

Kentucky looks to bounce back from their first setback.

Justin Edwards Dylan Ballard - A Sea Of Blue

Kentucky Wildcats vs. Stonehill Skyhawks

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.

Perimeter Defense

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.