This Kentucky Wildcats Basketball team is exciting, and if you’re anything like me, you can’t wait to watch them again. They will take the court again on Monday against the Saint Joseph’s Hawks. The programs have matched up just twice in their history, most notably in the 1997 Sweet 16, with Kentucky coming away with both wins.
The Hawks are one of the more storied mid-major basketball programs in the country. With 21 NCAA tournament appearances, Saint Joseph’s has four Elite Eight appearances and a Final Four (1961). That said, they have not made any postseason appearance since 2016.
This season, the Hawks return all but one player from last season’s rotation, including their top three scorers. Yet, that doesn't solve the defensive issues that have plagued them under head coach Billy Lange, who has yet to have a .500 season in five seasons.
This will be a step-up in competition over New Mexico State and Stonehill. Let’s take a closer look at the matchup.
Defend the 3
One of the biggest frustrations of a Kentucky basketball fan is when opposing teams come into Rupp Arena and turn into the prime Golden State Warriors. Saint Joseph’s has the ability to do just that.
Averaging 31.3 3-point attempts per game, the Hawks shoot 3s at the sixth-highest rate in the nation. Shooting 32 percent, they are somewhat efficient as well. The biggest threat is Erik Reynolds, who leads the team in scoring but also shoots 42% from deep.
The Hawks also move the ball very well, averaging more than 17 assists per game. With their ability to shoot and move the ball effectively, Kentucky’s backcourt must show discipline and stick to their assignments.
Despite a lack of size, Kentucky has won the rebounding battle in all three of their wins. Of course, that will be a key against Saint Joseph’s.
The Hawks do rank top 50 in the country in rebounding. However, looking at their roster, it's not the effort of just one player, as there are five players averaging more than four rebounds per game. On top of that, they do have two seven-footers.
For that reason, for Kentucky to win the rebounding battle, each player must focus on doing their part for the collective.
Keep Shooting 3s
John Calipari has completely transformed his offensive philosophy. After shooting just 18 3s per game, 315th in the country, the Wildcats are shooting more than 30 per game this season, good for 11th in the country.
While that number is certainly to be closer to 25 as the season progresses, the willingness to shoot 3s is there. With that, Saint Joseph’s is a team that gives up the 3s as well, so Kentucky will have looks.
If they can carry their shooting performance over from the Stonehill game, it could be another explosive scoring outing.
No. 17 Kentucky Wildcats (3-1) vs. Saint Joseph’s Hawks (3-1)
Time: 7 pm ET on Monday, November 20th
Location: Central Bank Center at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky.
TV: SEC Network
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).