Kentucky Wildcats vs. Texas A&M Commerce
- Time/Date: 7 PM ET on Friday, November 10th, 2023
- Location: Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center in Lexington, Kentucky.
- TV Channel: There will be no live TV coverage since it’s online stream-only via SEC Network+ and WatchESPN.
- Online Stream: SEC Network +, WatchESPN, and the ESPN app.
- Announcers: Darren Headrick and Cameron Mills
- 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).
- Rosters: UK | TAMCOM
- Stats to Know: UK | TAMCOM
- Odds: DraftKings Sportsbook has it at Kentucky -29.5 points with an over/under of 143. ESPN’s matchup predictor has the Wildcats as a near guarantee to win, giving them a 96.8% chance to win. Bart Torvik has it at 97%, while DRatings is at 99.8%.
- Predictions: Bart Torvik picks the Wildcats to win 79-59. DRatings has the Cats winning 81-62. Haslametrics is going with an 81-57 victory, Kentucky!
After an impressive 40-point win in the season opener, the Kentucky Wildcats will retake the court this Friday against the Texas A&M Commerce Lions, the first of three games in the Wildcat Challenge presented by Kentucky Tourism.
While the Wildcats are coming off a blowout win, Texas A&M Commerce is coming off a blowout loss, losing by 32 points to No. 15 Texas A&M. The Lions were led by sophomore forward Jerome Brewer Jr. (13 points and five boards) and senior guard Kalen Williams (10 points and two steals).
Given that performance, along with the fact that Texas A&M Commerce was picked to finish seventh in the Southland Conference, Kentucky shouldn’t have too much of an issue on Friday night.
For what it’s worth, KenPom currently has Commerce ranked 300th nationally, while New Mexico State is 198th, so on paper, this looks like an easier game.
That said, this will be Kentucky’s last game before a matchup against the No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks in the Champions Classic in Chicago, making it key to continue playing well, execute, and build chemistry and confidence.
Before facing Kentucky, the Lions are in action Wednesday night vs. Texas Tech at 8 pm ET on ESPN+, so they’ll have two games under their belt when they face the Cats.
Let’s take a look at things to watch for in the matchup.
Continue to Play Through Tre Mitchell
Following Monday’s game, John Calipari mentioned a “tweak” in his postgame press conference and challenged the media to identify it. After watching the tape, I, as well as other media members, have concluded that the tweak was to get the ball into the hands of Tre Mitchell.
Finishing with nine points, nine rebounds, and five assists, Mitchell’s impact could be seen in many areas of the game, and the reason why is simple: His versatility. In the last two seasons, as good as he was, Oscar Tshiebwe had to remain in the paint to be effective. That is not the case for Mitchell.
Currently playing center, allowing Kentucky to play a five-out style, he doesn't stop moving whether he is screening, passing, or flashing. The improved spacing creates opportunities for himself and others. Simply put, good things happen.
One of the biggest criticisms of John Calipari in recent years is that of his “archaic offense”. Through the exhibition games and the season opener, that is MUCH improved. In Monday’s game, nearly 85% of Kentucky’s shots came from layups/dunks or three-pointers, leaving just 15% for mid-range shots.
Kentucky's shot breakdown tonight:— Tristan Pharis (@TristanUda) November 7, 2023
65 total shots
Layups/Dunks: 19/26 (40% of attempts)
Mid-Range: 4/10 (15.4% of attempts)
Three-Pointers: 9/29 (44.6% of attempts)
Even of those 10 mid-range attempts, only three came outside of the paint.
In 2023, that is winning shot selection. Like Calipari mentioned post-game, it’s about building habits, and that goes for himself, too, and not reverting on offense.
Playing 20 minutes, Adou Thiero had a solid debut with five points, seven rebounds, and a number of things that don’t show up on the stat sheet. His defense in the post was great and helped offset the losses of Aaron Bradshaw, Ugonna Onyenso, and Zvonimir Ivisic.
Thiero also helped the Cats get out in transition, as he would frequently grab rebounds and fire them up the court to push the pace.
However, his night was cut short after a hard fall midway through the second half. Shortly afterward, he took himself out of the game and went on to the locker room.
Not much has been said, but one could conclude he may have suffered a concussion. “Adou has a headache, so it’ll be a day-to-day thing with him,” John Calipari said after the game.
More should be known at the pregame press conference later this week, and hopefully, we will receive a positive update. With an already depleted frontcourt, losing Adou, who is playing as a big, would certainly hurt.
If Thiero were to miss this game, Jordan Burks figures to play heavy minutes and could even be the starting 4, though there’s also a possibility Justin Edwards starts there and Reed Sheppard is inserted as a third starting guard.