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#10 UK Hoops hosts #21 Georgia: Preview and Gamethread

UK Hoops looks to bounce back from a heartbreaking one-point defeat against Tennessee. The Cats have not beaten a ranked team since defeating Louisville in early December. Can the Cats end that agonizing streak today at Memorial?

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Life in the SEC can be joyous, or brutal. This season has been far more difficult than planned, due to a serious onslaught of injuries ranging from unfortunate (Ivana Jakubcova's stress fracture) to painful (Bria Goss's broken thumb) to downright horrifying (Janee Thompson's dislocated ankle and broken fibula). The Cats have soldiered on, handling the injuries with as much grace as possible while playing in the toughest conference in the country.

Victories against ranked teams have been few and far between of late. As the Cats try and position themselves for a successful post-season, they will be fighting an uphill battle in their final regular season games. Five of their remaining eight games are against ranked opponents, to include #1 South Carolina, #6 Tennessee and #12 Texas A&M. Victories now mean more than ever, and Coach Mitchell and his squad are fully aware of the challenge before them.

Cue the first challenge: #21 Georgia! (And take a moment to thank the basketball gods we're playing them at home, because that Memorial Magic is desperately needed to kick-start this hard-sought run to Tampa.)

Georgia (17-4) has suffered only three losses in SEC play and all of them on the road: at Mississippi State, at Ole Miss and at Tennessee. They've had exactly one win over a ranked team, as they defeated TAMU in Athens on January 22nd. Like the Cats, Georgia is coming to Lexington fresh off a loss to Tennessee, so we'll have something to bond over in pre-game warmups.

Georgia players to watch include a set of junior guards in Shacobia Barbee and Tiaria Griffin, both of whom average a little over 11 points per game. Shacobia is a decent field shooter at +44%, while Tiaria makes her points from beyond the arc (+35%) and the charity stripe (76%). I'd recommend bracing yourself for a breakout performance by 6'2" freshman Mackenzie Engram, who's points per possession are on the rise and is shooting an very impressive 49% from the field, 38% from the three and 85% of her free throws.

Believe it or not, GEORGIA DOES NOT HAVE A HEIGHT ADVANTAGE! Wahoo! They are very deliberate shooters, not necessarily better than UK, but they make their possessions count. As such, our keys to victory are:

  1. Strong ball movement and minimal turnovers: We have 358 on the season. Georgia has 319. South Carolina has 280. 'Nuff said.
  2. Hit our free throws: Kentucky isn't the worst in the country at 65%, but we are 262nd out of 343 D1 squads. Woof.
  3. Own the boards: If height isn't an issue, there is no reason UK should give up a single second chance point.
  4. Defend, Defend, Defend: outblock, outsteal, outplay.

We need a big performance today from our seniors as well as our sophomores. I think they're up to the challenge. Makayla Epps has been on an absolute tear lately at the point, and as her confidence there continues to grow it could give us the X-factor we've been seeking all season.

As stated earlier, the Cats need this win. And they need your support to make this happen! You can catch all the fiesty UK Hoops action at 1 PM EST on the SEC Network.

Until gametime - GO BIG BLUE!!!