Yours truly is a thoroughly lousy prognosticator lately: I thought we'd struggle with TSU but ultimately emerge with the W. Well, we got the W all right but this game was never really in doubt. Up 25 at the half, the Cats put on a heck of a shooting show Friday as they delivered a 97-52 victory in front of their delighted fans. Six players in double figures, 18 collective steals, 7 blocks, 74% free throw shooting, the list goes on. We'd wondered what the Cats could do with a week of rest and now we know: they sharpen their claws.
With game one safely in the books, let's discuss what we should expect to see today against Dayton.
The Flyers have had a great season thus far, accumulating a 26-6 record and a trip to the A10 Championship Game. Their good win column includes victories over OVC Champions UT-Martin, Vanderbilt, and Iowa State. They were beaten 3 times by 19th ranked GW, who also beat them for the A-10 title, as well as 18th ranked Iowa. In his twelve years at Dayton, Jim Jabir has turned this club into a serious A10 contender and ensured the Flyers a dance spot for five consecutive years.
The Flyers are very good shooters, averaging just under 76 PPG. They hit 43.9% from the field, 37.6% from the three, and average 73.2% from the charity stripe. They have 3 players averaging double digits: Andrea Hoover (17.7 PPG), Ally Malott (15.4 PPG), and Amber Deane (10.2 PPG). They are used to an uptempo game, which suits the Cats just fine. The Flyers will have a slight height advantage with 6 players topping six feet, but hey - we've fought that all season.
As impressive at Dayton is - and they are a very good team - a 26-6 record in the A10 is NOT the same as a 24-9 record in the SEC. The Cats ended the regular season with the 8th highest RPI in the country - the Flyers have the 13th - and wins over SEC Champion and #1 seed South Carolina as well as #6 Baylor, #8 Louisville and #14 Mississippi State. We are one of the most battle tested teams in the country, and have overcome more injuries than most teams could dream (nightmare?) of.
And we're still dancing.
Our keys to victory:
- Smart and efficient shooting: We hit 49% of our shots against TSU. If we can keep this number at +42-35% today? I like our chances.
- Defense that gives opponents fits: Block out on rebounds. Get those blocks. Steal like crazy. Show why 40 minutes of Dread is a thing.
- BBN: The Flyers are used to playing in front of home crowds that are around 2500 strong. Kentucky is used to playing in front of 6800 screaming Wildcat fans at home and a not much smaller crowd on the road. Challenge extended, Wildcat fans.
- A squad that never quits: Makayla Epps. Linnae Harper. Jennifer O'Neill. Bria Goss. Azia Bishop. Jelleah Sidney. Alexis Jennings. Kyvin Goodin-Rogers. Alyssa Rice. Jaycee Coe. Wildcats all.
Tipoff is at 2:30 EDT on ESPN2. Until then, fellow basketball lovers - GO BIG BLUE!