Last week was a mixed week for the Kentucky Wildcats. After an embarrassing performance at Missouri, Kentucky responded well against Louisville, looking much sharper. As the Wildcats continue to try and right the ship, they will take on the LSU Tigers on Tuesday.
The Tigers have had a unique season of their own. Under the direction of former Murray State head coach, Matt McMahon, LSU is off to an 11-1 record, tied with Missouri for the best record in the conference.
Also similarly to Missouri, LSU has played an easy schedule, playing just three teams ranked in the top 125 in KenPom. With that said, they did just beat a top-10-ranked Arkansas team to open up SEC play.
Which version of LSU will Kentucky get? We will find out.
Let’s take a closer look at the matchup.
LSU is a defensive first-team and as proof, the Tigers have held both of their top 50 opponents to 61 points or less. This doesn’t stand out well for a Kentucky offense that has struggled at times this season.
On a positive note, Kentucky is coming off of their best offensive performance of the season. Against Louisville, they notably had better execution and ball movement, which led to their second 80+ point scoring output since November.
On Tuesday, the Wildcats will play a disciplined LSU defense, giving up just 15 free throws per game, and also focus on limiting perimeter shooting, as their opponents shoot just 27.6 percent.
Expect the Tigers to play a mix of man and zone, but the scoring opportunities will be there, especially if Cason Wallace and Sahvir Wheeler can take advantage of driving lanes and they can continue to use effective ball screens.
To carry the offensive momentum, the Wildcats are going to have to take advantage of the opportunities they are given.
Two players combine for nearly half of LSU’s points on average, KJ Williams (18.5 ppg) and Adam Miller (13 ppg).
Shooting just 37 percent from the field, Miller is far from efficient but with high volume. Fortunately for Kentucky, they have two good defensive guards in Cason Wallace and Sahvir Wheeler that can limit Miller even further.
However, Williams poses a much more difficult challenge. Averaging 18.5 points per contest, Williams is the second-leading scorer in the SEC and is the type of player that Kentucky has had problems with this season – big and versatile.
Just last week, Kobe Brown of Missouri scored 30 points against Kentucky, scoring from inside and out. If Jacob Toppin and the rest of the Wildcat frontcourt can step up and limit Williams, Kentucky will have a great chance to win.
Looking at LSU’s rebounding statistics on the season, nothing jumps off the page. However, against Arkansas, the Tigers completely dominated the boards with a 62-30 advantage, including 23 on the offensive glass – scoring 22 points off.
The Tigers do shoot above average from the field, but also have won games solely off of extra possessions (ie Arkansas). Kentucky must bring the physicality to win the battle of the boards, and keep LSU to ‘one-and-done’.
One of the themes for the Wildcats after the Louisville game was “coming together.” This was echoed by John Calipari and the players in their postgame interviews.
John Calipari sees this team coming together, as they try to ignore the noise.
“They came together. You get overwhelmed and say ‘I can’t do this myself, we need to come together’… Sometimes I think they’re reading that stuff. You just can’t” pic.twitter.com/IDygKDeUpL
— Tristan Pharis (@TristanUda) January 1, 2023
It is easier for a team to come together against one of the worst teams in the country. However, the LSU game provides the chance for Kentucky to fight and come together against a quality SEC opponent.
Time/Date: 8:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday, January 3rd, 2023.
Location: Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY
TV Channel: ESPN
Online Stream: WatchESPN, ESPN+SEC Network+ or ESPN app
Radio: Tom Leach and Jack Givens have the UK radio network call on the UK Sports Radio Network.
Replay: SEC Network (check local listings).
Rosters: UK | LSU
Team Sheets: UK | LSU
Stats To Know: UK | LSU
Odds: DraftKings Sportsbook has Kentucky as a 10-point favourite. ESPN’s matchup predictor gives the Wildcats an 86.8% chance of winning, while Bart Torvik gives Kentucky a slightly lower advantage at 81%, and KenPom has it at 83%.
Predictions: Bart Torvik picks the Wildcats in a 71-63 victory. KenPom projects a 74-63 victory, Kentucky!