Cats-Backs Preview

Game time: Saturday January 24th, 4:00p at Rupp — TV: The great SEC Network

If George Clooney were a Razorback, he would repeat his character’s immortal words from O Brother Where Art Thou?: “Damn, we’re in a tight spot.”

Arkansas comes into Rupp Saturday bearing an 8-10 record (1-2, SEC) and facing a team that, with a victory, will be the #1 team in the nation come Monday.  Genuinely, Arkansas’ woes are something Cat fans hate to hear about as they again welcome back one of their own native sons in Razorback coach John Pelphrey.  If there’s one thing UK fans are — and certainly there are many more — it’s loyal.  We will support any former UK player in whatever endeavor he chooses to pursue, whether it be coaching or murdering.

In the SEC they’ve beaten only Alabama and lost two close-scoring games to Mississippi State and, most recently, Florida.  They had a decent showing against Texas back on January 5th, a team which was #2 at the time, losing 96-85.  In that game the Razorbacks shot respectable 44% from the floor and a decent 30% from behind the arc, and were led by 4 players with at least 14 points or more.  They are coming off a 44 and 38% performance in their loss to Florida.

Those same four players with dougle-figure points against Texas are all averaging at least 14 ppg:

Rotnei Clarke (Soph. G)  – 18
Cortney Fortson (Soph. G) – 16
Marshawn Powell – (Fresh. F) – 16
Michael Washington (Sen. F-C) – 14

Probably their most explosive and dangerous player, Rotnei Clarke shoots a impressive 51% (98/193) from the floor and an incredible 49% (66/134) from 3-point land. As one of my friends (Doug, mentioned in tokenwalkon’s previous post, known to some by the ferociously intimidating moniker of Dougles), one of the 15,000 daily viewers of Lexpatriates, put it on his Facebook status: We’ll be alright if Rotnei Clarke doesn’t go for 50. Fortson contributes 8 assists per game, while Powell and Washington contribute 7 and 6 rebounds per game, respectively.

The key to this game for the Cats, as has been mentioned, will be stopping the offensive attack of Rotnei Clarke. The only way the Razorbacks stay in this game is if Kentucky lets Arkansas get to many open looks from 3 (as they are prone to do) and lets Clarke or another shooter get in a zone. The Cats should absolutely win all battles down low; Arkansas’ biggest player is Michael Washington at 6-9/239. With the triple threat of Cousins, Patterson, and Orton (quadruple threat if you count ‘Bones’ Stevenson), the Cats shouldn’t have many problems. Patterson matches up really well with Washington, so look for him to have a big game and really go after it on the boards as Calipari desires.

UK is coming off a week’s rest and a tough win at Auburn. Usually, I’d say that I expect them to come out a little flat and lackadaisical in the first half, but with #1 in their sights and well within firm grasp, I look for the Cats to come out with enthusiasm, energy, and a little cocksureness (saw that word used to describe Rex Ryan this week, had to use it).  They’ll build a big lead in the first half and come out a little sluggish in the second. While still superb, Wall has done his business quietly the last couple games, so look for him to come out strong and mean for this one. This game is also as good an opportunity as any for Orton to work on and hone his offensive skills; we all know the kid can block the blazes out of the ball, but he’s a little clunky with the rock in his hands.  And, you know, I predict Miller will be more aggressive, you know, have his breakout performance, like, every game.  So, yea, um, watch for that.

In the end, Cats 93-Backs 71, with visions of Nolan Richardson and Corliss Williamson.

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