UK-UHart Preview

The University of Hartford is located in West Hartford, Connecticut.  They are members of the America East Conference.  UHart was picked by most publications to finish dead last in their conference.  The Hawks were 1-16 on the road last year and have yet to win a road game this year.  UHart doesn’t stand a chance tonight in Rupp Arena.  They will be wishing they still had the services of retired NBA veteran Vin Baker.  Even with him, they would have no shot.

Hartford enters the contest with a seven-game losing skid and a woeful 2-9 record. The team has been idle since December 11th, so it is hard to expect the Hawks to be sharp this evening. They fell to Sacred Heart last time out by a 76-65 final, and Kentucky represents a major leap in competition level.

Speaking of our Wildcats, they are a perfect 13-0 thus far, the program’s best start since winning the first 14 games of the 1977-78 season that was capped off with a national title. The Wildcats defeated the Long Beach State Dirtbags last Wednesday by an 86-73 final, and while most of the wins thus far have come against lesser competition, W’s over UConn and North Carolina bring legitimacy to the undefeated record. Kentucky has yet to play an SEC game but is clearly the favorite to win the conference.

This game marks the first-ever meeting between Kentucky and Hartford on the hardwood.

Hartford is scoring 65.0 ppg on 42.8 percent shooting from the field, so there is room for improvement at the offensive end of the court. Defensively, the club is generating 69.2 ppg, and the Hawks are being outrebounded by 7.5 rpg. Joe Zeglinski leads the Hawks with 15.6 ppg, and Morgan Sabia checks in with 12.6 ppg. Rounding out a trio of double-digit scorers is Joel Barkers with 11.1 ppg. In the 11-point loss to Sacred Heart the last time out, Zeglinski nailed 7-of-13 three-pointers to finish with 25 points. Andres Torres and Barkers both had 11 points in that clash, but the Hawks were outrebounded 44-21.

Kentucky is the most talented team in all of college basketball. The Cats are led by The Great Wall, who has hit multiple game-winning shots this season and never seems to get rattled. He is scoring 17.9 ppg to go along with 82 assists and 30 steals, and the super freshman is shooting 52.2 percent from the floor. Patrick Patterson provides 17.1 ppg and 9.0 rpg while shooting 62.5 percent from the field. DeMarcus Cousins adds 14.9 ppg and 8.8 rpg, while Eric Bledsoe provides 10.1 ppg.  UK generates an impressive 82.1 ppg while limiting opponents to 64.7 ppg on 38.2 percent shooting. Wall scored 19 points in the 13-point triumph over Long Beach State last week, while both Cousins and Patterson posted double-doubles. The Wildcats committed just nine turnovers and earned a 22-9 edge in points from the foul line, two obvious keys to the victory.

Kentucky will roll with ease tonight.  I think we win by a final score of 96-62.  There is no line on the game yet, but if it comes out at UK favored by 30 or less I would play the Wildcats.

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UK-Long Beach State Recap

The hangover I predicted the Cats would have hit a little harder than I expected.  The game was tied 37-37 at halftime.  John Calipari knew his team might come out a little sluggish after they captured the program’s unprecedented 2,000th win on Monday night. “I’ve done this so long, there are certain things that you can expect,” Calipari said. “On the game before Christmas following the 2,000th win where there is a celebration and people are going nuts, there is going to be a little bit of a letdown.”

The Wildcats came out ready to play in the second half, though.  They pulled away to win 86-73, which continued the program’s best start in over 30 years.  UK is now 13-0.  DeMarcus Cousins beastly play was the main reason UK was able to take control in the second half.  The freshman from Mobile, Alabama scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.  He outsized and out-hustled the frontline of Long Beach State.  He only played 2 minutes in the first half due to foul trouble.  Patrick Patterson also had 15 points and 11 rebounds.

The guards for Kentucky continued to shine as well.  Eric Bledsoe had 11 points and 5 assists.  He hit a big 3 a few minutes into the second half that would give the Cats the lead for good.  John Wall’s stellar play was on display as well.  The freshman phenom had 19 points and 5 dimes.  He only turned the ball over twice.  Wall was also 2-3 from three point range.  His marksmanship from beyond the arch has been a pleasant surprise.  Darius Miller chipped in with 8 points, while Ramon Harris had another workmanlike effort with 7 points and 2 boards.

Long Beach State played well and was not overwhelmed.  As I mentioned in the preview, this is a team that has played 5 ranked teams this year.  They were led by Larry Anderson’s 15 points.  T.J. Robinson had a great day for them too.  He had 13 points and 15 rebounds.  I thought the Cats would win by 25-30, but I’m not surprised that The Dirtbags were able to keep things interesting.  Look for these kids from the West Coast to win the Big West Conference and go dancing in March.  At the end of the day, all that matters is the fact that we got the W.  UK will come out with renewed energy next week and be ready to rumble against the Dirty Birds from The Ville.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

UK-Long Beach State Preview

What do we know about the Long Beach State Dirtbags?  “The Beach” happens to have the second largest enrollment of any university in the great state of California at over 36,000 students.  The school is located in Los Angeles County.  Notable Long Beach State alumni include Steve Martin and Steven Spielberg.  The city of Long Beach is also the hometown of west coast rap legends Snoop Dogg, Warren G, and Nate Dogg.  These illustrious members of “213” are known for doing things the “LBC” way.

Lets move on to basketball.  The 49ers last appearance in the NCAA tourney was after the 06-07 season.  They went 24-8 that year and won the Big West Conference tournament.  Last year they posted a 15-15 record.  The 49ers return 4 starters from that squad, all of whom were freshman last year.  “The Beach” is off to a 6-5 start this season.  Don’t let their record fool you, though.  These west cost riders have played some very stiff competition.  They have lost  to Notre Dame, West Virginia, Clemson, and Texas.  They beat a solid Utah State team.  LBSU also has a victory over UCLA this season, but then again, who doesn’t?  Their leading scorer is forward T.J. Robinson, who averages a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds per game.  Stephan Gilling is their 3pt specialist.  Larry Anderson is another guy to watch for.  He is very athletic and considered to be the top NBA prospect in the Big West Conference.

Although “The Beach” is a talented team, they don’t stand a chance against the vaunted Wildcats.  The Cats may come out a little rusty after their great performance in capturing 2,000 wins Monday, but I think we will quickly recover from any hangover as the game moves on.  UK will wear LBSU out inside.  Look for Patterson, Cousins, and Orton to have a field day.  Long Beach lacks size, and will be exploited by the Cats. I predict our trio of bigs will score 40+ points and dominate the boards.  Our guards will face some talented players, but Wall, Bledsoe, and Liggins will not be slowed down by any means.  Look for Wall to destroy their 5-9 point guard Casper Ware.  I think Wall will put up a smooth 20 points and 8 dimes, while Bledsoe will outmuscle Gilling and chip in 15.  I would like to see Miller follow up his 11 point outing Monday night with another double-digit effort as well.  For my fellow gamblers out there; I am playing UK -21 today.  I predict the Cats take this one by 25-30 points.


UK-Austin Peay Recap

The Kentucky Wildcats returned to action last night after a week off for finals.  The Cats looked a little rusty at times, but were able to roll up a 90-69 victory.  The win moves UK to within one victory of 2,000.  With a win over the Drexel Dragons on Monday, UK will become the first college basketball program to reach that plateau.  UK is now 11-0, which marks the program’s best start since the 1992-93 season.  John Calipari also put himself in the UK record books, surpassing Adolph Rupp’s record for consecutive victories to begin a tenure as UK coach.

As we have become accustomed to seeing, the game was full of spurts by the young guns of Kentucky.  UK ran out to a 49-33 first half lead, but saw Austin Peay go on a 10-0 run of their own to cut the 16 point lead to 6.  “We came out real sluggish and lazy,”  freshman DeMarcus Cousins said.  “We should come out every game like we are playing North Carolina.”  It’s hard to argue with him here, but the sluggishness versus an inferior opponent coming off three big wins and finals week was not surprising.

The game remained relatively close in the second half.  The Governors of Austin Peay were within nine points with less than 10 minutes to go in the game.  This is when the veteran leadership of Patrick Patterson was key for Kentucky.  He scored 5 straight points to help the Cats pull away.  One of his buckets was off of an unbelievable alley-oop from John Wall.  Eric Bledsoe hit a streaking John Wall for what appeared to be an alley-oop, but Wall had other plans, touching the ball to Patterson for a dunk.  I have never seen a double alley-oop like this, but have come to expect greatness every time this group of Wildcats takes the floor.  After a 3 by Darnell Dodson and two free throws by Patterson, UK was in command with a 82-61 lead.

It was good to see DeAndre Liggins get some extended playing time.  He entered the game at the 14 minute mark of the first half.  The sophomore guard from Chicago got a standing ovation from the Big Blue faithful.  Liggins finished with only two points, but played solid defense in his 12 minutes of action.  He could be an impact player this year for the Cats.  UK won the battle of the boards by 44-24 margin, and outscored the Governors 44-16 in points in the paint.  It was a pretty solid game all around for the Cats, who also shot 8-12 from 3 point land.  Patrick Patterson led all scorers with 21 points.  He also hauled in 9 boards.  Cousins poured in 19 points and had 8 rebounds.  The Great Wall finished with 17 points and 6 dimes.  Darius Miller chipped in with 11 points.