Kentucky Wildcats vs. Louisville Cardinals Preview

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Game Overview: Kentucky vs Louisville

The #19 Kentucky Wildcats (8-3) take on the #3 Louisville Cardinals (11-1) at 3:45 ET on Saturday.

Kentucky is coming off of a 2 game losing streak to Utah and Ohio State in Las Vegas. They’ll be looking to end non-conference play on a positive note against the rival Cardinals.

Louisville bounced back from their blowout loss to Texas Tech by beating Eastern Kentucky and Miami (OH). Their only ranked win was against Michigan. Louisville’s schedule has been relatively easy so far this year, and Kentucky may be their toughest challenge of the season to this point.

Kentucky’s Stats

Kentucky’s team has been pretty bad statistically this year. They rank in the mid-100’s in both Points per game and Rebounds per game. They’re also 71st in assists per game. Their defense has been a somewhat redeeming factor, ranking 37th in the nation in points allowed.

As a team, Kentucky is shooting 46% from the field and 28% from three. Their inability to hit threes has been one of their worst weaknesses this year, especially when you consider how well opposing teams have done in that same regard while playing the Wildcats.

Ashton Hagans leads the team in scoring, assists, and steals. His 14ppg, 7apg, 4rpg, and 2spg are some of the better numbers in the conference. He’s Kentucky’s best player, and one of the best PG’s in the country. Tyrese Maxey is the team’s second highest scorer, putting up 13ppg. Unfortunately, his 40% FG and 25% 3PT are some of the team’s worst numbers. Center Nick Richards has been solid against lower-tier opponents, but continues to struggle against good competition. He’s putting up 12ppg and 7rpg, with a team-high 2.3bpg. EJ Montgomery has similar struggles, averaging 8.9ppg and 6rpg. He shows flashes against bad teams, but disappears against good ones. Backup PG Immanuel Quickley has been decent, with 11ppg. He’s a solid 3 point shooter, shooting 31% from three. Forward Nate Sestina is the best shooter on the team currently, shooting 38% from 3. He knocked down 5 threes against OSU.

Louisville’s Stats

Louisville has been a lot better than Kentucky when it comes to team stats. They rank 94th in PPG and 54th in RPG. They’re also in the top 80 in APG (which is the only stat Kentucky is better in), while ranking 15th in total points allowed.

Louisville shoots 48% as a team from the field, and 37% from 3. They are a much more efficient offensive team.

Wing Jordan Nwora has been Louisville’s best player, as well as one of the best in the country. He’s an early contender for National Player of The Year. His 21ppg and 1.1 spg lead the team.He averages 48% FG and 41% 3PT. Big Man Steven Enoch is second on the team in scoring, with 11ppg. He leads the Cards in blocks with 1.1 per game. Louisville’s guard-play is pretty bad, with SG Ryan McMahon averaging 9.8ppg (43% FG and 46% 3PT) and PG Darius Perry having 5.8ppg (43% FG and 29% 3PT). Perry leads the team in assists with 4.7 per game. Dwayne Sutton leads the team in rebounding with 8.7 per game.

Matchups:

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POINT GUARD:

Ashton Hagans vs Darius Perry

Winner: Ashton Hagans, Kentucky

Hagans is one of the best PG’s in the nation. He can score, pass, and is an elite defender. He wins this one easily.

SHOOTING GUARD:

Tyrese Maxey vs Ryan McMahon

Winner: Ryan McMahon, Louisville

While Maxey averages more points and is far more talented, his poor efficiency loses this battle for him. McMahon is shooting a whopping 46% from 3, and is still averaging 10ppg. He’s more reliable in this instance.

SMALL FORWARD:

Kahlil Whitney vs Jordan Nwora

Winner: Jordan Nwora, Louisville

This one is fairly obvious. While it’s unknown who will actually start at SF for Kentucky, it doesn’t really matter. Nwora will be the best player on the court on Saturday.

POWER FORWARD:

EJ Montgomery vs Dwayne Sutton

Winner: Dwayne Sutton, Louisville

This is another instance of Kentucky having the more talented player, but still losing due to inefficiency. Sutton is a top-tier rebounder, and is a solid rim-protector as well. Sutton also averages slightly more points than Montgomery.

CENTER:

Nick Richards vs Steven Enoch

Winner: Nick Richards, Kentucky

This one is probably the closest out of the five. Richards edges this one out. He’s an elite rim-protector and averages more of everything across the board. Enoch is really solid though, and may shut Richards down.

BENCH:

Keion Brooks, Immanuel Quickley, Nate Sestina, and Johnny Juzang

vs

Malik Williams, Samuell Williamson, Lamarr Kimble, and David Johnson

Winner: Kentucky’s Bench

While Louisville’s bench isn’t awful, Kentucky has gotten more out of theirs so far this year. Keion Brooks has been a key contributor off the pine, and Immanuel Quickley averages 11 points as the sixth man. Nate Sestina is an experienced big man who can knock down the 3.

Kentucky Keys to Victory

*Slow down Jordan Nwora. The offense runs through him. Lock him up and try to get him in foul trouble early.

*Win in the post. Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery must rise to the occasion and play up to their potential, because Kentucky wins when they do.

*Knock down threes. Kentucky’s main issue this year has been 3PT efficiency. Immanuel Quickley, Nate Sestina, Tyrese Maxey, and Johnny Juzang must knock down the shots. It’s why they’re at Kentucky.

Louisville Keys to Victory

*Get Jordan Nwora hot early. When Jordan Nwora plays well, Louisville wins. It’s a simple formula.

*Get better production out of the backcourt. Darius Perry and Lamarr Kimble aren’t doing enough for the Cards.

*Take Kentucky’s big men out of the game. When Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery are getting locked down, Kentucky loses.

Prediction:

Kentucky 66

Louisville 62

After two losses back to back, I think Kentucky comes into this game with a vengeance. I think John Calipari will have his team ready for battle, and we’ll see a completely different team on Saturday. Nick Richards will have a comeback game, and Ashton Hagans will continue his high-level basketball. Louisville is really good, but I think Kentucky’s talent comes out and wins them this rivalry matchup.


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