PowerMizzou – Tiger Tip-Off Preview: Kentucky


The Wildcats haven’t quite played like a national title-contending force, suffering losses against Michigan State, No. 2 Gonzaga and No. 16 UCLA. Head coach John Calipari has led his team to a pair of wins over Michigan and Yale, both schools rated in the top 100 by KenPom, but Kentucky will be looking to make a statement in its first SEC game.


Missouri (11-1) vs. Kentucky (8-3)

WHEN: 6 p.m

WHERE: Mizzou Arena, Columbia, Missouri

TV: SEC Network

SERIES: Kentucky leads, 14-2

KENPOM PREDICTION: Kentucky 79, Missouri 76




 Box out Oscar Tshiebwe. The reigning consensus National Player of the Year has been nearly as good as he was a year ago, leading Kentucky in scoring and anchoring the defense with 1.6 blocks and 1.7 steals per game. But Tshiebwe’s biggest impact is often felt on the glass — his 13.0 boards per game are second-most in the NCAA. According to KenPom, the center grabs 18.8% of available offensive rebounds and 30.0% of available defensive rebounds, ranking fourth and eighth in the country, respectively. Missouri was bothered by Illinois’ size in the Braggin’ Rights game, surrendering a season-high 19 offensive rebounds. But the Fighting Illini only mustered 11 second-chance points against the Tigers. Mizzou might not be so lucky against Tshiebwe and the Wildcats.

2. Keep a hand up on shooters. Tshiebwe’s presence inside draws most defenses’ attention, but Kentucky rosters multiple threats from long range. While the Wildcats don’t take a high number of triples, with 33.5% of their field goal attempts coming from beyond the arc, they rank 12th in the nation knocking down 39.9% of their 3-pointers. Five different players — senior guards CJ FredrickAntonio Reeves and Sahvir Wheeler and freshmen guards Chris Livingston and Cason Wallace — are all canning at least 36.0% of their trays. The Tigers held Illinois to 22.6% from deep last week, but Kentucky will be the best shooting team they’ve faced so far this year.

3. Don’t press too hard. Head coach Dennis Gates said he thought his team’s energy was used against itself in Mizzou’s loss to Kansas, getting over-aggressive on defense chasing after steals. Senior guard D’Moi Hodge thought the team did a better job of not trying to force anything last week, letting the Fighting Illini make their own mistakes. Mizzou will need to do the same against the Wildcats, a team that does a good job of taking care of the ball, turning it over on just 17.5% of possessions. That doesn’t mean not pressing at all. Wheeler is one of the best playmakers in the conference and the Tigers can’t let him get comfortable. But Missouri needs to make sure it doesn’t play itself out of position going after the ball.

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