GAME NOTES: In what appears to be a major mismatch, the third-ranked Kentucky Wildcats welcome the Hartford Hawks to Rupp Arena this evening.
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 the 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 Long Beach State last Wednesday in an 86-73 final, and while most of the wins thus far have come over weak competition, triumphs 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 that 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 paces the program 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 suffered a crippling 44-21 rebounding disadvantage and a 19-4 deficit in points from the foul line.
Kentucky is arguably the most talented team in all of college basketball. The Wildcats are led by a freshman point guard John 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 rookie is shooting 52.2 percent from the floor. Patrick Patterson, a veteran pivot, 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. Kentucky 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.
There is no reason to expect anything other than a Kentucky blowout in this one.