GAME NOTES: With their 54-game home winning streak now a memory, the Kentucky Wildcats hope to start another lengthy run in front of the hometown faithful as they welcome the Samford Bulldogs to legendary Rupp Arena.
Samford recently snapped a six-game losing streak with a 57-48 win over Georgia Southern, marking its first win of season in Southern Conference play. The Bulldogs, now just 2-7 on the year, have lost all three of their true road games and all five games played away from home, but following this clash with the defending national champions and a Dec. 29 bout at Wisconsin, they have a manageable schedule until getting into the meat of their conference slate starting on Jan. 5, 2013 at home against Chattanooga.
Kentucky dropped a 64-55 decision to visiting Baylor over the weekend, saddling the Wildcats with their second straight loss and third in seven games this season. The Wildcats' other setbacks occurred at Notre Dame and versus Duke, while their wins have come against the likes of Maryland, Lafayette, Morehead State and LIU-Brooklyn. UK kicks off SEC action at Vanderbilt on Jan. 10, 2013, but not before battling intrastate rival Louisville on Dec. 29.
Kentucky was ranked third in the AP preseason poll and fell to eighth after the loss to Duke. And following their most recent setbacks, the Wildcats are no longer a member of the Top-25, marking the first time that has happened since John Calipari took over to start the 2009-10 season.
Kentucky won the only previous matchup with Samford, 82-50, last December. UK is 19-0 all-time against teams from the Southern Conference.
Samford's troubles stem from its inability to score, as the team averages just 60.2 ppg in hitting 41.1 percent of its field goal attempts, which includes a dismal 29.9 percent showing from three-point range. Defensively, the team yields 67.8 ppg, with foes connecting on 44.4 percent of their total shots, while also being outrebounded by 6.4 rpg. The Bulldogs have just two double- digit scorers in the fold, as Tim Williams (15.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg) and Raijon Kelly (13.4 ppg, 3.6 apg) have done their best to help the team remain competitive. Samford opened SoCon play with a solid home victory on Saturday, as it help Georgia Southern to a mere 48 points, despite the Eagles shooting a sizzling 57.9 percent from the floor in the opening half. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, their guests cooled off after the break (.375) and made just 5-of-17 three-point shots in the game. Williams finished with a line of 18 points, nine rebounds and two blocks, while Kelly and Clide Geffrard, Jr. chipped in 11 points apiece. As a team, Samford drained 51.4 percent of its total shots, despite missing eight of its 10 three-point launches.
The Wildcats put forth their worst shooting effort under coach John Calipari (.296) as they dropped a nine-point decision to Baylor over the weekend. Archie Goodwin (17 points) and Alex Poythress (13 points) were the only two UK players to net double digits in the loss, but the three others starters combined to log 17 points in going 6-of-34 from the field (.176). The Bears didn't exactly light the world on fire, as they shot just 40.7 percent from the floor and dropped 6-of-20 three-point attempts, while also committing 19 turnovers. Nerlens Noel grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds, helping the 'Cats to a 48-37 advantage on the glass. Goodwin (16.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 4.6 apg) leads a quartet of double-digit scorers for Calipari's club, while Noel (11.4 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 2.9 bpg) does his best work in close to the basket. As a team, UK is shooting 49.2 percent from the field, draining 37.6 percent of its long-range bombs along the way, while allowing 66.6 ppg with foes shooting just 40.4 percent overall and 31.5 percent from beyond the arc.
While Samford's Williams certainly has ability, Kentucky is far and away the superior team in this matchup, and you can bet the Wildcats are going to come out fired up as they try and make amends for the last couple of outings.