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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, February 20, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Rupp Arena (23,500) -- Lexington, Kentucky. Television: SEC Network. Home Record: VU 7-6, UK 12-2. Away Record: VU 2-5, UK 4-5. Neutral Record: VU 1-3, UK 1-1. Conference Record: VU 4-8, UK 8-4. Series Record: Kentucky leads, 137-45.
GAME NOTES: After losing back-to-back games for the first time this season, the Kentucky Wildcats will try to halt the skid on Wednesday night when they welcome the Vanderbilt Commodores to Rupp Arena for an SEC tilt.
Vanderbilt has been one of the bottom-feeders in the SEC all season long, as it sits with just a 10-16 record, which includes a 4-8 mark in conference, but it has started to turn things around recently with wins in two of its last three games. The Commodores hosted Texas A&M last Saturday and came away with a 63-56 victory.
Kentucky appeared to have its season back on track not too long ago, as it had captured five straight wins following a 72-62 triumph over Auburn on Feb. 9, but since then it has dropped a pair of road games to Florida (69-52) and most recently at Tennessee (88-55). The Wildcats are 17-8 overall (8-4 in the SEC) and in serious danger of being on the outside looking in come NCAA Tournament time.
Kentucky outlasted Vanderbilt in Nashville on Jan. 10, 60-58, to extend its advantage in the all-time series to an astounding 137-45.
Vanderbilt owns the SEC's worst offense, as it average just 59.1 ppg on 41.2 percent field goal shooting, but it was able to up the effort to 45.8 percent against Texas A&M over the weekend as it claimed a seven-point win, never trailing after halftime. The Commodores were especially potent from beyond the arc, shooting 10-of-26, with Rod Odom (19 points, seven rebounds) and Dai-Jon Parker (17 points) combining for nine treys. Josh Henderson also made an impact, netting 11 points off the bench. Vanderbilt's top scoring threat is Kedren Johnson, who pours in 13.7 ppg on nearly 36 percent shooting from 3- point range, but he has averaged just 8.0 points over the last four games. Odom brings 10.2 ppg to the table, and Kyle Fuller is on the cusp of double- digits with 9.5 ppg. The Commodores' horrendous offensive attack oftentimes lets down a stellar defensive performance, which surrenders only 60.3 ppg on average.
In its first full game without superstar freshman Nerlens Noel, who will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL, Kentucky struggled mightily in its 30-point loss to Tennessee last Saturday, shooting a dismal 35.8 percent from the field while allowing the Vols to net 58 percent of their total shots. Kyle Wiltjer led the way for UK with 18 points and six rebounds, but he did so on only 5-of-15 from the field. Julius Mays chipped in 12 points, and Jarrod Polson added 11 points to the disappointing team effort. Even without Noel (10.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 4.4 bpg, 1.9 spg), the Wildcats still have a lot of talent to work with. Archie Goodwin (13.9 ppg) and Alex Poythress (12.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg, .581 FG percentage) are in the midst of stellar rookie campaigns, while Wiltjer (11.5 ppg) has drained a team-best 49 3-pointers at a 40.8 percent clip. Ryan Harrow (9.9 ppg) and Mays (9.3 ppg) are also solid options at the guard position, while Willie Cauley-Stein (7.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.7 bpg) will be expected to fill Noel's shoes in the frontcourt. As a team, UK's offense has been great on paper, shooting 48.6 percent from the floor for 75.0 ppg, and its defense (62.8 ppg) has been up to the task as well.
As displayed over the weekend, Kentucky appears to be in trouble without the imposing presence of Noel down low. Luckily for the Wildcats, they return to Rupp Arena for a matchup with the lackluster Commodores, meaning a return to the win column is likely.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Kentucky 72, Vanderbilt 57
02/20 11:03:40 ET
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