Georgia State Panthers (1-1)
Friday, Nov. 26 - 8 p.m. ET
Rupp Arena - Lexington, Ky.
Chuck Hayes has received plenty of help from Kentucky's new faces this season. The eighth-ranked Wildcats hope their solid team play continues on Friday when they meet Georgia State at Rupp Arena.
Hayes, a preseason Naismith Award candidate, and Kelenna Azubuike are joined by three new players in the starting lineup. Western Kentucky transfer Patrick Sparks and freshmen Randolph Morris and Rajon Rondo round out the Wildcats' starting unit.
The trio has been impressive in the early season, especially in Tuesday's 73-53 victory over Ball State in Cincinnati. Hayes particularly liked the play of Morris, who scored 10 points in 19 minutes, and Rondo, who finished with six points and four assists.
"I think they responded really well," Hayes said. "Randolph was aggressive for us and Rondo got to the foul line. I think they stepped up well."
Sparks has led Kentucky (2-0) in scoring in each of the first two games and scored 20 points on Tuesday. He is shooting 61 percent from the field and learning to be a leader for the Wildcats.
"He's gotten good experience as a veteran player," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "He's been in the wars. He really understands our system and where his shots are going to come. He is making great decisions with and without the ball."
Hayes is second on the team with 11.0 points per game and leads the Wildcats with 12.0 rebounds per game. But the senior forward is shooting only 31.6 percent from the field while becoming the focal point of opposing defenses.
Smith is not worried about his star player.
"Chuck is all heart," Smith said. "He understands who he is any what his role with the team is. He understands his responsibility."
Georgia State (1-1) is concluding a season-opening stretch of three games away from home. The Panthers, who are one of the favorites in the Atlantic Sun Conference, defeated Southern Mississippi and lost to host Nevada last weekend in the Jim Thorpe Classic at Reno, Nev.
Marcus Brown scored 20 points in the win over Southern Mississippi, but struggled to make just 1-of-7 shots for four points against Nevada. The Panthers shot just 34.5 percent (20-of-58) in the 76-55 loss to Nevada.
"I hope we learned some things from this loss against a seasoned Sweet 16 team on its home court," Panthers coach Michael Perry said.
Kentucky and Georgia State have never met. The series was created with the Wildcats scheduled to play at Atlanta next season as a homecoming for Morris, an Atlanta native.