Previewing Kentucky

No. 21 North Carolina looks to extend its record number of wins against No. 1-ranked teams in the AP Poll when it squares off against Kentucky on Saturday. Tip-off in Lexington is noon and will be televised by CBS.

North Carolina (6-2) vs. Kentucky (10-0)
Lexington, Ky. - Rupp Arena
Saturday, 12pm
CBS (Marv Albert, Greg Anthony)

PREGAME NOTES

Season to Date: No. 1 Kentucky enters Saturday’s contest with a 10-0 record. Despite trailing Columbia at halftime on Wednesday, the Wildcats have otherwise been dominant through the first month of the season. John Calipari’s squad dismantled No. 10 Kansas, 72-40, on Nov. 18 and then dismissed No. 8 Texas, 63-51, on Dec. 5.

Spreading the Wealth: The abundance of talent on Calipari’s roster has allowed him to essentially rotate two starting lineups thus far. Ten Wildcats are logging 13.9 minutes or more per game, while Dominique Hawkins is playing 9.4 minutes per game. As a result, junior 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein is the only Wildcat scoring in double figures (10.3 ppg) and the only one averaging more than 24 minutes per contest (24.1).

Talent in Bunches: Kentucky’s roster boasts nine McDonald’s All-Americans, the most-ever consolidated on one team. The Wildcats’ 2014 class ranked second nationally behind Duke, according to Scout.com, with a quartet of McDonald’s All-Americans in forward Trey Lyles, center Karl-Anthony Towns and guards Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis. The 2014 class marked the first time since the 2008 class that Kentucky hasn’t topped Scout.com’s team recruiting rankings.

Poythress Out: Kentucky announced on Friday morning that Alex Poythress will miss the remainder of the season after tearing the ACL in his left knee in practice on Thursday. Surgery has not yet been scheduled. The junior forward was averaging 5.5 points and 3.8 rebounds this season. He’s the most experienced player on the team, playing in 81 career games with 39 starts.

Smothering D: The Wildcats’ calling card has been their dominant defensive play, thanks in part to incredible size at every position. Nine of the 10 players logging 10 minutes or more per game stand 6-foot-6 or taller. Kentucky leads the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency (83.3), effective field goal percentage defense (33.5), 2-point field goal percentage defense (30.7) and block percentage (25.9), according to kenpom.com. The Wildcats are holding their opponents to 28.7 percent shooting (tops in the country) and are blocking 8.6 shots per game.

Areas of Concern: As good as Kentucky’s defense is, its offense has struggled to score consistently on the perimeter. The Wildcats rank 305th nationally in 3-point field goal percentage (27.7) and made 3-point field goals (4.6). Kentucky also ranks 257th nationally in free throw percentage (65.3).

Random Stat of the Day: After trailing for just 36 of the first 360 minutes played of the season, Kentucky didn’t take its first lead against Columbia until the 13:18 mark of the second half on Wednesday.

Last Meeting: The Tar Heels defeated the 11th-ranked Wildcats, 82-77, at the Smith Center on Dec. 14, 2013. Marcus Paige scored 21 of his 23 points after halftime as UNC took control with a 10-2 run midway through the second half. James Michael McAdoo scored 20 points and J.P. Tokoto added 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting.

Series History: UNC leads the all-time series with Kentucky, 23-13. The Tar Heels have won seven of the last 10 meetings.

Projected Starters:
02 Aaron Harrison (6-6, 212, So) - 9.8 ppg, 2,2 apg
05 Andrew Harrison (6-6, 210, So) - 7.3 ppg, 3.7 apg
25 Dominique Hawkins (6-0, 195, So) - 1.4 ppg, 0.8 apg
12 Karl-Anthony Towns (6-11, 250, Fr) - 9.1 ppg, 6.7 rpg
15 Willie Cauley-Stein (7-0, 240, Jr) - 10.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg


Top Reserves:
O1 Devin Booker (6-6, 206, Fr) - 8.4 ppg, 1.5 apg
03 Tyler Ulis (5-9, 155, Fr) - 5.0 ppg, 2.5 apg
41 Trey Lyles (6-10, 235, Fr) - 7.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg
00 Marcus Lee (6-9, 220, So) - 2.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg
44 Dakari Johnson (7-0, 255, So) - 9.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg

Kentucky Info
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