Kentucky Preview

UCLA faces its first real test of the season when it faces off against #20-ranked Kentucky Tuesday night in the second round of the Maui Invitational. It could be a tough match-up for the Bruins, going up against 6-11, 260-pound Randolph Morris...

UCLA takes a step up in competition tonight when it takes on Kentucky in the second round of the Maui Invitation. Before UCLA took care of Chaminade yesterday, Kentucky was able to outlast a relatively mediocre DePaul squad, 87-81. This is the same Blue Demons who were defeated by Bradley (not so bad) and Northwestern (okay, they're bad). Kentucky has defeated Miami (Oh.), who are decent, and Mississippi Valley State, who is very, very bad. In fact, outside of BYU, the best opponent that either the Bruins or the Wildcats have faced was probably Humboldt State.

Kentucky's offense and defense really begin with junior center Randolph Morris (6'11" 259 lbs.). Morris is the one Wildcat that is truly scary because he has the potential to be a dominant, three-tooled player. He can score 20, pull down 15 boards and block 5 shots. As it is, he's Kentucky's leading scorer at 16.7 PPG, leading rebounder at 9.3 RPG and he is averaging 1 block per game, mostly because teams won't take it right at him. He has a great FG% at 65%, and hits over 70% of his free throws. He will be a tough match-up for Lorenzo Mata, Alfred Aboya and Ryan Wright. Expect Mata to play more minutes tonight since he got rest last night and Morris is the only real post threat of any team in the tournament. Mata can rest a little tomorrow night against Memphis or Georgia Tech. Morris is a bit out of shape, though, and he played over 32 minutes last night. If the Bruins run, they can negate the big guy much like they did Glen Davis of LSU last year.

Freshman Perry Stevenson (6'9" 178 lbs.), starts at the 4 and is a defensive and rebounding specialist. He averages only 4 PPG, but he is third on the team in boards at 3.7 RPG and first on the team in blocks, averaging a whopping 3 per game. He doesn't even look to shoot outside. He is a poor man's version of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. It will be interesting to see the match-up of Stevenson on Luc.

Senior wing Bobby Perry (6'8" 215 lbs.) is the shooter of the frontcourt, averaging over 42% from behind the arc. But he has only taken 15 shots all season, averaging 6.3 PPG. He also isn't much of a banger, averaging only 2.3 RPG. But, he is taller than and at least as athletic as Josh Shipp and he plays the fourth most minutes on the team. He played 31 minutes last night and Coach Tubby Smith will undoubtedly try to isolate Perry on Shipp and force Josh to play defense. This will be a tougher match-up for Shipp than he has seen yet this season.

Freshman Jodie Meeks (6'5" 206 lbs.) comes off the bench to provide instant offense and generally gets starter's minutes, and senior Sheray Thomas (6'8" 236 lbs.) has been coming off the bench to provide inside depth on the boards and on defense. He played 26 minutes last night. Senior center Lukasz Obrzut (7'1" 265 lbs.) spells Morris for about 10 MPG, but he is incredibly unathletic.

Junior Ramel Bradley (6'2" 176 lbs.) starts at the point for Kentucky. He is the 2nd leading scorer on the team at 16.3 PPG, and averages almost 5 APG. He's quick and likes to get into the lane, but he also likes to overdo things, and even though he's averaging almost 50% on threes this year, his shot selection has been criticized. He also has almost as many turnovers as assists. But he is the engine that makes Kentucky go, and if he's stopped, so is Kentucky. I will not question Darren Collison on ‘D' anymore. I actually thought Zach Whiting would be too strong for DC. How wrong was I??? Yes, Whiting did muscle him for a couple of lay-ups, but Collison is so quick that he basically forced Whiting out of his game form the get-go.

Junior Joe Crawford (6'5" 211 lbs.) will man the 2 spot. Crawford was a huge recruit coming out of high school in Michigan but has yet to live up to the hype. He even tried to transfer after his freshman season, but decided to return. Still, he is the most complete player on the Wildcat roster and is the one most apt to "go off" after Morris. Watching the Afflalo/Crawford match-up will be fun. Freshman Derrick Jasper (6'6" 213 lbs.) spells Crawford in the backcourt.

The game really will hinge on the pace. If the game is in the mid-70s or higher, UCLA will win. Kentucky has to slow down the game, and try to pound the ball into the block where Morris will demand a double team. UCLA will have to be on with regard to its defensive rotation in order to cover the inevitable kick outs. The Bruins also will have to do a better job of getting back in transition, since that's where Chaminade did much of its damage last night. The UCLA half-court defense looked pretty good, though, last night, and if can keep Morris from scoring, Kentucky will have trouble getting points. If Morris gets in foul trouble, then look out, it could get ugly. Truth be told, BYU is probably a better team than Kentucky, who might be ranked mostly on name recognition. But don't underestimate Tubby Smith. He's a damn good Xs and Os guy. He'll have a game plan.

Kentucky will get tired. It's a hot gym and four Wildcats played essentially 30 or more minutes yesterday. Add to that the emotional fatigue that comes from playing a tough game and you have the ingredients for a fairly comfortable Bruin victory.

Kentucky 66

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