UK is led by guard Rajon Rondo (Soph., 6-1, 170 lbs.) who incredibly averages a double-double from the backcourt. His 13.7 points and 12.7 rebounds per game lead the 'Cats in both categories. Rondo will be a tough assignment when WVU is in man-to-man defense.
Providing limited support for Rondo in UK's three guard attack are Patrick Sparks and Joe Crawford, both of whom have struggled shooting from the field. Sparks (Sr., 6-0, 180 lbs.) is hitting just 40% from the field while averaging 6.0 points per game, while Crawford (Soph, 6-4, 210 lbs.) is even worse at 27.3%. However, after seeing Texas point guard Daniel Gibson (a 20% shooter coming into the game) hit six threes last night, the Mountaineers would not be wise to leave the Cats' perimeter players unguarded while they chase Rondo. Subs Ravi Moss (Sr., 6-2, 190 lbs.) and Ramel Bradley (Soph., 6-1, 180 lbs.) are actually averaging more combined time coming off the bench than Crawford and Sparks are earning in their starting roles. Moss is averaging eight points in 21 minutes of action per night, while Bradley pops in 7.7 in 19 minutes per. All four are capable of knocking down three pointers, and will have to be accounted for in the halfcourt.
Up front, the forwards are the story for the ‘Cats. Sheray Thomas and Rekalin Sims have split starting duties so far, with Sims (Jr., 6-8, 200 lbs.) doing a bit more damage in his time on the floor. Sims is second on the team in both points (13.3) and rebounds (6.0), and will likely see his minutes increase as UK moves deeper into the season. Thomas (Jr., 6-7, 230 lbs.) averages just 3.7 points per outing, but does help on the boards with four per game. Sub Bobby Perry (Jr., 6-6, 220 lbs.) like Moss and Bradley, is more productive than the starters, as he contributes 6.3 points per game in 18 minutes of action.
The center spot is primarily a defensive one, with Lukasz Obrzut and Shagari Alleyne sharing about twenty minutes per game. Alleyne (Jr., 73-, 270 lbs.) is the shotblocker of the pair, having swatted five shots this year, but he also has more turnovers (six) than points (four). Obrzut provide a few minutes, but little else, in his stints on the floor.
How will the Mountaineers react after their tough loss to Texas? Likely just fine.
|Tue Nov 22|
WVU 2-1, 0-0
UK 2-1, 0-0
WVU - 37
UK - 24
Should the gold and blue play poorly or lose to UK, there will be plenty of instant analysis blaming those results on a Texas hangover. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth, but it's just those types of throwaway comments that have a lot of credence in today's sound-bite society. Don't be fooled - should WVU drop the game to the Wildcats, it won't be because they aren't mentally prepared.
Rondo is the obvious focus for WVU's defense tonight, as the Mountaineers will try to keep the ball out of the talented sophomore's hands. Look for Kentucky to counter by going with three guards and two forwards for long stretches, and try to force West Virginia to defend three or four shooters all over the floor. Spreading out the WVU defense will also open attack lanes for Rondo, who is a scoring threat from any spot on the floor.
Substitution patterns figure to be of key interest in this contest, as UK brings three players off the bench that could be better than the starters. West Virginia's reaction to that tactic, and the matchups that are generated during the middle minutes of each half, could have a huge impact on the game's outcome.
One other item to monitor is Kevin Pittsnogle on the perimeter. Texas' LaMarcus Aldridge did an outstanding job of defending Pittsnogle beyond the arc – it remains to be seen if Kentucky's centers or big forwards can mach that feat.
Kentucky is shooting better from three-point range (41.7%) than they are overall (39.8%). Other than its centers, any Wildcat is a threat to fire one up from beyond the arc, which means WVU will have to extend its zones in all directions to prevent open looks from UK's shooters.
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UK' shooting woes aren't just limited to the field. The Wildcats are hitting just 62.6% from the free throw line.
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On the flip side, WVU is canning 70% from the line, but the Mountaineers' leading scorer is having problems there. Mike Gansey finally made his first free throw of the season against Texas, hitting the second of two chances in the first half. Gansey's miss was the sole WVU misfire until the final fateful minute, when three one and one chances went awry. Gansey is a frigid 1-7 from the line this year.
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In less than half the time on the floor, Joe Alexander has as many rebounds (3) as Rob Summers.
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Joe Herber's assist to turnover ratio is an eye-popping 8-1.