The third-ranked Kentucky Wildcats come home to Rupp Arena for the first time this season as they try to bounce back from a tough loss earlier in the week when they host the Lafayette Leopards at Rupp Arena.
The bout marks the first-ever meeting between these two programs on the hardwood.
Lafayette played its first two games of the season at home, and after losing to Saint Francis in its opener on Friday (76-65), it bounced back with an impressive 98-94 overtime win over LIU-Brooklyn, an NCAA Tournament qualifier last season. The Leopards led by as many as 14 points in the first half before coughing up the lead, but they closed the game out strong by making 3-of-4 of their field goal attempts in the overtime period.
Kentucky squeaked by Maryland in its opener, 72-69, but then it ran into trouble against Duke on Tuesday night. The Wildcats trailed by as many as 14 points in the second half but battled back to make it a three-point game with three and half minutes to play, but the Blue Devils closed the game by draining 7-of-8 free throws down the stretch. UK is already halfway to its loss total from its NCAA Championship season in 2011-12 (38-2).
Lafayette's 98-point outburst against LIU-Brooklyn was more points than it put up in any game last season, and it did so behind 53.1 percent shooting (including 8-of-16 from three-point range) and 78.6 percent from the free- throw line (22-of-28). Leading the charge was Dan Trist, who was nearly perfect on the night, going 14-of-18 from the floor en route to a career-high 30 points, which gives him a team-leading average of 23.0 ppg on the young season. Not lost in the shuffle was Seth Hinrichs, who put up 20 points. The Leopards have a few viable options off the bench. Tony Johnson tallied 16 points and a team-high seven assists, and while he did not start he still logged 35 minutes of playing time. Joey Ptasinski (12 points) is also a strong bench performer who can knock down a three at the drop of a hat.
Just like last season, Kentucky is led by a starting lineup that mostly consists of freshmen, and while it hasn't been exactly a poor start for the squad shooting wise (.458), its potential has not been fully realized yet. Against Duke, the youngsters were the least of the Wildcats' worries, as Alex Poythress (20 points), Nerlens Noel (16 points) and Archie Goodwin (16 points) were all fantastic, but the rest of the squad only accounted for 16 points combined. After scoring only four points in the opener, Noel, the nation's top recruit this offseason, showed flashes of brilliance by also adding eight boards, four steals and three blocks. Poythress was efficient from the floor (9-of-12) and also grabbed eight boards, while Goodwin pitched in with a team- high four assists and is the club's leading scorer through two games (16.0 ppg). Sophomore Kyle Wiltjer, a veteran by this team's standards, scored just five points after tallying 19 in the opener.