The eighth-ranked Kentucky Wildcats continue preparations for what promises to be another rigorous SEC slate, as they entertain the Morehead State Eagles on Wednesday night.
Morehead State is 3-1 on the young season, having disposed of LIU-Brooklyn (77-74), Alice Lloyd (101-50) and Lafayette (88-74), while suffering its lone setback at Maryland (67-45). The Eagles, who will open Ohio Valley Conference play at home against SIU-Edwardsville on Jan. 3, 2013, are playing an ambitious schedule which features 13 teams that appeared in the postseason last year, including three NCAA Tournament qualifiers.
The defending national champion Wildcats opened the season with a narrow win over Maryland (72-69), and then fell to Duke (75-68). Both games took place outside of Lexington, and the team opened its home slate with a bang, blasting Lafayette last Friday (101-49). Kentucky still has to play Notre Dame, Baylor and Louisville in non-league action, and it will kick off the SEC portion of its schedule at Vanderbilt on Jan. 10, 2013.
Kentucky has won all nine previous meetings with its intrastate rival, the most recent of which occured during the 2009-10 season (75-59).
Morehead State is averaging a healthy 77.8 ppg, but boasts just one double- digit scorer in Milton Chavis (17.3 ppg). Balance is more the order of the day for the Eagles, as five guys average between 7.5 and 8.5 ppg. The team as a whole is shooting 46.1 percent from the field and owns a +7.8 rebounding margin, and is +4.3 in turnovers. Free-throw shooting has proven to be problematic for the squad (.571). Defensively, the Eagles are permitting 66.2 ppg, with foes hitting just 41.3 percent of their total shots, which includes a 32.9 percent showing from three-point range. Chavis hit 7-of-11 field goal attempts in netting a team-high 18 points in the recent win over Lafayette, and three others joined him in double digits. The Eagles drained 54.0 percent of their shots overall, but 20 turnovers was certainly way too many. Fortunately, Lafayette was even more inept with the ball, coughing it up a staggering 29 times.
Althought its only been three games, Kentucky has proven to be an offensive force as it averages 80.3 ppg on the strength of a 52.7 percent shooting effort from the field, which includes an even 50.0 percent effort from three- point range. The team boasts four double-digit scorers, led by Alex Poythree (16.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg). Kyle Wiltjer (15.7 ppg, 4.3 rp, 4.7 apg), Archie Goodwin (15.0 ppg, 3.0 apg) and Noel Nelens (11.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 3.3 spg) round out the quartet, and each brings other valuable attributes to the court as well. Defensively, UK is giving up 64.3 ppg, with foes hitting just 39.1 percent of their total shots, which includes a 28.3 percent effort from beyond the arc, and the Wildcats are +4.0 in turnover margin, but -4.3 in rebounding margin. Wiltjer and Poythress scored 23 and 22 points, respectively, in leading Kentucky to its blowout win over Lafayette, the team making good on a sizzling 64.5 percent of its field goal attempts, while taking full advantage of 28 turnovers by the Leopards.