Lexington, KY (SportsNetwork.com) - The top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats will continue their season-long eight-game homestand on Wednesday night when they welcome the Columbia Lions to Rupp Arena for non-conference action.
Columbia has gotten its season off to a strong start with wins in five of its first seven games. The Lions recently wrapped up a four-game homestand at 3-1, which included their most impressive showing of the season on Saturday in a 61-39 romp of Bucknell.
Kentucky is the nation's unanimous No. 1 team and has won each of its first nine games by double-digit margins, most notably asserting its dominance over fellow top-10 teams Kansas (72-40) and Texas (63-51). The Wildcats made easy work of Eastern Kentucky on Sunday, 82-49.
The programs met just once before way back in 1948, with Kentucky claiming a 76-53 decision.
Although the Lions held just a six-point halftime lead in their most recent contest, they pulled away from Bucknell in the second stanza and eventually settled in on a 23-point victory. They shot 44.9 percent from the field in the victory, including 10-of-22 from 3-point range, while holding Bucknell to a mere 28.3 percent shooting and two long-range buckets. Maodo Lo was the spark plug with 20 points on 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. Cory Osetkowski was also impressive, stuffing the stat sheet with 12 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and three blocks.
On the season, Columbia shows very little explosion offensively, as it shoots 41.3 percent from the field for only 59.0 ppg, but luckily it is able to make up for it with an outstanding effort on the other end of the floor in allowing a mere 50.0 ppg on 37 percent shooting. Lo is the unquestioned go-to scoring option with 16.1 ppg on 16-of-46 from 3-point range, and he's also a great defender with 2.7 steals per game. Osetkowski is a dependable presence in the paint with 8.9 ppg and 8.1 rpg, but he shoots less than 40 percent from the field.
The Wildcats have barely broken a sweat this season, and their contest with EKU earlier in the week was no different. They outshot their opponent from the field in the 33-point triumph, 56.9 percent to 26.1 percent, and dominated the rebounding battle, 48-28. Karl-Anthony Towns was 8-of-9 from the field for 19 points to go with nine rebounds and four blocks. Trey Lyles came off the bench to log a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, while Willie Cauley- Stein and Marcus Lee netted 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Kentucky has established itself as the best team in the country thanks mostly to a suffocating defense, as it ranks as the nation's best both in terms of scoring (45.8 ppg) and field goal percentage defense (.279). The squad can also put points on the board at will with 77.6 ppg on 47.7 percent shooting, and it boasts outstanding margins in terms of rebounding (+12.3) and turnovers (+6.2). Only Cauley-Stein (10.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg) and Dakari Johnson (10.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg) score in double figures, but the Wildcats have an incredibly deep roster, with seven players scoring 7.7 ppg or more and nine at least 5.0 ppg. Towns (9.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.8 bpg) is off to a great start as a freshman, and Aaron Harrison's point total (9.3 ppg) will go up once he corrects his shooting woes (.344).