Lexington, KY – With the UConn Huskies going down against the ranked Kentucky Wildcats to possibly ascend to the top spot when the new rankings are announced, but first they'll have to get by the University of Portland Pilots at Rupp Arena tonight.
Winners of 35 straight at home, the Wildcats have gotten off to a 5-0 start to the 2011-12 campaign, thanks in part to an 88-40 thumping of Radford on Wednesday during the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament.
As for the Pilots, they have just two wins in five opportunities so far this season, and those game in the first two games of the campaign against Florida Atlantic and Georgia State as part of the World Vision Classic in Seattle. Since then the team has bowed in three consecutive outings, the most recent being an 83-69 final versus UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday.
In terms of the all-time series, Kentucky has won both previous meetings with the Pilots, including a 79-48 triumph in the most recent encounter last season.
Ryan Nicholas led a trio of players in double figures earlier this week as he tallied 16 points, thanks largely to an 8-of-10 effort at the free-throw line, but it still wasn't nearly enough as the Pilots took the hit against UC Santa Barbara in the Thunderdome. Nemanja Mitrovic and Tanner Riley accounted for 12 points apiece as the team shot just 38.6 percent from the field and 6-of-20 beyond the arc. Through five games it is Mitrovic and Nicholas who lead the team in scoring with 11.8 ppg apiece, the former shooting just 35.6 percent from the floor and a mere 29.0 percent behind the three-point line. Nicholas, who has feasted at the free-throw line (20-of-24), is also responsible for a team-high 8.4 rpg as well and that effort has provided the program with a slight edge (0.8 rpg) in overall rebounding versus opponents.
Against Radford, all five Kentucky starters scored in double figures, but it was really more about the ineptitude of the opposition that caught the headlines as the Highlanders made just 26.2 percent of their shots from the floor and were a dismal 2-of-25 from three-point range. For the Wildcats, Terrence Jones led the way with 17 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots, followed by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with 15 points and a team-high nine boards. Marquis Teague delivered 13 points and five assists, Anthony Davis 12 and six boards and Doron Lamb 10 points in the triumph. All five of the regular starters are averaging double figures as well, led by Lamb with his 15.2 ppg, his 12-of-24 shooting beyond the arc forcing defenses to extend further than their comfort zones. Kidd-Gilchrist (12.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg), Davis (12.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg) and Jones (12.2 ppg, 8.0 rpg) all handle the action on the inside, with the last two combining for 33 blocked shots already.