After a little time off to celebrate the holidays, the Kentucky Wildcats return to action on Tuesday night with a tuneup game against the Coppin State Eagles. The Eagles enter the game with a 4-5 record and are 0-1 in MEAC play. Their lone conference game so far was a 70-64 loss at Morgan State.
They are coming off of a 2009-2010 campaign that saw them finish with a 8-22 overall record. They were just 3-13 in league play.
Two of Coppin State’s five losses this year have come against teams that Kentucky faced in Maui. Oklahoma beat them to open their season, 77-57, and last Monday they fell to Connecticut, 76-64. The 12-point loss to the Huskies is a little misleading. Kemba Walker led UConn on a 25-3 run midway through the first half to put them up 38-15. They led by as much as 26 and with just over eight minutes to go in the game led 66-45. From that point on the Eagles outscored the Huskies, 19-10.
The story of the game was rebounding as the Huskies pulled down the game’s first 13 boards, ten of which were on the offensive end. They ended up outrebounding Coppin State, 58-29, which helped compensate for shooting just 41-percent from the floor.
Overall this year, the Eagles are averaging just 34.8 rebounds-per-game, which ranks 223rd in the country.
In their last game, a 80-56 defeat at the hands of Wisconsin, the Eagles allowed the Badgers to knock down 17 three-pointers, which set a Wisconsin school record. Jon Leuer hit threes on Wisconsin’s first four possessions to start the game and finished with 19 points on 5-for-10 shooting. Overall the Badgers finished 17-for-38 from deep.
Perimeter defense and rebounding are two things that Winthrop, UK’s last opponent, really struggled with as well. The Wildcats, and Doron Lamb specifically, took full advantage of Winthrop’s difficulty of defending the deep ball, knocking down 12-of-22 threes. Lamb finished 7-for-8 from deep, en route to 32 points, which is the most ever by a UK freshman. They won the battle of the boards against Winthrop, but didn’t dominate like they should have. They allowed Winthrop to pull down 11 offensive boards and only outrebounded them, 40-32.
Offensively, this Coppin State team is not likely to set the house on fire. They are averaging 66.7 points-per-game, which ranks 238th in the country. They are also shooting just 41-percent from the floor. They really struggle in the assist department, with just over ten per game. They rank 326th in the land in dishes. Not good.
Junior guard Michael Harper (6-4, 195) leads the Eagles in scoring with 15.3 points-per-game. He has scored in double figures in all nine of their games and has the ability to get hot from deep. He has knocked down 17-of-45 three-point attempts on the season, which is good for 38-percent, and in their win over winless UMBC, connected on a season-high five threes.
Tony Gallo (5-11, 190), another junior guard, is second on the team in scoring with 13.0 points-per-game. He failed to reach double figures in the Eagles’ first three games, but ever since then he has been their best scorer. In his last six games he is averaging 17.3 points and his lowest scoring game is 16. He has knocked down at least two threes in each of his last six games and is shooting 20-for-49 from deep on the year, good for 41-percent.
Harper and Gallo are joined in the starting lineup by three forwards, none of which are taller than 6’8″. The best of which is junior Akeem Ellis (6-6, 210). Ellis leads the team in rebounding with 5.6 boards and is third on the team in scoring with 10.4 points-per-game. Despite being the team’s best rebounder, on offense he spends the majority of his team prancing around the perimeter. Half of his shots are from beyond the arc and he is shooting just 13-for-45 from deep.
This game is exactly what it is set up to be, a tuneup game for Friday’s highly anticipated matchup against Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center. It will be interesting to see if Kentucky continues to flourish from deep and if Lamb can put up another high scoring game. Will Terrence Jones rebound after really struggling against Winthrop? He needs a good game in his system prior to facing the Cards.
Kentucky 87, Coppin State 58