NCAA Basketball

College Basketball Preview: Georgia vs. Kentucky

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Last time out, in the SEC opener, the Cats were completely out-physicalled by the Bulldogs. End of story. That is why the Wildcats left Athens with the loss.

By now everyone is aware that leading the way for the Bulldogs is preseason SEC Player of the Year, Trey Thompkins, a 6-9 forward out of Lithonia, GA. Entering his freshman season, everyone knew that he was an effective rebounder and a tremendous defender because of his length. But, there were questions surrounding his scoring ability in the paint and on the perimeter. Last year he answered those critics by quickly becoming one of the best inside-out threats in the SEC.

Thompkins, now a junior, started this season on the bench for Georgia after suffering a high ankle sprain in an exhibition game. The injury forced him to miss the first three games prior to returning to action against Notre Dame in the Old Spice Classic. After being cleared to play just a day prior, Thompkins saw 33 minutes of action in the double overtime thriller, scoring 13 points and 10 rebounds.

He has scored in double figures in all 16 of his games played and is averaging a team-high 17.6 points per-game. He is also leading the team in rebounding with 7.4 per conteset and just does a little bit of everything for the ‘Dawgs. He is knocking down 48-percent of his shot attempts and has the ability to step out and shoot it from deep.

Junior Travis Leslie, a 6-4 guard, is the second leading scorer for Georgia with 15.0 points-per-game and has scored in double figures in all but three games this season, including nine strait. He is an extremely athletic wing player who is constantly looking to do something above the rim. Kentucky fans saw this first hand a year ago when he absolutely crammed on DeMarcus Cousins. He is, without question, the best leaper in the SEC.

When he is in transition he is at his beast. He is also an effective rebounder with 7.3 per game, which is second on the team. In past seasons he has struggled with his ball handling, but that is an area where he has really improved. No longer does he have to be in open space to show his athleticism because he has developed the ability to take defenders off the dribble a little more. He has also worked significantly on his defense and leads the team in steals with 1.5 per game.

He is not a threat to shoot it from deep, at all. On the season he is shooting just 5-for-21 from beyond the arc.

The addition of Gerald Robinson, a transfer out of Tennessee State, has been huge for the ‘Dawgs as well. Robinson provides them with another scorer, he is third on the team with 13.7 points-per-game, and he has the ability to get to the rim and shoot it from the perimeter. He has scored in double figures in all but five games and is shooting 37-percent from distance.

Mark Fox’s teams are known for their defense and this team is no different. Look for them to zone Kentucky in an attempt to slow the tempo.

Offensively, look for them to move Thompkins away from the basket and try to get Terrence Jones in foul trouble. Foul trouble was a big issue for the Cats last time out and I’ll get into that a little more here in a bit.

Also, expect them to milk the shot clock and hope that Thompkins or one of their perimter guys can make a shot at the buzzer. They are a decent three-point shooting team, shooting just 34-percent on the year, but they need someone like Dustin Ware or Gerald Robinson to step up and knock down some shots from deep.

Last time out the story was Georgia out-physicalling Kentucky and the Bulldogs do this to a lot of teams. Two games ago against Mississippi State they outrebounded them by 25. In their loss to Florida on Tuesday, they rebounded 60-percent of their missed shots in the first half. They are physical and because of that they often control the glass.

When you shoot late in the shot clock and then control the offensive glass, it provides you with an opportunity to really slow down your opponent’s momentum. Think about it. You just played tough “D” for 30 seconds and they get the offensive rebound. Now you’re right back into your defensive set.

This is how they are so effective on the glass.

On offense they run a version of the triangle offense with Trey Thompkins and Jeremy Price on the low block with Travis Leslie at the free throw line. When they are in this triangle set, which is often, they have great rebounding position. It is nothing too in-depth schematically, but it puts them in position, and then when they out-push you and out-shove you for balls off the glass it leads to second shot opportunities.

If Kentucky wants to win at Rupp on Saturday, they can’t allow Georgia to push and shove their way into second and third shots on the offensive end.

Kentucky has more overall talent than Georgia, but Trey Thompkins is probably the most talented player they will see this season and he proved that last time out. In that game he was one of four Bulldogs to score in double figures with 25 points. He also had seven rebounds, but the most important stat was the fact that he got to the line 12 times.

Speaking of getting to the free throw line, Georgia’s physical play also caused UK problems in the foul department. Kentucky struggled with the pushing and the banging underneath and instead fouled often, which in turn led to foul trouble for Kentucky and a plethora of free throws for Georgia. The Wildcats finished the game with 24 fouls and three Wildcats fouled out. The Bulldogs went to the stripe 34 times and made Kentucky pay by shooting 88-percent from the line. 30 of Georgia’s 77 popints came from the line in their win over Kentucky.

This is not a Kentucky team with a ton of depth and their depth in the frontcourter is even weaker. Two quick ones to Josh Harrellson or Terrence Jones, or to both, could be detrimental.

This Georgia team has talent, experience, and they play a quality style of basketball that can cause opponents fits. Kentucky has seen all of this first-hand. Add in the fact that they are just 3-3 in the league and don’t want to fall below .500, and this is going to be a tough one for Kentucky. Even at Rupp.

The Wildcats have yet to prove that they have that “it” factor every single time they hit the court. But, the majority of their lackadaisical play has occured on the road.

Still, Georgia’s style of play really matches up well with the ‘Cats and causes them fits. To be quite honest, the Wildcats are going to struggle to win the battle down low. Maybe they flip the switch and out-shove the ‘Dawgs, but I don’t see it happening.

Because of that, they are going to have to have a good shooting night to win this one. Doron Lamb, Brandon Knight, and Darius Miller from deep are going to be huge.

It’s going to come down to the wire on Saturday and I believe that the Wildcats will keep John Calipari perfect at home. Barely.

Kentucky 77, Georgia 74