Kentucky has had some bad luck lately with Nerlens Noel going down with an ACL season ending injury against Florida last week, and then everything went wrong at Tennessee and they got beat by 30 points to a 13-10 team. Now, Kentucky will come home for a 3 game stretch, and they will start off with Vanderbilt tonight.
Kentucky defeated Vanderbilt in January 62-60 after giving up a 16 point lead in the second half. Vanderbilt got hot from outside and switched to a zone defense, and they actually took the lead with 3 minutes left to go in the game. That was Kentucky’s 1st SEC game, and when Kevin Stallings switched to the zone Kentucky was shell shocked and didn’t know what to do.
In the second matchup I expect the same kind of game, and I expect Vanderbilt to play zone the whole game. Kyle Wiltjer, and Julius Mays will have to knock down shots from the outside to get them out of the zone. If Vanderbilt has to go man to man then Archie Goodwin, and Alex Poythress should be able to beat their guys off the dribble.
Without Nerlens Noel Kentucky’s defense looked awful in the final 4 minutes of the Florida game, and gave up 88 points to Tennessee who earlier in the season only scored 36 points total against Georgetown. I think our guards thought it was okay if they got beat off the dribble, because Nerlens would send everything back, but he’s not there anymore and they have to guard the perimeter better.
Vanderbilt shoots 3s ALOT, and they are not shy about putting them up. If Vanderbilt can get hot in Rupp tonight then Kentucky could be in another dog fight with the Commodores. Kedren Johnson leads Vandy in scoring with 14.7 points a game, and 3.3 assist. Our backcourt has to keep him under control throughout the game or once again he will drive and kick out to open 3 point shooters.
Jarrod Polson will probably get the start for the struggling Ryan Harrow, so he will have the defensive assignment of guarding Johnson, but I am sure Calipari will give Harrow a lot of minutes as he has to find the point guard he wants to finish the rest of the season.
If Kentucky can come out with energy, and stay out of foul trouble I think they get the much needed victory going into College Gameday on Saturday to take on Missouri, which is now a “Must Win” game.