The 10-7 Georgia Bulldogs are rolling into Rupp Arena this afternoon to take on the 14-4 Kentucky Wildcats. The game is being shown at 1:30 on ESPN3, The SEC Network, and on the UK IMG Radio.
Both teams are standing at 4-1 in the SEC, Georgia who has their best conference record since the 2002-03 season is ready to put up a dog fight against the Wildcats to keep it going. This game would be the game where the Wildcats could use Willie Cauley-Stein to come back with a vengeance, if not Dakari Johnson would be the defensive dependent for the Wildcats against the Bulldogs.
There is another key player for the Wildcats, Alex Poythress. As a veteran, he’s played against the Bulldogs before and knows their ability. Ken Howlett from CoachCal.com had this to say about the key match up with Alex Poythress and Georgia’s low post players,
“Alex Poythress vs. Georgia’s low-post players – In the last couple of weeks, Poythress has become more than just a rebounding and defensive threat, for he is now looking for his shot and utilizing the base line as an entry into the lane. Because of his newfound offensive confidence, Poythress is putting up 10.6 points while making 61.3 percent of his shots over the last five games, giving UK another big man that must be closely guarded.
Poythress’ emergence as a low-post scorer, along with Julius Randle’s steady production, gives UK two forwards capable of putting up big numbers and dominating the glass. An additional benefit to UK is that defenses now must account for Poythress, potentially opening up the floor for Randle.
Making Poythress more dangerous is his efficiency at the line. Through the first 15 games, Poythress made only 12 of 25 from the free-throw line (48.0 percent), but in the last three contests he has found the net 12 of 13 times from the line (10 of those 12 makes were consecutive), raising his once inexcusable free-throw percentage to 63.2 percent.”
Nemanja Djurisic is a force for the Georgia Bulldogs. Djurisic is a 6’8 junior and has faced the Wildcats the past two years, he has a decent idea of what to expect playing against the Wildcats, even though the Wildcats are a new team. Defense is going to be the Wildcats biggest threat against the Bulldogs, if they put up their best defense, they should be able to come out of Rupp Arena with the win. Again from Ken Howlett’s post, he explains the three keys to success for the Wildcats.
“Defensive tenacity – As noted above, Georgia’s primary ball handlers, Mann and Gaines, have combined to commit 76 turnovers and dish out 66 assists, not the type of numbers a coach desires from his guards (UGA’s .86 assist/turnover ratio ranks last in the SEC). Kentucky’s defense has been on the improve of late, and how effective the Harrison twins are in pressuring UGA’s Mann and Gaines, denying the penetration and dish to UGA’s big men will help determine how successful UK will be when playing the Dawgs.
Overall, UGA has 37 more turnovers than its opponents, meaning the Cats have an excellent opportunity to create easy baskets off of steals and or turnovers, something UK normally does not do, as Kentucky forces only 12.7 turnovers with 4.4 steals per contest.
Low-block domination – In what has become a common theme in “Three Keys,” Kentucky must take advantage of its size and talent in the paint against the Dawgs. While Georgia has talented forwards in Djurisic, Thornton, and Williams, UK seems to have a slight advantage in size, bulk and physicality — although Thornton could be reasonably described as long and physical — something the Cats need to exploit Saturday by emphasizing scoring down low.
And in a case of “something’s got to give,” UGA is second in the league in defensive rebound percentage (70.4 percent), while the Cats counter by being the league’s top offensive rebounding club by snagging 44.4 percent of their off-target shot attempts. Whether the low-block party becomes a battle of wills or positioning, Kentucky must find a way to continue to dominate in second-chance and paint points against a Georgia squad which prides itself on keeping opponents off the offensive glass.
Over the course of the season, second-chance and paint points have become the barometer for gauging how effective UK performs on offense, and when playing a team as aggressive as UGA is on the glass, the Wildcats should recognize that advantage and feed the post and baseline runners a regular diet of dimes.
Control Djurisic – Statistically, the only consistent Georgia 3-point threat, the 6-8 Djurisic is capable of getting hot from distance, meaning the 53.7 percent long-range shooter must be kept in check any time he roams beyond the arc. Twice this season Djurisic has gotten loose on the perimeter, once against Davidson, where he connected on 4 of 6 from distance, netting 19 points in a UGA victory, and again against Lipscomb when he nailed 3 of 4 from beyond the arc, totaling 15 points in the Bulldogs’ win.
UK could conceivably put a chaser on him or utilize ball denial as Djurisic attempts to stretch the UK defense. However UK opts to guard UGA’s top shooter, it must limit his touches and open shot opportunities while not allowing him to pull a UK “big” too far away from the basket.”
Both teams are going to fight to be 5-1 in the SEC. Just remember guys, we’re everyones Super Bowl.