Kentucky Basketball: Wildcats need to roar into Athens and quiet the Dawgs

Davion Mintz of the Kentucky Wildcats (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Davion Mintz of the Kentucky Wildcats (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /
1 of 5

It’s anyone’s guess what the Kentucky basketball team will look like at Georgia.

The Kentucky basketball team heads to Athens, Georgia tonight to tangle with a Bulldog team that rarely gives them a lot of opposition.

However, with this Wildcat team who knows what to expect, who will show up, and just how much fight do they have in a Southeastern Conference game Kentucky needs to win.

Kentucky (4-8, 3-2) has won 14 straight matchups with the Bulldogs but is reeling off consecutive losses to Alabama and Auburn while Georgia (8-4, 1-4) is coming off its best game of the year after downing Ole Miss 78-74 and stopping a four-game skid of their own.

During those 14 games against Georgia, the Wildcats have won by an average of 13 points.

It will be a matchup of similar teams instead of Georgia trying to knock off the more talented and usually ranked Wildcats. Kentucky coach John Calipari and Georgia’s Tom Crean have battled on the court for years, but are friends off the court.

The teams last met a year and five days ago with No. 7 Kentucky walloping the Bulldogs 69-49 in Athens.

Crean is 4-5 against the Wildcats while coaching at Marquette and Indiana and 2-4 head-to-head with Calipari as the Kentucky coach.

Kentucky leads the all-time series with Georgia 127-26 and the Wildcats are 43-17 in Athens. Crean talked about the friendship before last year’s game.

"“We’ve had a friendship for a long time. I have a ton of respect for him, I have long before I ever met him and I certainly have during the years of our friendship and the times of competing against him. I think he’s a great coach, I think he’s built great programs wherever he’s been. I think he deserves to be in the hall of fame.”"

The teams are very similar in style and struggle this year which could lead to an entertaining or not so pretty 40 minutes.

Calipari was equally complimentary of Crean prior to last year’s game.

"“He’s been a friend for 30 years. Friend/foe? I mean, he’s a competitor. Like, he’ll want to win this game and he’ll build it up to be a Super Bowl. But I’ve always respected what he does and we’ve been friends.”"

Calipari has hinted at making lineup changes to start the game. Whether that is true or what that consists of is anyone’s guess. Thus comparing matchups isn’t possible.

Would a lineup of Jacob Toppin, Devin Askew, Lance Ware, Keion Brooks, and Davion Mintz be so bad? What could it hurt? Maybe sitting the starters from before gives them a different perspective watching the hustle and passion this group plays with.

If it doesn’t work what’s the harm? Throw caution to the wind, pull the engine out and put it back together with some new parts, and see what happens. Calipari can always put the original parts back.

Calipari made it clear during his Georgia preview that all starting spots are up for grabs. If that includes Brandon Boston we’ll see. Davion Mintz was alongside and agreed.

"“He just talked about being desperate. Like, you have to play with some sort of desperation, especially with where we are right now in the season. He’s made it very clear that he’s only going to play the five guys that are going to go out there and play with desperation. At this point, everyone is trying to be that bull, chasing that flag at this point, trying to be one of those guys at this point.”"

One player that will still not see the court is Terrence Clarke who is still nursing an ankle injury. Calipari said it may be another 7 to 10 days before he returns.

Will Cam’Ron Fletcher see time as well is another intriguing question but this would be a game for him to get a few minutes at least should Kentucky need him down the stretch.

Let’s take a look at the keys to the game.