Fourth-ranked Kentucky, which bounced back from a hard-fought 65-61 Champions Classic loss to No. 3 Kansas with a 17-point win over East Tennessee State on Friday, plays its fifth game in 11 days when it hosts defending Sun Belt champ Troy on Monday night. And head coach John Calipari says the theme of the night will be unselfishness.
That’s kind of surprising considering the Wildcats had more eye-popping issues in the 78-61 victory over the Buccaneers, like 22 turnovers and 3-of-15 free throw shooting. Such are the growing pains for a team that starts five freshmen, even if all five of them were considered top-25 prep prospects. “They’re not mature enough to figure all this out and that every game matters and you’re being evaluated personally and us as a team every game we play,” Calipari said in his post-game press conference. “Guys went out and, ‘I’m just going to go get mine,’ and when you do that, you just don’t look like a very good basketball player.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, SEC Network
ABOUT TROY (2-2): The Trojans tuned up for their big trip to Lexington by beating up on NAIA foe Brewton-Parker, 106-71, on Thursday as junior center Alex Hicks finished with a double-double of 26 points and 10 rebounds in just 22 minutes of action. Troy opened the season by losing two of three games in Rainbow Classic in Honolulu but wasn’t that far from going 3-0, losing its opener to North Dakota, 83-80, and to the host Rainbow Warriors in overtime, 72-67, while also cruising to a 81-57 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Returning first team all-Sun Belt forward Jordan Varnardo leads the team in scoring (19.5) and is tied with Hicks for the lead in rebounding (8.3) while senior guard Wesley Person is second in scoring (17.0) while sinking 14-of-33 3-pointers (42.4 percent).
ABOUT KENTUCKY (3-1): Kevin Knox, a 6-9, 215-pound forward who picked the Wildcats over North Carolina, Duke and others, is averaging team highs in points (15.0) and rebounds (7.8) and had 20 points in the loss to Kansas. Guard Hamidou Diallo, like Knox on the preseason watch lists for the Wooden, Naismith and Oscar Robertson Trophy awards, is second in scoring (13.8) and is also among team leaders in rebounds (3.8) and assists (2.5). Point guard Quade Green also is averaging in double figures (11.5) and led all scorers with 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting to go along with three assists in the win over East Tennessee State.
1. Knox has connected on 9-of-21 3-pointers (42.9 percent), best of any starter for the Wildcats.
2. Kentucky has more turnovers (64) than assists (63) so far this season.
3. The Wildcats have made at least one 3-pointer in an NCAA record 1,017 consecutive games.
PREDICTION: Kentucky 80, Troy 75