Big Blue Preview: Kentucky vs. Tennessee
For the past two games, Kentucky freshman Justin Edwards has seen the Cats play from a different perspective. Battling through a quad injury, Edwards played just nine minutes against Arkansas, then missed Wednesday’s game against Florida.
Edwards hopes to return on Saturday as No. 10/8 Kentucky hosts No. 5/5 Tennessee in a crucial Southeastern Conference contest for both teams.
While Edwards would much rather be on the floor, he has used his time on the bench as a learning experience.
“I noticed a lot,” Edwards said. “Something I do when I’m not playing, I view the game as me playing to see what I would do. I feel like I could use it a lot. I’ve seen a lot of stuff that we can do better.”
Edwards has been going through the process of trying to get himself healthy so he can return to the court as soon as possible.
“I’m doing better,” Edwards said. “I’ve been doing everything recovery-wise, trying to get back out there. I plan on practicing (Friday).”
When Edwards was making his college decision, Tennessee and Kentucky were the finalists. He said that this game means a little more to him because of that.
“I chose Kentucky over Tennessee, so this is my first time playing (UT),” Edwards said. “Just off the relationships I have from Tennessee, I feel like there’s going to be a lot of tension in this game. It’s a rivalry game but it means a little bit more because I picked Kentucky over Tennessee.”
Tennessee lost to South Carolina on Tuesday, but the Vols are 15-5 on the season and 5-2 in league play. Kentucky, coming off an overtime loss to Florida at home, is also 15-5, with a 5-3 SEC mark.
What do the Cats hope to do better after that game?
“Closing the game out,” Edwards said. “I feel like we lost the game in the last minute and a half.”
When asked if that was more mental or physical, Edwards chose both.
“I would say a little bit of both,” Edwards said. “Moreso, discipline, knowing when to shoot the ball, knowing what to do.”
Edwards hopes to get back on the court on Saturday night to put into action the things he has learned from watching most of the last two games on the sidelines.
Last Time Out: Florida Recap
Freshman guard Reed Sheppard had 24 points and fellow freshman Rob Dillingham scored 20, but No. 10/8 Kentucky lost to Florida 94-91 on Wednesday night at Rupp Arena.
It was the most points that Sheppard has scored in an SEC game this season and the fourth time he has scored at least 20 points in a game.
The Cats were without freshman guards Justin Edwards and D.J. Wagner, who both missed the game due to injury.
Kentucky (15-5, 5-3 Southeastern Conference) got 19 points from Antonio Reeves. Sophomore Ugonna Onyenso had a big game in his first career start, notching career highs in points (13), rebounds (16) and blocked shots (eight).
Kentucky grabbed an 8-3 lead early in the game, boosted by threes from Adou Thiero and Reeves. Florida would climb its way back into the game, eventually tying it at 12-12 before taking a 14-12 lead on a Riley Kugel basket.
The Cats tied the game on a Sheppard bucket, then re-took the lead on a Zvonimir Ivisic free throw. From there, the lead would change hands 12 times before Kentucky got a three from Sheppard, an Onyenso putback and a Sheppard drive to the basket, to take a 34-28 lead. After a Florida free throw, the Cats got another Reeves three and an Aaron Bradshaw dunk to complete a 12-1 run and take a 39-29 lead with 2:16 to play in the half.
Florida would close the half on a 7-2 run, but the Cats took a 41-36 lead into the break. Sheppard led all scorers in the first half with 11 points.
The Gators scored the first six points of the second half to retake the lead, 42-41. But the Cats got dunks from Onyenso and Reeves to grab a 45-42 advantage. UK would go ahead 47-44 but Florida tied the game on a Walter Clayton three.
From there, the lead would change hands 10 more times before the Cats stretched it to four, 70-66, on a Reeves three. However, Florida scored the next five to lead again, 71-70 with 7:17 to play. The lead would change hands three more times and the game would be tied at 73, 75 and 77.
Kentucky would get four straight points from Reeves to lead 81-77. Florida got a basket from Tyrese Samuel to get within two before Onyenso got an offensive rebound and stuck it back in to give the Cats an 83-79 advantage with 37 seconds to play.
Samuel scored again to get the Gators within two, 83-81. Dillingham was then fouled and hit the first free throw but missed the second. Florida then got a three from Clayton with five seconds left to tie the game and UK was unable to get a shot off, sending the game to overtime.
In overtime, Florida used an 8-0 run to take a 94-87 lead and the Gators held on for the victory.
Big-Game Cal, Cats
Some notes about Cal’s teams against the best of the best:
• Not only does Kentucky own a 71-50 record (58.7%) vs. Associated Press Top 25 teams under John Calipari, UK is 7-5 when both teams are ranked in the AP top five
• All-time, Calipari is 13-9 when both teams are ranked in the AP top five
• When both teams are ranked in the AP Top 25, Calipari’s alltime record is 91-67, including a 60-39 mark at Kentucky
• When both are ranked in the top 10 he has a 27-22 record, including 16-15 at UK
• By defeating top-ranked Michigan State to start the 2019-20 season, UK knocked off the No. 1 team in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history. Kentucky downed Tennessee on Feb. 19, 2019
• With the win over MSU to begin 2019-20, the Wildcats have nine victories over the No. 1 team in 24 tries in program history
• Calipari is 6-5 all-time against the No. 1 ranked team