The Cats head into Christmas with a Wednesday afternoon tilt against the Winthrop Eagles (5-6, 1-1) for a rare, early afternoon, weekday game (1:00 EST, FS South). Winthrop, coming off a road loss to the defending NIT champion Dayton Flyers, has played a solid schedule up to this point in the season, with wins over Wake Forest (83-74), and Jacksonville, a team which beat Florida on Monday night.
Led by fourth-year head coach Randy Peele, the Eagles, like Kentucky (8-2), are a guard-centric squad, starting three guards, one forward, and a center, and have struggled on the boards at times this season — The Eagles’ offensive rebounding percentage is only 29.6%, good for 275th in the nation; their defensive rebound % is 67.8%, 179th in the nation. But, this game will be a real test of how well the ‘Cats are able to focus, knowing they are going home for Christmas soon after the end of the game. This Big South team is not to be taken lightly, though, or treated as an afterthought. Just ask Wake Forest or Jacksonville.
• The Eagles are led in scoring by 6-4 guard Robbie Dreher. The talented sophomore checks-in at 15.4 points per game, to go along with 3.6 rebounds per contest. Dreher is the Eagles second best three-point shooter, having made 14-32 on the season (43.8%). Junior guard Andre Jones averages 12.5 points per game, and also hits the glass with abandon, averaging 4.0 rebounds. Jones, like Dreher, is a legitimate long-range threat; he’s making 39.4% from beyond the arc (13-33). Rounding out the starting guard trio is 6-1 junior Reggie Middleton, who averages 11.1 points per game, and leads the team in assists with 39 (3.9 per game). Not the three-point threat his backcourt cohorts are (28.0% on the year), Middleton more than makes up for that shortcoming by hitting the boards to the tune of 4.6 rebounds per game.
• Filling the forward spot for the Eagles is 6-7 senior Charles Corbin. Coming off a season-long suspension (lifted December 7), Corbin is second on the team in rebounding with 7.0 per game in his three contests. Corbin is making 42.9% of his shots from the floor, and averaging 9.7 points per game. Starting in the middle for Winthrop is 6-9 junior Matt Morgan. Morgan is averaging 6.8 points per contest, and 5.4 rebounds. While not shooting the ball particularly well at only 31.3%, Morgan brings a physical presence in the paint for Peele’s squad.
• Coming off the bench, and leading the Eagles in rebounding, is 6-8 junior forward George Valentine (no relation to referee “TV Teddy” Valentine!!). Grabbing 7.4 rebounds per contest, and scoring 7.5 points per game, Valentine is the best shooter among the Eagles, making 57.9% of his field goal attempts. The man to watch, though, especially if the game is close at the end, is 6-7 sophomore guard Gideon Gamble, who last season sent two games into OT with last second three-pointers. This season, Gamble isn’t a gamble at all from long range, for he’s made 13-26 bombs (50.0%). And finally, senior guard Justin Burton will spell the starting guards, bringing 4.1 points, and 2.9 assists per game with him to the floor.
• Eagle Facts: UK has played Winthrop only once, opening the 2003-04 season with a 65-44 victory over the Eagles … On Monday night, Dayton beat the Eagles on the boards 46-28 and scored 19 second chance points … Randy Peele is the only coach in Big South history to take two league teams to the Big Dance –UNC Greensboro and Winthrop … Dreher and Jones are the first two Eagles to have back-to-back 20-point scoring games since the ’92-’93 season — Dreher had 28 versus VMI and 21 against Liberty, while Jones had 21
versus VMI and 23 against Liberty … Since the ’98 season, a span of 383 games, Winthrop has allowed an opponent to score 79 points or more in only 22 contests (5.7% of the time). And six of those games were OT contests … As an 11 seed in the 2007 NCAA Tournament, the Eagles beat Notre Dame 74-64, and in 2006 as a 15 seed, Winthrop nearly derailed the Tennessee Vols, losing by only two-points … And finally, the Winthrop assistant athletic director for media relations is Jack Frost (no I didn’t make that name up), an Eastern Kentucky University grad (’72). There, folks, is your unintended, intentional Christmas tie-in.
Wildcat Quotes, Stats, and Facts
• Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari on the Eagles: “They’re a good team. It was a 10-point game with Dayton last night. They beat Wake Forest by 20. They beat Jacksonville, good. Who did Jacksonville just beat? Florida. Yeah, they beat them good. They play, they run good stuff, they’re physical, they play some zone, and they’ll press us a little bit. This is a step up for us,and we better be ready. It’s a scary game because we’re going home for Christmas. And I don’t think everyone in that locker room; managers, players, coaches, is not thinking, ‘What time does this game end?’ It’s just how it is. It’s just what we have to deal with.”
• How UK rates in the SEC — Terrence Jones: 2nd in scoring (18.9); 1st in rebounding (10.0); 1st in defensive rebounds (2.6); 6th in blocks (2.2); tied for 9th in steals (1.5) — Brandon Knight (just announced as a Bob Cousy Award candidate, given to the nations top point guard): 5th in scoring (17.1): 6th in assists (3.7) — Josh Harrellson: 2nd in rebounding (9.3); 1st in offensive rebounds (3.9); 4th in defensive rebounds (5.4) — Doron Lamb: 4th in three-point % (48.6); 8th in free throw % (78.8) — Darius Miller: 1st in three-point % (53.1).
• Terrence Jones’ growing pains: Jones, over his last two games, is averaging 23.5 minutes per game, 14.5 points, and 8.0 rebounds per game (1.5 off. rebs). He’s made 8-19 field goal tries (42.1%), and 0-3 long-range attempts — Jones had this to say when asked when he isn’t playing well, what is it he’s doing wrong, “I’m talking to coaches during the whole game, asking them what I need to work on and what I need to do right now. That’s one thing I learned from high school to do. I had zero rebounds the first half (versus MVSU), I played six minutes and coach told me I had zero rebounds, and there’s no way I should have zero rebounds in a half. I told him I would try and get 10 for him this half.”
• Trending ‘Cats: Since fouling out of the North Carolina game, Harrellson has committed only three fouls in 73 minutes of play. In his last two games, Harrellson has corralled 24 rebounds (nine offensive), and made 7-13 shots (53.8%) … Knight has dished out 13 assists to only five turnovers over his last three games, and he’s made 21-24 free throws over his last five games (87.5%). Also, over his last five games, Knight has made 13-31 trey tries (41.9%) … Since going 0-5 from behind the arc against Notre Dame two games ago, Doron Lamb has made 4-8 long range shots. Lamb is also hot from the charity stripe, having made 16-18 over his previous four games (88.9%) … After averaging 7.4 shots per game through the first eight games of the year, DeAndre Liggins has taken 25 shots the last two games (12.5 per game), scoring a combined 35 points in those contests. Ligs has made 5-11 three-point tries over his last three games, but handed out only one assist … Over his last four games, Darius Miller has made 8-13 three-point attempts (61.5%). Like Lamb, Miller is feelin’ it from the free throw line, going 7-7 over the last two games. Miller has snagged only five rebounds in his last 55 minutes of action, but he has dished out nine assists over his last three games … Big man Eloy Vargas has grabbed nine rebounds over his last 20 minutes of action (two games) … The Associated Press has the ‘Cats ranked No. 13 this week — UK is 18-7 all-time as the 13th ranked team.
Have a safe and Happy Holidays Wildcat Fans!