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Kentucky Kernel

The Student News Site of University of Kentucky

Kentucky Kernel

The Student News Site of University of Kentucky

Kentucky Kernel

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Kentucky men’s basketball to face Clemson in second annual SEC/ACC Challenge

Mark Pope cheers at his introductory press conference as the new head coach of Kentucky men’s basketball on Sunday, April 14, 2024, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Abbey Cutrer | Staff

CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein reported on Wednesday afternoon that Kentucky men’s basketball will travel to Clemson, South Carolina, to take on the Clemson Tigers in the second annual SEC/ACC Challenge this upcoming season.

The matchup currently stands as Kentucky’s fifth confirmed non-conference matchup as the other official games are against Duke (Champions Classic), Ohio State (CBS Sports Classic), Gonzaga (Seattle) and Louisville as a part of the annual rivalry game.

The Wildcats will reportedly host Lipscomb and Western Kentucky as well, but those contests are not confirmed at this time.

Kentucky guard Rob Dillingham (12) controls the ball during the No. 12 Kentucky vs. No. 8 Miami mens basketball game on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 95-73. Photo by Travis Fannon | Staff

Last season, Clemson had one of its most successful seasons in program history as it finished 24-12 overall and 11-9 in ACC play while advancing to its first NCAA Tournament since 2021. 

In the NCAA Tournament, as the No. 6 seed, the Tigers made some noise and soared past No. 11 New Mexico, No. 3 Baylor and No. 2 Arizona, advancing to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1980. In the Elite Eight, the Tigers were defeated by No. 4 seeded Alabama 89-82.

The Tiger team that Kentucky will face next season will be nowhere near the same caliber as it was this past season as it’s losing key pieces in center PJ Hall, who led the team in points-per-game with 18.3, and Joseph Girard III, who was second on the team in points-per-game average with 15.1.

Replacing Hall at the big position is Viktor Lakhin, a 6-foot, 11-inch Cincinnati transfer. With the Bearcats, Lakhin averaged 9.2 points, six rebounds and 1.7 assists through 29 games played. 

Despite the losses, Clemson is returning a solid veteran in rising sixth-year senior Chase Hunter, who averaged 12.9 points, 2.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists while shooting 42.4% from the field and 31.1% from beyond the three-point arch.

The contest will mark the second annual SEC/ACC Challenge, which replaced the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, after Kentucky rolled past then No. 8 Miami (Fl) 95-73.

The whole college basketball world, especially the Big Blue Nation, is more than antsy to see how well Kentucky performs under new head coach Mark Pope and the test against Clemson could be a good deciding factor of how well this UK team will be next season.

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