Kentucky prepares to face Mount St. Mary’s on Friday night


Kentucky freshman guard Tyrese Maxey guards a Utah Valley player during the University of Kentucky vs. Utah Valley men’s basketball game on Monday, Nov. 18, 2019, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 82-74. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Mohammad Ahmad

Reeling off of a near-scare on Monday night, the ninth-ranked Kentucky men’s basketball team looks to move on as it’ll take on the Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers tomorrow night at Rupp Arena.

Kentucky (3-1) comes off of a close 82-74 win over the Utah Valley Wolverines back on Monday. This provides momentum after the then top-ranked Cats were upset by the Evansville Purple Aces just a week earlier.  

The Mountaineers (1-4) will look to disrupt that momentum just as Evansville did and Utah Valley nearly did. UK assistant coach Joel Justus says that while the Cats’ November and December opponents this season are playing with “nothing to lose,” playing against non-conference opponents might provide some merit for UK.

“I think when you put together a schedule you’re planning to go and play teams that are going to give you a good look for March,” Justus said. “I think that [Coach] Cal has always said that whenever we go into the postseason that we’ve seen all different types of teams and different styles of play.”

An issue that hurt the Cats against Utah Valley was three-point shooting. The Cats made only one three-pointer the entire game on 12 attempts. That game is reflective of the team’s shooting struggles from downtown so far this season: UK is 9-of-44 from beyond the arc in four games.

Three-point shooting has also been an Achilles’ heel on the other side of the court. UK’s opponents have shot 26.7 percent from beyond the arc this season, but they’ve averaged eight treys per-game and are 24-90 from deep range overall. The Cats game up 11 threes against Utah Valley and eight against Evansville.

Nonetheless, the Cats were 31-for-34 from the free throw line against the Wolverines. Justus says that, despite the three-point struggles, scoring more than 80 points and making it to the line that many times are signs of progress.

“I think that’s a positive thing. I think we’re trying to look at what we’re doing well and some of the other things will change over time,” Justus said.

Injuries to veterans E.J Montgomery and Immanuel Quickley and freshman Dontaie Allen, who is yet to make his debut, have left the Cats down to seven scholarship players. That might open up the door for recently joined walk-on Ben Jordan. A 6-foot-9 forward who also pitches for the UK baseball team, Jordan says that his teammates have helped him mesh into his new role.

“I guard Nick [Richards] every day, trying to push him and make him a better player. I wouldn’t say the offense runs through me, but if I get the ball, I try to score,” Jordan said.

The Cats have been far from perfect and their play has shown that. Whether their struggles have come through three-point shooting or finding a rhythm on offense, growing pains from freshmen might be part of the tale. Keion Brooks says he understands that he has room for improvement.

“I’m a freshman getting used to the speed of the game, the physicality. Just being ready when the ball touches my hands, being able to read a defense better and on defense and being able to help might the right rotations and have a better IQ overall of the game are important.”

Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. SEC Network will broadcast the game.