Wildcats hope to sink the competition across the pond

Kentucky+Wildcats+forward+Oscar+Tshiebwe+%2834%29+reacts+to+a+fall+called+against+him+during+the+No.+4+Kentucky+vs.+Michigan+State+Champions+Classic+mens+basketball+game+on+Tuesday%2C+Nov.+15%2C+2022%2C+at+Gainbridge+Fieldhouse+in+Indianapolis.+Michigan+State+won+86-77+in+the+second+overtime.+Photo+by+Jack+Weaver+%7C+Staff

Jack Weaver

Kentucky Wildcats forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) reacts to a fall called against him during the No. 4 Kentucky vs. Michigan State Champions Classic mens basketball game on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Michigan State won 86-77 in the second overtime. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Ali Cetinok, Asst. Sports Editor

After a shaky game against Bellarmine on Wednesday that didn’t see John Calipari’s squad pull away until deep into the second half, Kentucky now looks ahead to London where it is set to take on Michigan.

The game across the pond marks the first of a three-game series between the two teams, with the Wildcats hosting Michigan in Rupp Arena next season and traveling to Ann Arbor in the 2024-2025 season.

Michigan currently sits at 4-2 with a narrow 70-68 loss to No. 3 Virginia on Wednesday, proving that the Wolverines squad led by Juwan Howard is capable of giving the Cats all they can handle when the pair meets up in England.

The Wolverines currently average 76 points per game with an average margin of victory of six points, with Michigan also currently shooting 45% from the field as well as 32% from beyond the arc.

Hunter Dickinson is the Wolverines’ current leading scorer, shooting 58% from the field, while Jett Howard has also proven to be a threat, averaging 31 points a game as well as shooting 43% from beyond the arc.

Kobe Bufkin is a very capable scorer for the Wolverines, averaging 30.9 points per game.

The game in London is intended to be a learning experience according to Calipari, but after the Bellarmine game, UK’s head coach is adamant that there’s plenty of work still to be done.

“It will be a great experience for these kids, (a) really hard game. We better not play how we started this game,” Calipari said after the final whistle against Bellarmine. “They’re (Michigan) well coached and they’re a good team, so it will be a hard game.”

This game is part of Kentucky’s plan to schedule high-level competition during the regular season, a trend that can be seen with teams such as Kansas, UCLA, Michigan State and Gonzaga on the 2022-2023 non-conference schedule. It also serves as good practice for an eventual NCAA Tournament appearance.

“You’re trying to get matchups that we could have at home,” Calipari said. “Next year Gonzaga and Michigan are coming here. Juwan, I’ve known him for a long time, (I) really like him. I said, you know, if you want to do something (then we can), and then the Hall of Fame called us about playing in London for the Hall of Fame. I said, ‘maybe that will be the third game.’”

Kentucky and Michigan are set to tip off on Sunday, Dec. 4, with the game scheduled to start at 1 p.m. EST and air live on ABC.