With roughly two and a half hours to tipoff, let’s take a look at some things Kentucky MUST DO to beat Wichita State and advance to the Sweet 16.
1. Win the battle of the boards
This seems pretty obvious, right? In order to win, UK must rebound well; however, for this game, it is especially true. The Shockers aren’t afraid to go inside, and then they do miss, they attack the boards. Yesterday, Calipari called their effort on the boards “vicious.”
“I can just tell you that they viciously go after offensive rebounds. If you don’t rebound in the game, you don’t have a chance to beat them.”
Wichita State prides themselves on fundamentals, and as you have probably heard by now, they’re not the least bit scared of Bam Adebayo’s career-high 18 rebounds vs. Northern Kentucky.
“Yeah, that’s gonna get shut down tomorrow,” Darral Willis Jr. said of Bam’s domination of the boards. “A lot of teams don’t box out and that’s what we do, we box out and play fundamental defense.”
2. Punish the Shockers in transition
While the Shockers clearly aren’t scared of the Cats, they know that the one area in which Kentucky can burn them is in transition. Not only are the Cats one of the fastest teams in the country, Wichita State turned it over 16 times vs. Dayton, a margin the Shockers know they have to improve to have a chance today.
“They’re one of the best in the country, if not the best,” Landry Shamet said of Kentucky’s transition game. “Combination of speed and size in the open court, and pretty talented around the rim. That’s a point of emphasis for us, trying to stop transition.”
So, run, run, run.
3. Something — anything — from the outside
Kentucky was only 3-17 from three vs. Northern Kentucky, due in part to yet another off game by Malik Monk. Everyone is praying Monk is due for a breakout game, but if he’s not, Derek Willis, Mychal Mulder, Dominique Hawkins, or someone else must step up to keep the Shockers honest from the outside. Calipari didn’t seem too concerned when asked about Monk’s funk yesterday.
“Let’s just hope he’s due. Come on, he’s had about three games where he hasn’t made some shots. But it’s nice when you have Dom, when you have Derek, when you have Mychal, but he doesn’t have to make 3s. He doesn’t, not for our team. De’Aaron Fox is making 3s now. If he does, it’s great. If he doesn’t, make sure you defend and rebound and take 2s and get fouled and then we’ll see if it’s the next game. He’ll break out at some point because he’s too talented.”
That’s the hope.