Kentucky is back in action in Rupp Arena today in the rare early-afternoon weekday game, a Thanksgiving tradition.
The opponent is Winthrop and here are 10 things you need to know ahead of the 1 o’clock tip-off:
1. Winthrop is 2-2 so far this season.
It’s been a .500 start through four games for the Eagles with losses to Vanderbilt and East Tennessee State and wins against SIU and something called a Pfeiffer, which allowed 134 points in the game.
2. Vanderbilt beat the Eagles by 20.
Winthrop suffered a loss in its first game of the season, 92-72, on the road at Vanderbilt in Nashville. Winthrop has dropped six straight to opponents from the SEC
3. The indecisive Pat Kelsey is the head coach.
Back in 2017, Kelsey was hired to become the next head coach at UMass. However, he got cold feet and bailed on the job 25 minutes before the introductory press conference. He had signed a memorandum of understanding two days before the UMass press conference that included a one-million dollar buyout should he leave in the first two years.
He left anyway and ran right back to Winthrop where he is now in his seventh season.
4. Gregg Marshall was the head coach from 1998 to 2007.
Marshall is a legend at Winthrop for turning the program around by reaching the NCAA Tournament in his first season. He is the program’s all-time winningest coach with a 194–83 overall record during his nine seasons.
5. Winthrop was picked second in the Big South preseason poll.
The Highlanders of Radford earned the first-place honor in the Big South Conference’s preseason rankings.
6. Winthrop had the 2017-18 Big South Player of the Year but he graduated. That’s too bad.
Last season Winthrop’s Xavier Cooks took the conference’s Player of the Year award after scoring 17.6 points per game with eight 20-point games and eight double-doubles in his senior season.
Winthrop also had the Player of the Year in 2016-17, Keon Johnson, but he graduated too.
7. Nych Smith is the leading scorer so far this year.
Smith, a senior guard, averages 19.3 points through four games. He’s #0. Keep an eye on him.
8. Winthrop pushes the tempo.
The Eagles play an up-tempo brand of basketball, which Calipari addressed in his Tuesday press conference. He said, “We got the athletes, we got the talent to do it as far as getting the ball up the court, running, trying to sprint, getting easy lobs, get open shots, things like that. Up-tempo game, I don’t know if it favors us, but it’s the way we want to play. So if the other team’s doing that, it’s also going to put pressure on us to get back and play good transition defense. There comes challenges as well.”
9. Winthrop has never beaten Kentucky.
The Cats are undefeated in two meetings with a 65-44 win in 2003 and an 89-52 win in 2010. Doron Lamb scored 32 points in the last meeting on 7-of-8 shooting from outside.
10. Winthrop will not beat Kentucky today.
Although, Kentucky will need to play better to generate that fan excitement back up.
A 25-point win would be nice. Go Cats.