1. Superstar in the making
Kentucky has faced some solid individual players this season, Cassius Winston, Kaleb Wesson, and Jordan Nwora to name a few. Georgia’s Anthony Edwards is leaps and bounds better than all three of those players and any player Kentucky will face in the regular season this year. Seem like hyperbole? It isn’t. He’s that good. Edwards stands at 6’5″ and 225 pounds and was one of the best players in the 2019 recruiting class. He’s currently averaging 19.1 points, which is second in the SEC, 4.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.3 steals per contest.
Maybe the top overall pick, but definitely in the top three in the upcoming NBA Draft, Edwards has NBA scouts salivating already. Edwards can score in attack mode at the rim, but can also stroke from deep, hitting nearly 31.4% of his threes this season. He has games scoring 37, 29, and 24 twice this year already. He’s hit at least two threes in 11 of 17 games this season, twice hitting four, once hitting five, and once hitting seven threes. In the first match up against Kentucky, Edwards put up 23 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists. But he woke up Tyrese Maxey with a little too much trash talk, as Maxey and the Cats took over down the stretch to get the win. Maxey won the match up and finished with 17 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds, and 4 blocks.
2. Complementary post
The best complement you can have for a stellar guard like Anthony Edwards is a versatile big so that the two can work off each other within the offense. That is exactly what Tom Crean has in 6’9″-235 pound junior Rayshaun Hammonds. A Norcross, Georgia native, Hammonds is one of the best bigs in the Southeastern Conference, averaging 13.8 points, 8.2 rebounds(good for fourth in the SEC), and 1.1 steals per game. Hammonds can work in the post, but has the ability to step away and knock down a perimeter jumper. He’s hit 35.1% of his threes this season and shoots 68.8% from the charity stripe. Despite Edwards being such a great scorer, Hammonds has actually led the team in scoring in five games this season.
On top of Hammonds’ skill is his experience in the SEC. Tonight will be his fifth career game against Kentucky, and he’s been a contributor in each of the previous match ups. His freshman season he scored 12 points and pulled down 5 rebounds in his first ever game against Kentucky. Later that season, the Cats and the Dawgs met in the SEC Tournament, and Hammonds had 7 points and 3 rebounds. Last season, he had 11 points and 4 rebounds against a really solid Kentucky front line of PJ Washington and Reid Travis. Two weeks ago, Hammonds struggled with foul trouble, playing just 24 minutes before fouling out, finishing with 9 points on just 2 of 9 shooting from the field, and 4 rebounds.
3. Four around one
Style of play for Georgia will similar to the last few teams that Kentucky has faced this season, in that they will go with four guards on the floor for long stretches, rather than having two traditional bigs on the floor at all times. We’ve seen Kentucky struggle at times with lineups like this, as it puts guys like EJ Montgomery or Nate Sestina on smaller, quicker players which is a clear match up problem. At times in the first match up, both Nate Sestina and EJ Montgomery were picked on, on the defensive end. The surge over the last two games from Keion Brooks may mean that he sees some extra playing time tonight if he can continue to defend and rebound at a high level.
Outside of Hammonds standing at 6’9″, Georgia doesn’t have a ton of contributing size on the roster. Toumani Camara is a 6’8″ and 220 pound freshman who will probably be in the starting lineup. He puts up 6.2 points and 4.4 rebounds per game in just over 23 minutes. No other player over 6’6″ plays more than 8 minutes per contest, which means Kentucky has an opportunity to score in the paint if the guards can drive effectively and efficiently.
4. Hard to peg
If you take a look at Georgia’s schedule through the first few months of the season, the most noticeable thing that sticks out is that their performances are all over the place. Sitting with an overall record of 11-6 on the year, the Bulldogs’ losses aren’t all bad losses. Michigan State, Dayton, Kentucky, and Auburn are all top-16 teams, so those losses are all Quadrant-1 losses. The Bulldogs have performed impressively in games, as they took Michigan State to the wire and just beat a ranked Memphis team at Memphis. On top of this, they gave Kentucky some fits for about 28 of the 40 minutes in the first match up two weeks ago.
However, the more confusing part here is that Georgia seems to struggle with teams they have no business struggling with. They were up just two with three minutes to play against The Citadel before winning by nine, beat Georgia Tech by just four, were up only 1 with four minutes to go against Georgia Southern, and needed an Anthony Edwards game winner with less than a second left to beat Chaminade. They do have a bad loss in their most recent game, a 32-point loss to Mississippi State on Saturday.
5. Lucky number
Two weeks ago, the Cats notched lucky number 13 as far as wins in a row against Georgia go. Tonight, Kentucky goes for a 14th consecutive win over the Georgia Bulldogs, in a streak that dates back to January of 2014. It is the third longest streak in the history of the Kentucky-Georgia series, with Kentucky also owning streaks of 16 and 20 wins at various points in the past. After the win earlier this month, the Cats are 18-2 against the Dawgs in the Coach Cal era, with both losses coming in Athens.
Even outside of the John Calipari era at UK, Kentucky has dominated the overall series. The Cats sit with a 128-26 overall record against Georgia. The Bulldogs have won more than two games in a row in this series just once in the series, and that was a three-game streak back in the 1920s. Georgia has not won at Rupp Arena since March of 2009.
Go Cats. Beat Bulldogs.