1. Scoring machine
The unquestioned best player on this Georgia Tech roster is Michael Devoe. The 6’5″ sophomore from Orlando, Florida is scoring a team-best 21.4 points per game, good for 15th best in the country. On top of his points, he’s averaging 4 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.6 steals per game.
Devoe can fill it up from anywhere on the floor, but he’s found the most success this season from the perimeter. He’s made an astounding 18 of his 34 attempted threes on the season for 52.9%, which ranks him as the 21st best three-point shooter in the country. Nearly a third of his shots come from beyond the arc, but when he does penetrate and draw fouls, he hasn’t been as solid of a free throw shooter as Head Coach Josh Pastner would prefer, hitting 66.7% on the season.
2. Where’s the shooting?
While the offense for Kentucky has shown a lot of improvement over the last few games, it really stems from scoring at the rim and the development of an offensive game from Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery, rather than from outside shooting. The Cats still shoot just 29% from the three-point line on the season. The good news for Kentucky in this match up? Georgia Tech also shoots 29% from three on the year, ranking 307th in the country. The Yellow Jackets are similar to Kentucky, in that they have some players that are capable shooters, but the shots have not been falling through the first stretch of the season.
Even worse for Georgia Tech is the inability to make shots at the free throw line. The Yellow Jackets have hit just 58.6% of their free throws on the year, which ranks 343rd out of 353 total teams. As a team, Georgia Tech only has two players hitting more than 66% of their free throws, with just one making more than 71%.
3. Don’t go over him, go through him
After facing a few smaller teams in terms of overall size on their roster, Kentucky will face some legit bigs from Georgia Tech. Starting center, James Banks III, is a senior that started his career at Texas, but is in his second season for the Yellow Jackets. Banks III leads the team in rebounds with 8.4 per game and blocks with 4 per game. He also is third on the team in scoring at 11.3 points per contest. Standing as a sold paint presence, Banks measures in at 6’10” and 250 pounds.
The Kentucky guards do a great job of taking the ball to the basket and either lobbing a pass to a big or trying to draw a foul on the help defender. Banks is an elite rim protector, as his 4 blocks per game rank him third in the entire country. However, the issue for Banks is that he can get overzealous with his block attempts and pick up fouls, averaging just under 4 fouls per game on the season. If Kentucky can look to go through him and force him to foul or give up the easy bucket, it could take his strengths out of the game.
4. Happy to be back in Rupp
A familiar face travels back to Rupp Arena this evening as junior guard Bubba Parham returns to Lexington for the second time in two years. The 5’10” junior transferred to Georgia Tech and was granted immediate eligibility, after playing two seasons at VMI. Last season, when VMI took on the Cats in Rupp, Parham put on an absolute show, finishing with 35 points on 10 made threes.
As Cal alluded to earlier this week, Parham probably hasn’t slept for a few days, out of excitement for his second game against Kentucky. Parham hasn’t had the strongest start to the season and to revisit his hot shooting in Rupp would be a welcome kickstart to his offensive game. Having made 10 of 16 threes in one game against Kentucky last season, Parham has made just 8 of his 30 attempted threes in seven games this year. Coming off two seasons at VMI with three-point percentages at 33.1% and 39.7%, you have to think that Parham’s pedestrian 26.7% this season is sure to improve sooner rather than later.
5. 72nd all-time meeting
Yes, you read that correctly and it isn’t a typo. The Cats and the Yellow Jackets are meeting for the 72nd time in history tonight. That’s far more than most non-conference teams that Kentucky faces, but to be fair, an overwhelming majority of those match ups came when Georgia Tech actually was a part of the SEC, as the Cats and Jackets faced off nearly ever year from 1924 to 1964. The two teams also went through a stretch from 1991 to 2000, when they faced off eight times.
Kentucky leads the overall match up, with an all-time record of 56-15 against Georgia Tech. The Cats are 6-2 since 1991, but lost the most recent match up, as Keith Bogans, Tayshaun Prince, and co. lost on a buzzer beater back in December of 2000 in the Delta Air Lines Classic in Atlanta.
Go Cats. Beat Yellow Jackets.