1. Three-headed scoring attack
While most of these early season match ups for the Kentucky Wildcats result in trying to stop one big scorer, the Lamar Cardinals have a three-guard scoring attack. The best player on the roster is 6’6″ senior T.J. Atwood. Atwood is scoring a team-high 18 points per game, to go along with 5.8 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal. The Beaumont, Texas native has made four of his 11 attempted threes on the season.
The two smaller heads to this scoring trio are 5’10” Davion Buster and 6’4″ V.J. Holmes. Buster scores 15.6 points, grabs 4.6 rebounds, dishes out 3.6 assists, and has 2.6 steals per game. Buster shoots 34.8% from deep this season and 46 of his 77 attempted shots have been threes. Holmes is averaging 10 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2.6 steals per game.
2. Steals, blocks, and more steals
After playing one of the best shot blocking teams in the country earlier this season in the Utah Valley Wolverines, Kentucky will face off against another high ranked shot blocking team this evening. On top of the Cards’ ability to block shots, Lamar is actually better at forcing steals. Swiping 12.2 steals per contest, the Cardinals rank 4th in the country, while their 6.4 blocks per game are good for 13th in the country.
While Kentucky’s Ashton Hagans leads the team with 1.6 steals per game, and Kahlil Whitney is second with 1, Lamar has six players averaging one or more. V.J. Holmes and Davion Butler both get 2.6 steals per game, Ellis Jefferson gets 2.4, and three players are right at one steal per game. As for rim protection, the Cardinals have three players averaging 1.4 blocks and a fourth sits right at one block per contest.
3. Common Enemies
The Lamar Cardinals have already played two of the same teams that Kentucky has played in this BBN Showcase. Both teams sitting at a record of 4-1 on the season, the Cardinals and Wildcats have both played Utah Valley University and Mount St. Mary’s in the past two weeks. The Cards played Mount St. Mary’s last Friday night, winning by the score of 76-61. Three days ago, Lamar traveled to Utah Valley and pulled out the six-point victory.
The other two wins for Lamar have been over Champion Christian College and Arlington Baptist in blowout games at home. The lone loss on their schedule was a ten-point loss at Duquense.
4. Free throws aren’t always free points
While the Lamar Cardinals aren’t struggling to put the ball in the basket, averaging 79.6 points per contest, they are struggling to hit shots from the foul line. Having shot just 84 free throws on the season, the Cardinals rank 258th in the country in attempts. On top of not getting to the line often, converting isn’t their strong suit either. Lamar is hitting just 63% of their free throws no the year, which ranks 297th in all of college basketball. In comparison, Kentucky ranks 13th in the nation at 80.1% from the charity stripe.
Of the six players with at least seven attempts from the free throw line on the season, Lamar has two players shooting 75%, which is best on the team, but there are also two Cardinals who shoot 50% or lower. Compare that to Kentucky’s roster with seven players who have at least seven attempts, and a whopping five of them shoot over 84%.
5. First meeting since 2011
While this is the fourth all time meeting between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Lamar Cardinals, it is the second time in the Coach Cal era. The first was a 2011 meeting in which Anthony Davis and the Cats took home the easy 22-point victory. Kentucky was lead by Davis’ 10 points, 13 rebounds, and 6 blocks, to go along with 18 points and 6 rebounds from Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
For the fifth game in a row an opponent travels to Rupp Arena facing at least a 25-point spread. The Cats have covered just one of the first four, leaving some potential free money out there with today’s 25.5 point spread.
Go Cats. Beat Cardinals.