As Tyler mentioned in her post earlier today, the Kentucky Wildcats take on the UT Martin Skyhawks tonight in the final game of the Bluegrass Showcase. Along with UK, UT Martin is the only other school that is 3-0 so far in the Bluegrass Showcase this year. Usually, in these early season tournaments, the “championship” game will pit two ranked teams against each other that wouldn’t normally meet up in the regular season.
While the Cats and the Skyhawks have only met once before this game, tonight shouldn’t be the tightly contested matchup that most of these other tournaments will have. However, with the possibility that Isaiah Briscoe and Dominique Hawkins may not play, or may be limited tonight, the Skyhawks could give the Cats a solid game if the shots start to fall. Let’s take a look at the projected starting lineup for UT Martin tonight:
#2 Jacolby Mobley, Senior Guard, 6’0″
As Tyler made sure to point out earlier today, Jacolby Mobley is the best player for this UT Martin squad. This will be his second year suiting up for Anthony Stewart, as he transferred from Chattanooga for his junior and senior seasons. He only started six games last season, which he has already equaled this season, but was named the OVC 6th Man of the Year.
He is leading the team in scoring with 18.7 points per game, to go along with his 3.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists. Mobley hit the game winning three against Duquesne earlier in the Bluegrass Showcase while scoring a career high 25 points.
While Mobley’s scoring is what makes this Skyhawks team go, he can have an off-night and still put up 17 points, and even more importantly, UT Martin has scorers around him who can keep them in the game. In UT Martin’s only loss this season, Mobley shot just 4-19, but they only lost to Ole Miss 86-83.
#4 Kedar Edwards, Senior Forward, 6’5″
Kedar Edwards is another second year player for the Skyhawks that is also a senior. Edwards spent his first two years at State Fair Community College in Sedalia, Missouri, before starting the final 15 games of the season last year for UT Martin.
Despite only being 6’5″, Edwards rebounds particularly well. In conference play last season, he pulled down 7.7 rebounds per game. He has kept that up this season, as he is second on the team at 6.5 rebounds per contest. He is also second on the team in scoring at 15.2 points and first on the team in assists at 5.2 per game. If the Cats shut down Mobley, look for Edwards to have to step up on the offensive side.
More offensive pressure being placed on Edwards’ shoulders may be best for the Cats. Their stifling defense is already solid at forcing turnovers, and Edwards is turning the ball over 4.5 times per game against less than stellar defensive teams. Look for the defensive presence of UK to play a big part in Edwards’ game.
#1 Matthew Butler, Junior Guard, 6’2″
Matthew Butler sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, as he was making the move from the University of Rhode Island to UT Martin. In his first regular season game for the Skyhawks, Butler scored 25 points in a loss to Ole Miss.
His games since the Ole Miss loss haven’t been as impressive, but he’s still averaging 13.5 points, 4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. He leads all starters in 3-point shooting, shooting 35.7% from deep, just edging out Mobley who is shooting 35.6%.
Like Edwards, Butler has also been turnover prone this season. Even if Isaiah Briscoe and Dominique Hawkins don’t play tonight, the defensive pressure of Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox, and Mychal Mulder should wreak havoc on the backcourt for the Skyhawks.
#25 Javier Martinez, Senior Forward, 6’7″
Javier Martinez started a total of 29 games through his first three seasons at UT Martin, most of which came in his sophomore year. He led the team in field goal percentage in his first two season at UT Martin, shooting 62.3% his freshman year and 70.3% his sophomore year.
Martinez is the closest thing to sure bet for the Skyhawks. He has been Anthony Stewart’s most consistent player for a few years and this season is no different. Martinez is the fourth scorer in double figures for UT Martin, putting up 11 points per game, to go along with a team leading 8.3 rebounds per game.
The Kentucky frontcourt will have a substantial size advantage over Martinez at almost all times through out the game, which could pose a major issue for Martinez. He doesn’t block shots or create steals very well on the defensive end, so we may see Bam Adebayo’s first breakout game as a Wildcat.
#10 Chandler Rowe, Senior Forward, 6’7″
Chandler Rowe is the fourth senior starter for this UT Martin team, and his role is very different from the other starters. The Skyhawks have very balanced scoring, with four starters in double digits; however, it is Rowe’s defense that earns him a starting spot.
The Atlanta, Georgia native only scores 4.8 points per game to go along with 4.8 rebounds and 3 assists, but he make his mark on the other end of the floor. Rowe leads the team in both blocks and steals. He also averages the least amount of turnovers of any guy playing more than 10 minutes per game.
Like I mentioned with Martinez, Rowe is much smaller than all of the frontcourt players on the Kentucky roster. This will definitely lend to a monster advantage for the Wildcats, but Rowe’s defensive abilities may be what keeps the big Cats at bay.
One guy coming off the bench for the Skyhawks to watch is sophomore forward Fatodd Lewis. Standing at 6’8″, Lewis averages 8.7 points and 5.8 rebounds in just over 20 minutes per game. If the UT Martin bigs start to get in trouble, look for Lewis to come in to provide a spark off the bench.
I think overall, regardless of how hard Isaiah Briscoe and Dominique Hawkins can go tonight, the Cats should have no problems with the Skyhawks in this one. I think the two major factors in this game are turnovers and fouls.
The Skyhawks are 326th nationally in taking care of the ball, turning it over 17.3 times per game. The defensive pressure that Coach Cal applies should allow for the Wildcats to run in transition as they please. However, the Cats like to drive the lane to draw fouls and shoot free throws. The Skyhawks don’t have a player fouling more than 2.8 times per game, so if they can defend without fouling, it will allow them to stick with UK for a longer stretch of this game.
Go Cats. Beat Skyhawks.