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There is a reason these two teams are ranked so close to each other. They both have high-scoring offenses and very similar defenses. Of course, Kentucky shoots a little better and scores a little more, but other than that, they are very similar.
Tennessee has played really well this season but only beaten two of five ranked opponents. The Volunteers have had no problem dismantling unranked opponents, but they have struggled against tougher competition.
Kentucky has won six of their last seven games and has been able to score with ease this season. They are averaging 82.6 points per game, the 11th best in the nation. Kentucky is a similar team to Tennessee, but they have an x-factor. Their x-factor is Oscar Tshiebwe, a 6’9” forward averaging 17 points and 15.1 rebounds per game. Tschiebwe will lead Kentucky to victory.
Kentucky beats Tennessee 75-69 behind a strong performance from Oscar Tshiebwe.
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|Rick Barnes||Head Coach||John Calipari|
|11-4 (2-2, 6th in SEC)||Standing||13-3 (3-1, 4th in SEC)|
|Leader (Per Game)|
|Santiago Vescovi (13.6)||PPG||Oscar Tshiebwe (17.0)|
|Josiah-Jordan James (6.1)||RPG||Oscar Tshiebwe (15.1)|
|Kennedy Chandler (5.1)||APG||Sahvir Wheeler (7.3)|
|Kennedy Chandler (2.3)||SPG||Sahvir Wheeler (1.4)|
|John Fulkerson (1.3)||BPG||Oscar Tshiebwe (1.2)|
|Uros Plavsic (.561)||FG%||Oscar Tshiebwe (.627)|
|Olivier Nkamhoua (.500)||3P%||Kellen Grady (.449)|
Kentucky is a better team, but Tennessee can win this game. Tennessee has a strong starting lineup with an efficient backcourt of guards Santiago Vescovi and Kennedy Chandler. Tennessee scores well, so they need to focus on their weaknesses to win this game. The Volunteers need to focus on creating turnovers and grabbing defensive rebounds.
Tennessee averages 10.7 steals per game, the seventh-best in the nation. However, there is not one Tennessee player getting the majority of Tennessee’s steals. Instead, there are four players averaging more than 1.5 steals per game. Those four players (Kennedy Chandler, Santiago Vescovi, Josiah-Jordan James, and Zakai Zeigler) need to continue getting steals and creating turnovers. If they do, they will limit Kentucky’s scoring chances.
The Volunteers are good at getting steals but not great at grabbing rebounds. As a result, they only average 38 rebounds per game, the 91st-best in the nation. They need to prioritize boxing out and getting defensive rebounds, so Kentucky does not get second chances on offenses. If they limit Kentucky’s second chances, they will limit Kentucky’s efficiency.
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I have said it before, and I will say it again. Kentucky is the better team. However, they are only a little better. Kentucky needs to take Tennessee seriously as an opponent. If they want to do that, they will need to get offensive rebounds and defend the outside shot.
Kentucky average 43.5 rebounds per game and 14.1 offensive rebounds per game. 14.1 offensive rebounds per game is good enough for the tenth best in the nation. Kentucky needs to continue to grab offensive rebounds to create more offensive chances. They will need all the offensive opportunities they can get against this high-scoring Tennessee team.
Kentucky and Tennessee are similar in size. However, Tennessee gets a lot more of their points from behind the three-point line. Kentucky needs to defend that outside shot and force Tennesse to look inside for points. The Volunteers are not used to depending on attacking the rim to score, so they will struggle and put up fewer points.
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Guard Santiago Vescovi is not a star in college basketball, but he is an efficient player and a talented scorer. Vescovi averages 13.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 2.1 steals on 41.6% shooting.
Vescovi has been key to Tennessee’s success this season and will be critical for Tennessee in this game. The junior from Uruguay needs to continue being efficient but also figure out a way to create turnovers.
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Unlike Santiago Vescovi, forward Oscar Tshiebwe is a star in college basketball. He hits 62.7% of his shots and plays a little over 29 minutes a game. The Congolese big man is the best player on this Kentucky team and is vital to their success.
Tshiebwe must continue to play his game tomorrow and not try to do too much. If he does that, Kentucky will emerge victorious.
Tshiebwe should be priority #1 for the Tennessee defense. He is a very efficient scorer, and Tennessee needs to slow him down.
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|No. 22 Tennessee Volunteers vs No. 18 Kentucky Wildcats Information|
|What||No. 22 Tennessee vs No. 18 Kentucky|
|Where||Rupp Arena, Lexington, Kentucky|
|When||Saturday, January 15, 1:00 PM EST|
|How to Watch||ESPN|
Max Heering graduated from the University of Kansas Sport Management program in May 2020. Max follows and writes about the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, MLS, college football, and college basketball. In his free time, you can catch Max draining threes on the basketball court. Email: [email protected]More info on Max Heering
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