Portland (3-5) at Kentucky (5-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 8, 12 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Rupp Arena (23,500) -- Lexington, Kentucky. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Portland 3-1, UK 4-1. Away Record: Portland 0-4, UK 0-1. Neutral Record: Portland 0-0, UK 1-1. Conference Record: Portland 0-0, UK 0-0. Series Record: Kentucky leads, 3-0.
GAME NOTES: The recently unranked Kentucky Wildcats entertain the Portland Pilots in non-conference action at Rupp Arena on Saturday afternoon.
Portland has not garnered any momentum this season, as it has yet to win back- to-back games. After earning a 78-73 home win over Lewis & Clark College on Nov. 27, the Pilots have lost two in a row to fall to 3-5, dropping matchups against Washington State (72-60) and UNLV (68-60).
Kentucky's tumble in the AP poll has been a historic one. It fell from No. 3 to No. 8 following a Nov. 13 loss to Duke (75-68), then after back-to-back losses at Notre Dame (64-50) and at home to Baylor (64-55), it dropped all the way out of the rankings for the biggest single-week fall since the poll was expanded to 25 teams in 1990. The loss to Baylor also snapped its 55-game home win streak, which was the longest active streak in the nation. The Wildcats were able to get back on track on Tuesday night with a convincing 88-56 triumph over Samford.
These teams have met in each of the past two seasons, with Kentucky winning by more than 20 points on both occasions. UK has won all three games in the all- time series.
It's been a struggle for Portland offensively this season, as it shoots less than 43 percent from the field for an average of 62.5 ppg, nearly 7.0 ppg less than what its opponents score. The team was able to build a six-point halftime lead the last time out against UNLV, but it could not hold on to that advantage after intermission, as it finished with 21 turnovers and 20 fewer trips to the foul line. Despite the setback, Ryan Nicholas was a beast down low, tallying 15 points, six assists, and a career-high 19 rebounds. Korey Thieleke added 12 points, and Thomas Van Der Mars finished with 11 points, nine boards, and a pair of blocks. Nicholas has been one of the most productive forwards in the West Coast Conference through the first month of the season, averaging 13.6 ppg and 10.1 rpg, adding 2.0 apg and more than a steal per contest for good measure. Kevin Bailey scores 10.0 ppg, and while Van Der Mars nets just 6.9 ppg, he does so at an impressive 72.7 percent clip.
After scoring just 64 points in each of its last two losses, Kentucky was able to get back to its potent ways on offense in the rout of Samford as it shot nearly 56 percent from the floor. Pacing six players in double figures was Archie Goodwin with 18 points, while he also dished out four assists and logged three steals. Alex Poythress tallied 16 points and eight rebounds, Nerlens Noel scored 13 points and blocked five shots, and Willie Cauley-Stein logged a double-double from off the bench with 12 points and 12 boards. Rounding out the balanced effort was Kyle Wiltjer and Julius Mays with 10 points apiece. For the season, the Wildcats have made good on better than 50 percent of their field goal attempts, and they are led by a trio of talented freshmen. Goodwin averages a team-best 16.6 ppg, and adds 5.3 rpg and 4.5 apg to boot. Poythress (15.5 ppg) shoots a gaudy 68.5 percent from the field, and Noel does damage across the stat sheet with 11.6 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.3 apg, 3.1 bpg and 2.9 spg. Upperclassmen Wiltjer (10.3) and Mays (9.6 ppg) have combined to hit 31 of the team's 47 three-point field goals.
Kentucky's recent slide has put it in unfamiliar territory, but once its group of talented youngsters learns to play with one another, it will be back among the nationally-ranked, and it will continue on that path with an easy win over Portland.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Kentucky 90, Portland 63
12/08 10:39:28 ET