Baylor (4-2) at (8) Kentucky (4-2)
Saturday, December 1, 12:30 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Frank Haynes, Senior College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Rupp Arena (23,000) -- Lexington, Kentucky. Television: CBS. Home Record: Baylor 2-1, Kentucky 3-0. Away Record: Baylor 0-0, Kentucky 0-1. Neutral Record: Baylor 2-1, Kentucky 1-1. Conference Record: Baylor 0-0, Kentucky 0-0. Series Record: Kentucky leads, 7-0.
GAME NOTES: With the sting of their second loss of the season sill fresh, the eight-ranked Kentucky Wildcats get right back to action, this time at home as they entertain the Baylor Bears on Saturday afternoon.
Baylor brings a 4-2 record into this contest, and the team has lost two of its last three games. The most recent setback occurred at home last Saturday, as the College of Charleston Cougars came to Waco and knocked off the Bears in a 63-59 final. It's either feast or famine for BU through the first six games, as it averages 89.5 points in its four wins, but just 58.5 points in its two setbacks. Baylor's remaining non-league schedule includes scrums with BYU and Gonzaga, and the team will open Big 12 Conference play at home against rival Texas on Jan. 5, 2013.
Kentucky took a 4-1 record into Thursday's road clash with Notre Dame, and the Wildcats felt the wrath of the Fighting Irish in what turned out to be a 64-50 loss. The Wildcats' other setback of the season came against a traditional power as well, as the Duke Blue Devils earned a 75-68 win over the defending national champs on Nov. 13. Kentucky still has a date looming with in-state rival Louisville on Dec. 29, and the team will open the SEC portion of its schedule at Vanderbilt on Jan. 10, 2013. Kentucky is 54-0 at Rupp Arena under current head coach John Calipari.
Baylor has never beaten Kentucky, with the Wildcats laying claim to a 7-0 series advantage. The two last met in the Elite Eight of the 2012 NCAA Tournament, with UK prevailing in an 82-70 final.
Baylor's Pierre Jackson has thrown his hat in the ring for Big 12 Player of the Year honors, as he is averaging 20.3 points and 6.7 assists per game. In all, the Bears boast four double-digit scorers, with Cory Jefferson (14.3 ppg, 9.0 rpg), Isaiah Austin (14.2 ppg, 8.2 rpg) and Brady Heslip (11.6 ppg) all helping BU put up 79.2 ppg behind typical shooting outputs of .497 overall, .345 from three-point range and .684 from the foul line. At the other end, foes are generating 66.5 ppg in hitting 42.9 percent of their total shots, which includes a 40.9 percent showing from beyond the arc. Baylor has done a terrific job corralling loose balls as it owns a +8.2 rebounding margin and a +2.2 turnover differential. Jackson tallied 21 points, five rebounds and five assists, while Austin added 12 points and five boards as well, but those efforts simply weren't enough as the Bears dropped a four-point decision to the College of Charleston last weekend. Baylor lost the game despite turning the ball over only eight times, as it was just 4-of-17 from beyond the arc, while the Cougars went 9-of-18.
The Wildcats simply couldn't find their shooting touch in the recent loss at Notre Dame, the team hitting a season-low 40.4 percent of its field goal attempts, missing 10-of-14 three-point tries along the way. Julius Mays tallied 16 points as UK's high scorer, and Nerlens Noel chipped in 10 points while grabbing seven rebounds. As for the Irish, they got off to a blistering start by converting 55.6 percent of their shots in the first half, 48.0 percent for the game, and they were 8-of-15 from three-point land. UND's overall field goal percentage was the best of any opponent against Kentucky this season. Despite the poor performance, the 'Cats are still averaging 79.3 ppg in draining 53.5 percent of their total shots, which includes a stellar 43.0 percent effort from beyond the arc. Archie Goodwin (16.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.5 apg) is probably UK's most well-rounded player, but Alex Poythress (15.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg), Noel (12.0 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 3.2 bpg), Kyle Wiltjer (11.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and Mays (10.2 ppg, 4.2 apg) may have something to say about that as each brings considerable talent to the floor.
While the Bears aren't about to go into hibernation simply because they're facing a formidable foe in a less-than-inviting environment, the Wildcats are virtually unbeatable at home and have a sour taste in their mouths as they try to make amends for the slip-up in South Bend. Kentucky wins, but it won't be easy.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Kentucky 68, Baylor 62
12/01 10:33:20 ET