No. 19 Kentucky aims to rebound from its lowest-scoring output of the season when it faces Florida A&M on Wednesday night in Lexington, Ky.
The Wildcats (7-3) also will look to regain their shooting touch after making just 32.8 percent of their shots on Saturday in a 63-53 loss to then-No. 16 UCLA in New York. Kentucky made just 6 of 21 (28.6 percent) from 3-point range and 5 of 13 (38.5 percent) from the free-throw line.
“We miss so many open shots, it becomes demoralizing, and the crazy thing is we still could have won the game,” Wildcats coach John Calipari said afterward. “We have good shooters. We’re one of the better 3-point shooting teams, and we missed.”
Kentucky is shooting 45.4 percent for the season, including 38.1 percent from behind the arc. Antonio Reeves has a team-high 29 3-pointers but was just 2 of 8 against UCLA.
Reigning National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe had just eight points on 4-of-12 shooting as the Bruins repeatedly used double and triple teams against the big man. He collected 16 rebounds but missed all four of his free-throw attempts.
“They were throwing guys at Oscar,” Calipari said. “That’s why I said, when they do that, you have got to make shots. …
“We played fast. We did some of the stuff that we wanted to do. We still held the ball a little bit. But 18 turnovers, and most of it just rough play that we couldn’t bust through, get open on a screen, on a dribble handoff.”
Tshiebwe averages team-best figures of 15.1 points and 13.6 rebounds. Reeves is averaging 13.1 points.
Wednesday’s contest is part of the five-year Unity Series that Kentucky launched last season in which it plays an annual home game against a team from the Southwestern Athletic Conference that is a historically black college or university.
The Wildcats beat Southern 76-64 in last season’s game.
Kentucky figures to have an easy time with the Rattlers (2-7), who began a two-game Kentucky road trip with a 61-55 loss to Louisville on Saturday.
Jordan Tillmon scored 17 points for Florida A&M. He averages a team-best 10 points per game.
The Rattlers forced 22 turnovers, but they know the task in Lexington is much taller than the one they faced in Louisville.
“First of all, this is a very difficult place to play and a difficult place to win,” Rattlers coach Robert McCullum said of playing at Kentucky. “The challenge will be big. That’s part of life’s excitement, to go in there knowing there is no pressure on us because we’re not expected to win.”
Second-leading scorer Jaylen Bates (9.6 ppg) is looking forward to competing at Rupp Arena.
“To be able to play in it is like a dream come true, I got to acknowledge that fact,” Bates said. “But just taking it as another game. We’re not going to treat it as a big event. We’re going to take all the same shots we’ve been taken.”
Outside of the close call against a down Louisville squad, the Rattlers have struggled against major programs this season. They have dropped games by margins of 40 points to Florida, 35 to Oregon, 26 to Miami, 22 to Georgia and 17 to Oregon State.
Kentucky won the lone previous meeting, which came in the 2004 NCAA Tournament. The top-seeded Wildcats beat the 16th-seeded Rattlers 96-76.
–Field Level Media