Yale coach James Jones is realistic when evaluating games like his team’s trip to No. 16 Kentucky on Saturday.
“We play these games to find out what we have to work on to win our conference,” he said.
An 8-2 record that includes close losses at Colorado and Butler indicates the Bulldogs might be equipped to win the Ivy League. They haven’t shown a serious weakness, outscoring teams by 22.5 points per game and owning a rebound advantage of plus-10.7.
Yale has demonstrated good balance on offense. Matt Knowling leads three double-figure scorers at 16.2 points per game, sinking 64.6 percent of his field-goal attempts. John Poulakidis and EJ Jarvis add 10.8 and 10 ppg, respectively.
Jarvis and Bez Mbeng each scored 14 points Tuesday in a 71-61 loss at Butler, but Knowling was shut down, managing only six points on 3-of-10 shooting over 34 minutes. The Bulldogs made just 41.7 percent of their field-goal tries, far under their season norm of 49 percent.
Yale actually outrebounded its Big East foe 34-29 but allowed Butler to make 50 percent of its shots. The 3-point arc hurt the Yale Bulldogs, too, as they were 6 of 20 from distance while the Butler Bulldogs made 7 of 14.
Jones blamed a poor start that saw his team fall behind 22-7 midway through the first half.
“Those first 10 minutes, we did a poor job taking care of the ball,” he said.
If the Bulldogs want to have a chance of shocking the Wildcats, they can’t afford turnovers. Kentucky traditionally kills teams that commit live-ball turnovers to crank up its usually devastating fastbreak.
The Wildcats (6-2) are coming off a 73-69 win over Michigan on Sunday in London. All five Kentucky starters scored in double figures, led by Jacob Toppin and Cason Wallace with 14 points each. National Player of the Year candidate Oscar Tshiebwe added 13 points and 14 rebounds.
Coach John Calipari said on his weekly radio show that his team has yet to reach full strength, even though most of the key players have been in action over several consecutive games.
“I think Oscar is about 85 percent right now,” Calipari said of Tshiebwe, who was sidelined by a knee injury to start the season. “I know his lift is probably 15 to 20 percent off. It’s gonna come back. His conditioning is probably off a little bit. He’s gonna come back.”
A limited Tshiebwe is still better than most players in Division I. He is averaging 14.2 points and 13.5 rebounds in six games, a small tick below his 17.4 ppg and 15.1 rpg that earned him consensus national Player of the Year honors last season.
Illinois State transfer Antonio Reeves leads four Kentucky players in double figures at 14.4 ppg, converting 49.1 percent of his 3-point attempts. Toppin chips in 12.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, while Wallace is averaging 11 points and 4.6 assists. Kentucky is a top-10 team nationally in rebounds per game (42.6) and assists per game (18.9).
Yale and Kentucky will be meeting for the first time.
–Field Level Media