Wed, 08 Dec 2021

North Florida braces for visit to streaking No. 10 Kentucky

Field Level Media
25 Nov 2021, 08:55 GMT+10

No. 10 Kentucky has been losing players and winning games, and now the Wildcats hope to get some bodies back Friday night as they prepare to host North Florida in Lexington.

UK was down four key contributors Monday night when they whipped Albany, for their fourth straight win. That enabled the Wildcats to move back into the top 10, tied with fellow Southeastern Conference member Alabama in this week's AP Top 25.

Kentucky is anticipating the return of guys like Davion Mintz (illness), Jacob Toppin (undisclosed injury) and Lance Ware (lower-body injury).

"Our depth is short right now," guard TyTy Washington Jr. said. "So, it's our priority to make sure we're in tip-top shape because at any given day, any given time of the game coach (John Calipari) can call our number. As long as you're ready and warm, you're going to be good."

Washington certainly was good against Albany, pumping in 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting to lead five Wildcats in double figures. Georgia transfer Sahvir Wheeler added 15 points and seven assists, while West Virginia transfer Oscar Tshiebwe chipped in 12 points and 14 rebounds.

This team is one of the best-shooting teams in Calipari's tenure, canning nearly 38 percent on 3-pointers so far and sinking 83.3 percent at the foul line.

Yet, the addition of Tshiebwe, a rebounding machine, has been a key for Kentucky (4-1). He is averaging 16 rebounds a game -- more than double any other Wildcat.

This is a rare Wildcat team that doesn't get to the foul line consistently. They are averaging just 13.2 free-throw attempts, which ranks 322nd among 358 Division I teams. Eight different Calipari teams have ranked in the top 50 in free-throw rate during his first 12 years at Kentucky.

"When you shoot 22 threes," Calipari said, "are you going to get fouled? No. You're shooting floaters, are you going to get fouled? No."

In other words, the whistles might not blow much in this game, because North Florida (1-5) doesn't mind bombing away from the arc, either, ranking just 330th nationally in free throws attempted (12.8 per game).

The Ospreys bill themselves as the "Birds of Trey" and have lived up to that motto with 62 3-pointers in six games. Their 10.4 made 3-pointers per game ranks 31st nationally.

North Florida tied a single-game school record with 21 threes on Saturday night in a 103-43 rout of Webber International in its home opener. The Ospreys covered nearly 6,000 miles and three time zones in losing their first five games on a western road swing that took them through soft touches like Texas Tech, Texas AM, Arizona State, and No. 2 UCLA.

"I love the fact that we have been able to unwind and rejuvenate after that 11-day road trip," said North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll. "We got some good days off and preparation for a Kentucky team that is catching its stride and playing with tremendous confidence and energy."

Carter Hendricksen leads the Ospreys at 13.8 points. The game will be a homecoming of sorts for him as he hails from Mt. Sterling, which is just 35 miles east of Lexington, and played at Lexington Christian Academy.

This will be the first matchup between the programs.

--Field Level Media

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