After defeating South Carolina State on Thursday, 106-63, the Kentucky Wildcats are looking to start a winning streak and earn their first win of the season against the #2 Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Both Kentucky and Gonzaga are 2-1, with losses to ranked teams. However, the Bulldogs beat the same Michigan State team that Kentucky lost to on Tuesday.
Sunday night’s game will be the first game of the new six-year streak and the Wildcats will look to improve on the all-time streak record 2-0, with Kentucky beating the Bulldogs in their first matchup in 2002.
When you get into the game and each team has their own battles, it becomes an interesting battle. Let’s take a closer look at the things to watch out for on Sunday night.
Oscar Tshiebwe vs. Drew Timme
Two of the best big men in the country will go head-to-head on Sunday, Oscar Tshiebwe and Drew Timme.
Tshiebwe missed the first two games of the season to recover from minor knee surgery but already seems close to his old form. In his season debut against Michigan State, Tshibwe had 22 points and 18 rebounds. However, he only played 14 minutes against South Carolina State to rest for Sunday’s matchup.
As for Timme, he was just as impressive and seems to have gotten even better, averaging a career-high 20.7 points (34th in the NCAA) on 60.5 percent shots from the field.
However, the two played back in 2020 when Tshiebwe was still with West Virginia. In that game, Gonzaga narrowly won 87-82 as Timme recorded 17 points and 3 rebounds compared to Tshiebwe’s 14 points and 9 rebounds.
John Calipari has seen a similar duel before: “It was Marcus Camby and Tim Duncan… You would have thought there was nobody else in the game and there were no coaches. It was one on one.”
Which player will prevail?
Can Kentucky take advantage of Gonzaga’s guard play?
While Drew Timme will be doing Drew Timme things, Gonzaga doesn’t have the guard they’ve had for the past few seasons.
Though four of their top five scorers are guards, the Bulldogs have no true point guard. In fact, there are only three players for Gonzaga who average more than 2 assists per game, and two of those are forwards.
That leaves Julian Strawther as the bulldog’s clear second option, but behind him things get murky between Nolan Hickman, Hunter Sallis and Malachi Smith.
While still searching for their balance, Sahvir Wheeler and Cason Wallace have proven to be the better Wardens so far. If they can produce and play a defense as good as they did, Kentucky will be in good shape.
Can Kentucky Force Turnovers and Cause Offense?
One of Gonzaga’s greatest weaknesses has been their lack of ball security, as they turn the ball as many times as anyone else in the country. In fact, they average 17.3 turnovers per game, ranking 324th nationally.
In just the last two games against Michigan State and Texas, Gonzaga has recorded 18 and 20 turnovers, respectively, while giving up an average of twenty points fewer turnovers. The main source of these turnovers, especially against Texas, was defensive pressure.
With their length and size, Kentucky should be able to force Gonzaga into some turnovers, especially if they push like they sometimes do this season.
This would be very beneficial if the Wildcats were struggling on the half-court offense as their defense would give them some scoring chances and open the floor.
Kentucky basketball vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Time date: 7:30 p.m. ET Nov. 20
Location: Spokane Arena in Spokane, Washington
TV channel: ESPN
announcer: Jon Sciambi and Jimmy Dykes are in talks.
Online stream: WatchESPN, ESPN+SEC Network+ or the ESPN app.
Radio: Tom Leach and Jack Givens will call the UK cellular network on WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1 and the British sports network.
Repetition: WatchESPN and SEC Network (check local listings).
Rosters: United Kingdom | GU
Statistics to know: United Kingdom | GU
team sheets: United Kingdom | GU
Opportunities: The betting line has yet to be published. ESPN’s Matchup Predictor gives the Wildcats only a 22.3% chance of winning, and Bart Torvik has it at 24%. KenPom has it at a friendlier 44%.
predictions: Bart Torvik Kentucky lost by a final score of 83-75 while KenPom left the Zags by a 79-78 lead.