Arlington, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - The inaugural Big 12/SEC Challenge takes
root in the Lone Star State on Friday night, as the third-ranked Kentucky
Wildcats battle the 20th-ranked Baylor Bears at AT&T Stadium.
Both teams come in sporting identical 7-1 records, with the Wildcats' lone
loss taking place in Chicago against ranked foe Michigan State (78-74), while
the Bears also fell to a fellow member of the Top-25 on a neutral court,
losing to Syracuse in Maui (74-67).
Kentucky has bounced back from the loss to MSU by winning five straight, the
most recent of which being a 79-65 decision over Providence last Sunday in
Brooklyn, New York. The 'Cats still have tough bouts with North Carolina and
Louisville to come before beginning SEC play at home versus Mississippi State
on Jan. 8, 2014.
Baylor's loss to the Orange took place in the championship game of the Maui
Invitational the day before Thanksgiving, and the team returned home to blast
Hardin-Simmons on Sunday, 104-59. This is the Bears final test before
embarking on Big 12 Conference action at Iowa State on Jan. 7, 2014.
Kentucky leads the all-time series with Baylor, 7-1, and this is the third
straight year the teams have met. The 'Cats won in Lexington last season, and
also knocked off the Bears in an Elite Eight matchup in the 2012 NCAA
Kentucky has had very little trouble establishing its dominance at both ends
of the floor this season, averaging 84.5 ppg in hitting 48.3 percent of its
field goal attempts, while allowing 64.0 ppg with foes shooting just 35.7
percent from the field. The Wildcats are actually being outshot from 3-point
range (.323 to .318), but a massive +15.5 rebounding advantage coupled with
the fact that four players are scoring in double figures on a consistent
basis, and one more being close to joining the ranks. Freshman sensation
Julius Randle has been a beast in the early going, averaging 18.1 points and
12.6 rpg, all while shooting 52.9 percent from the floor. Fellow rookies Aaron
Harrison (13.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg), James Young (13.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg) and Andrew
Harrison (10.4 ppg, 3.4 apg) have all excelled in one capacity or another,
while Willie Cauley-Stein (9.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 3.9 bpg) provides a veteran
presence, despite being only a sophomore.
Young hit for 18 points to lead the Wildcats to their recent win over
Providence, the team making good on 64.3 percent of its total shots, draining
6-of-8 long-range launches in the process. Cauley-Stein came close to logging
a triple-double as he scored 15 points, blocked nine shots (second-most in a
game in UK history) and grabbing eight rebounds. The Friars were limited to
31.1 percent field goal efficiency. Aaron Harrison and Randle both finished in
double digits as well, netting 15 and 12 points, respectively.
The difference in scoring between what the Bears generate and that of their
opponents is a bit closer than that of their counterpart tonight, but still
impressive nonetheless. Baylor is generating 78.1 ppg while permitting 66.5
ppg (+11.6), and the team is successful on 50.2 percent of its field goal
attempts, while draining 44.4 percent of its 3-point tries. Conversely, foes
are shooting just 38.6 percent from the floor, with 34.9 percent of their
tries from beyond the arc finding the bottom of the net. BU owns a substantial
+11.9 rebounding margin, but is -4.2 in turnover differential. Cory Jefferson
(13.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg) paces four Bears in double digits, and he is instrumental
in helping the squad control the glass with relative ease. Brady Heslip (12.9
ppg, 26-of-50 from 3-point land) is the club's second-leading scorer, but does
all his damage coming off the bench. Kenny Chery (10.8 ppg, 4.9 apg) and
Isaiah Austin (10.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.3 bpg) have both been productive members
of the starting lineup.
Heslip and Rico gathers both scored 17 points to lead a half dozen Bears in
double digits, as Baylor had no problem dismissing Hardin-Simmons last
weekend, winning by 45. Jefferson notched a double-double consisting of 16
points and 10 rebounds, and Baylor shot 63.3 percent from the field, which
included a 10-of-19 showing from 3-point range. Meanwhile, its overmatched
opponent made good on only 5-of-27 trey attempts and shot a meager 37.9
percent from the floor overall. BU claimed a huge 45-21 edge on the boards.
The Sports Network