Kentucky vs. Southern Illinois: Preview, viewing info and 3 things to watch for

Kentucky vs. Southern Illinois: Preview, viewing info and 3 things to watch for

Southern Illinois will bring a veteran team into Rupp Arena and be a good test for a Kentucky team badly in need of a rebound.

The Kentucky Wildcats will be licking their wounds heading into the first home game of the season vs. the Southern Illinois Salukis.

After being run off the court Tuesday night in the Champions Classic against Duke there will be little time to regroup. The Salukis will come to Rupp Arena on Friday for a 7 pm match-up.

Including their two exhibition games, Kentucky has now strung together three less than impressive performances in a row. How they respond of Friday will be telling of what to expect for the rest of the season.

It’s crazy to think about how high expectations were for UK prior to the meeting with Duke to where things stand now. In reality, it was just one game, but the bad taste it left in the mouths of fans will linger for a long time. The Cats need to come out and dominate Southern Illinois from the moment the ball tips off to the final buzzer.

The Salukis finished second in the Missouri Valley conference a season ago with an overall record of 20-13. Southern Illinois will return a good nucleus of players from that team, including all five starters. They will also add some star power in the front court as shot blocker Thik Bol will return after missing all of last season with a knee injury.

The Salukis should have one of their best teams in recent memory and will surely be pumped up to play in Rupp Arena.

Kentucky better come to play in this one or else things could continue to spiral in the wrong direction.

How will UK respond?

There were not many bright spots in Kentucky’s 118-84 loss to the Duke Blue Devils, actually there may not have been any. The way Kentucky chooses to respond is going to be crucial for the long-term outlook of this season.

At no point during Duke’s dominating performance did UK even come close to matching their opponents intensity on the court. That kind of uninspired apathetic play is what surprised me the most, besides the ridiculously lopsided score.

Where was the Bahamas team? I remember after the first two games in August I was thrilled to see this young team sit down in a defensive stance and seemingly enjoy the competition of playing defense. That aggressive spirit was nonexistent on Tuesday night in Indianapolis with the exception of Reid Travis and Keldon Johnson.

If the other players don’t decide to step it up and play with some intensity then things could get worse before they get better. I would assume that John Calipari issued a stern warning to his guys that if they will always have a target on their back so it would serve them well to pick things up, and fast.

Guard Play

I guess it should have been a red flag before last night, but the fact that it’s a reclassified freshman, not a returning sophomore, that is getting the start at point guard should have provided indication that there are question marks in the back-court.

In the loss to Duke Quade Green, Ashton Hagans, and Immanuel Quickley combined for 9 points on 1-10 shooting. To make matters worse, the trio also tallied 5 of UK’s 15 turnovers and did nothing to get the team in an offensive rhythm as Duke scored 27 points off turn-overs. If I had to guess I would anticipate a change to the starting line-up.

Aside from Keldon Johnson and Reid Travis attacking the basket there was no execution on the offensive end. If Kentucky has another game where they shoot only 23% from three as they did in the Champions Classic then getting easy baskets will become critical.

The trio of guards, along with Tyler Herro, need to focus on getting good shots by working the ball inside-out. Reid Travis or PJ Washington got virtually no touches in the first 8 minutes of the game against Duke which snow-balled into complete destruction.

The game plan against Southern Illinois should be to feed the big guys and knock down shots when the ball is kicked out.

Defense Defense Defense

Imagine how you would have reacted if someone told you before the game that Kentucky would score 84 points and still lose by 34 points. I still cannot wrap my head around that and frankly, I don’t want to. I just pray that myself nor anyone in the Big Blue Nation has to experience something like that again.

The effort on defense was pathetic and unacceptable. There is no other way to put it.

That being said, every time Duke shot the ball I just assumed it was going in. After the Blue Devils first three 3 point shots hit nothing but net you kind of just got the feeling that it was going to be a long night. Still, giving up 118 points is absolutely ridiculous and can never happen again.

Nick Richards tallied 0 points and 1 rebound in his 13 minutes of play, he was a compete non-factor. Calipari has said many times that this team is only at it’s best when they are blocking shots. Richards and PJ Washington need to pick up the intensity against Southern Illinois and make them pay for coming in the paint. I look for Kentucky to be aggressive against the Salukis and get near double digits in blocked shots.

Besides scoring more points than the Salukis (hopefully a lot more), the Cats need to look good doing it. If UK can dominate and pass the eye test it will be one small step towards forgetting the abysmal performance in the Champions Classic.

Kentucky Wildcats vs Southern Illinois Salukis

  • Date: Friday, Nov. 9 at 7 pm EST
  • TV: SEC Network
  • Announcers: Mike Morgan and Dane Bradshaw.
  • Online Stream: and fubotv
  • Replay: ESPN+ and SEC Network (check local listings)
  • Radio: Voice of the Wildcats Tom Leach and Mike Pratt will have the UK radio network call on 630 AM and 98.1 FM in Lexington or online at UKAthletics.com.
  • Live Stats
  • Tickets
  • Kentucky Roster | SIU
  • Odds: No line has been set, but KenPom projects Kentucky to be a 14.5-point favorite.
  • Prediction: According to ESPN BPI, Kentucky has an 87.5% chance of beating Southern Illinois. KenPom projects an 82-68 win for Kentucky and gives the Wildcats a 91-percent chance of winning.
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