The Kentucky Wildcats put together one of their worst performances of the season on Saturday as they laid an egg against Missouri. The 69-60 score line tells you everything you need to know and it if now up to the team to bounce back as they host No. 15 Tennessee.
Here are the three keys to this one:
Stop letting teams build leads
There are only so many times in a season when you can battle back from double-digit deficits to win a game. Kentucky had two such games on the bounce before taking on Missouri, games where they were down by more than 10 points, yet rallied back to pick up the win. In Columbia the Wildcats were down by 14 points – seemingly their sweet spot – but this time the ‘Cats were unable to find the magic to pull back that big lead.
One way to pull back such a lead is to hit the three-ball at a decent clip. Kentucky though only shot 10-percent from downtown against the Tigers. This is a good Kentucky team, but it is only a good Kentucky team when it wants to be. We need to see much more efficiency from the get-go in games from now on.
Find Kevin Knox
Kevin Knox may as well not have been on the court against the Tigers. The player that many still see as the Wildcats go-to guy was a non-factor against a Missouri team that played him aggressively in an attempt to knock him out of rhythm and off of his game. It proved to be a stunningly effective strategy to employ as Knox had just five points and two rebounds as the Wildcats scored just 60 points.
This proves that Kentucky again needs Knox to play well to win. Missouri is not known as a defensive juggernaut, yet Knox couldn’t find shots or play offense with any level of efficiency. He needs to find his stroke against the Vols and keep it for the rest of the season.
Stop Tennessee shooting the three-ball
Tennessee is coming off of a couple of monster wins on back-to-back outings. After beating LSU by 23 points last week, they came out at the weekend and destroyed Ole Miss 94-61 in one of the most lopsided SEC victories of the season. This is a Vols team that is firing on all cylinders and a squad that believes it still has a chance to grab a No. 1 seed in the final NCAA Tournament bracket.
Slowing down the Vols scoring output won’t be easy, but it begins by stopping the three-ball. In the rout of the Rebels, the Vols went 10-of-14 with their three-point attempts in the second half. Winners of eight of its past nine games, this is a team full of confidence with the shooting pieces to blow Kentucky out in its own building. Slowing down the Vols scoring pace from three will be of paramount importance on Tuesday night.