Columbia-Kentucky Preview

BY foxsports • December 9, 2014

Kentucky hasn't faced much resistance during its best start in five seasons but could get some during an upcoming stretch against three high-profile opponents.

The No. 1-ranked Wildcats will get one final tune-up before those matchups Wednesday night versus Columbia.

Kentucky (9-0) has won its games by an average of 31.8 points this season, with the closest being a 63-51 victory over then-No. 6 Texas on Friday. The Wildcats showed no letdown two days later, thumping Eastern Kentucky 82-49.

Freshman Karl-Anthony Towns had a career-high 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting and nine rebounds as his team secured its best start since winning its first 19 games in 2009-10. Fellow freshman Trey Lyles registered his first double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, and the Wildcats had their second-best shooting performance of the season (56.9 percent) while holding the Colonels to 26.1 percent.

"It shows that we are focused after a big win against Texas. We can come out and keep our mindset, which is winning," Lyles said.

The Wildcats will likely face more of a challenge in their matchups against No. 21 North Carolina and UCLA as well as archrival and No. 4 Louisville later this month. The latter two games will take place away from home.

First, Kentucky will try to keep rolling against a depleted Columbia squad. The Lions, though, have managed a 5-2 start despite missing three starters from last season's 21-win squad, the program's most since 1967-68.

Alex Rosenberg is no longer with the team after leading the way with 16.0 points per game in 2013-14. Grant Mullins (11.7 ppg) and 6-foot-10 forward Luke Petrasek are injured, leaving junior guard Maodo Lo - averaging a team-best 16.1 points - as the team's top offensive threat.

The Lions are averaging 59.0 points - the worst mark in the Ivy League - after scoring 68.0 per game in 2013-14 but are holding opponents to 50.0 points, one of the best marks in the country and 13.3 fewer than last season.

Lo, who had 20 points in Saturday's 62-39 win over Bucknell, was also one of three players who scored in double figures when the Lions gave No. 2 Michigan State a scare on Nov. 15, 2013. They trailed by just one point with 4:28 remaining but went scoreless the rest of the way in a 62-53 loss.

Columbia, 6-42 all-time against AP Top 25 teams, is playing a top-ranked squad for the second time in school history. It lost 106-63 to Indiana on Dec. 26, 1975.

Kentucky will face Columbia for the first time since a 76-53 win in the 1948 NCAA tournament quarterfinals, when the field consisted of eight teams.

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