Texas-Arlington-Kentucky Preview

BY foxsports • November 24, 2014

Kentucky has been so dominant defensively that its inconsistencies on the offensive end haven't mattered.

The top-ranked Wildcats understand they'll need to play well in both areas to reach their long-term goals.

With forward Alex Poythress expected back, Kentucky looks to keep improving as it goes after its 55th win in 56 home games versus a nonconference opponent Tuesday night against Texas-Arlington.

After limiting then-No. 5 Kansas to 19.6 percent shooting in a 32-point win last Tuesday, the Wildcats held Montana State to a 19.7 field-goal percentage in Sunday's 86-28 rout at Rupp Arena.

Kentucky (5-0), which has won by an average of 34.6 points during its best start since opening 8-0 in 2011, leads the nation in defensive field-goal percentage (28.1) while ranking in the top five in points allowed (46.0).

Freshman Karl-Anthony Towns has been a force inside with 15 blocked shots in his last three games after finishing with season highs of six blocks and 10 rebounds Sunday.

"We sustained, defensively, for the entire time. Just like we did against Kansas," coach John Calipari said. "The issue is, we played the same way offensively, too."

The Wildcats have struggled to adjust against sagging defenses trying to force them to shoot from the perimeter. They're making 30.3 percent from 3-point range after missing 19 of 26 attempts against the Bobcats.

Kentucky had a season-high 57.6 field-goal percentage in Friday's 89-65 win over Boston University after shooting a combined 42.0 percent against Buffalo and Kansas. The Wildcats, however, took a step back with a 43.3 mark against a winless Montana State team that had allowed 51.2 percent shooting in its previous three games.

"Everybody looked confused. So now we're taking 3s, and then, all of a sudden, you miss them and it's contagious," Calipari said. "And again, we have got to work on that. We can't start games like that."

Dominique Hawkins, starting for Poythress, and reserve Trey Lyles went a combined 2 for 17 from the field. Devin Booker finished with a career-best 18 points, while Aaron Harrison added 14 despite missing 9 of 14 shots.

Poythress is set to return after missing the past two games with an undisclosed illness. The junior averaged 6.3 points and 3.3 rebounds while going 6 for 19 from the field in his first three starts.

The Wildcats have won 18 straight home games versus nonconference opponents by an average of 28.2 points since a loss to Baylor on Dec. 1, 2012, snapped a 36-game streak.

They'll face a Texas-Arlington team that has allowed opponents to shoot 38.4 percent, including 28.6 from 3-point range. The Mavericks (3-1) held Houston Baptist to 3-of-23 shooting from beyond the arc in Saturday's 87-69 home win.

Jamel Outler tied a career mark with 26 points and hit a career-best seven of the team's 13 3-pointers, while Lonnie McClanahan added 12 points and is averaging a team-high 12.5 off the bench.

"When (Outler) gets in the zone like he did he's hard to stop," coach Scott Cross told the team's official website. "He's such a dynamic shooter. He elevates on the shot and our guys got him the ball."

Cross' squad takes a two-game winning streak into a weeklong road trip beginning at Kentucky, where it lost 105-76 in the only meeting last Nov. 19.