Herald-Leader photo/Mark Cornelison
Update: Kentucky starters are Goodwin, Harrow, Cauley-Stein, Poythress and Mays.
Three quick things to watch tonight as Kentucky entertains Vanderbilt.
1. Ryan Harrow. It’s hard to see the sophomore returning to the starting lineup considering Harrow hasn’t scored in the last two games. Plus, Jarrod Polson, who started Saturday at Tennessee, was one of just two players to earn praise from John Calipari after that 30-point debacle. (Julius Mays was the other praiseworthy player.)
And yet Harrow has to be a key if Kentucky is going to make any kind of closing run. The point guard has always been a vital cog of the Calipari attack, but Harrow has had all kinds of problems of late. And remember, this was a point guard who was playing pretty well in the mid-point of the year, scoring in double figures eight straight games.
Now, Harrow hasn’t played more than 19 minutes in either of the last two games. He hasn’t made a field goal in those game, missing all five of his shots. And he was coming off back-to-back 12-point efforts against South Carolina and Auburn.
If Kentucky is going to improve an offense that has been stuck in the 50s of late, it has to get better play at the point.
2. Rebounding. As has been mentioned on his blog before, the word last week was that no one player was going to replace Nerlens Noel on the boards. Every player had to do his part by getting one or two more rebounds.
That did not happen at Tennessee. The Vols battered the Cats on the boards 39-21. Tennessee grabbed 15 offensive rebounds. Kentucky had just nine defensive rebounds. Tennessee’s offensive rebound percentage was 62.5. That’s almost unheard of.
Vanderbilt isn’t made up of a group of Dennis Rodmans, but the Commodores are capable of hitting the boards. Even with Noel, Kentucky lost the glass in the first meeting in Nashville, 42-37.
Of course, rebounding is in large part effort. There wasn’t much effort from the visitors in Knoxville. There needs to be a lot more effort tonight from the home team in Rupp.
3. Guard the three. The way Tennessee drove the lane against the Noel-less Cats on Saturday, you would think the Cats might pack the lane tonight. But then, the opponent is Vanderbilt.
The Commodores no longer have John Jenkins, but they still like to launch from behind the three-point stripe. Vanderbilt took 30 three-pointers in the first game in Nashville, hitting eight. Kedren Johnson is making 35.8 percent of his three-point shots. He averages a little more than five per game.
Vandy’s bigs will take the three, as well. Rod Odom is second in three-point attempts with 107. Shelby Moats has taken just 68 shots on the year and 28 of those have been three-pointers.
Tennessee was a perfect five-of-five from three against UK on Saturday. If Vandy starts hitting threes, the Commodores will undoubtedly gain confidence. That’s something Kentucky seems to be lacking right now.
I’m picking Kentucky 66-56.
By the way, the officials tonight are Anthony Jordan, John Cahill and Jamie Luckie.