No. 10 Kentucky hosts Monmouth at Rupp
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LEXINGTON -- No. 10 Kentucky will be looking for its sixth straight victory when winless Monmouth visits Rupp Arena on Wednesday night.
It will be the Wildcats' sixth home game in a seven-game stretch, winding up Saturday against NC-Greensboro.
Monmouth arrives in Lexington with an 0-7 record, falling by an average of 15 points each game and only once keeping the margin within double digits, a 60-57 loss to Princeton in its last outing. The remaining losses are to Lehigh, Colgate, Saint Joseph's, West Virginia, Valparaiso and Cal State Fullerton.
"You say winless, but again they have nothing to lose," Kentucky coach John Calipari said Tuesday. "It was a five-point game with West Virginia, who is a pretty good team. I'm not worried about them. I know they can beat us. If we don't guard, anybody can beat us."
Calipari has his own issues to focus on, including a reboot of himself.
"Here's what's happened to me personally. I'm expecting them to be farther than they are ready to be and there's an expectation that brings a frustration," Calipari said. "Like, you should know this. Well, they don't know. I literally have to start coaching the games as though they're practice until we figure it out. I should've known this early. I should've seen it in the summer. I got enamored like everybody else and now it's, how do we get better defensively? And it's showing them tape and it's every day and it's a process."
Despite being 5-1, UK is among the worst 3-point shooting defensive teams in the nation. Its 43.4 percent ranks 350th out of 351 Division I schools. Only New Mexico State is keeping Kentucky out of the cellar.
In Calipari's previous nine UK seasons combined, the defense is a stellar 31.1 percent. It's never been worse than 32.6 and the best mark was 27.1 percent.
The cure might come Wednesday as Monmouth ranks among the worst offensive teams in the nation. The Hawks score 60.6 points (ranking 337th out of 351), shoot 37.9 percent (334th) and 25.4 percent from 3-point range (343rd). They also have 73 assists versus 110 turnovers.
Monmouth has just one player scoring in double figures, Deion Hammond at 12.9. Next best is Ray Salnave at 8.1.
Freshman Keldon Johnson, fresh off a career-best 27 points against Tennessee State, is Kentucky's leading scorer at 16.5. Next comes Reid Travis at 13.7, PJ Washington at 13.3 and Tyler Herro at 10.0.
As a team, the Wildcats are shooting 48.7 percent, including 33 percent on 3-pointers. They have 86 assists to 91 turnovers, but win the rebounding battle each night by an average count of 41-24. Washington is Kentucky's top rebounder at 8.5.
Updated November 27, 2018