Kentucky vs. Indiana: Position by Position Breakdown and Keys to the Game
No. 1 Kentucky (8-0) travels to Assembly Hall on Saturday to take on the Indiana Hoosiers (8-0). This is a huge rivalry and the buzz around this game is just like it used to be for this matchup.
Tickets are nearly impossible to get and it should be a raucous atmosphere in Bloomington.
This is the first time since 2006 a No. 1 team has played in Assembly Hall.
A then-No. 1 Connecticut Huskies beat Indiana 88-80.
The last time Indiana beat a No. 1 ranked team was in the Sweet 16 in 2002 when fifth-seeded Indiana upset Duke 74-73 in Rupp Arena en route to the NCAA Championship game run.
The last time Indiana beat a No. 1 ranked team in Assembly Hall was the season prior in 2001 when Kirk Haston hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to give Indiana a 59-58 win over Michigan State.
Indiana has played in 17 total games against the No. 1 ranked team and is only 5-12 in those games. They’ve also faced Kentucky six times when Kentucky was ranked No. 1 and are 1-5 in those games.
All of those stats are meaningless in this game, but I do think Indiana will win their first game against a No. 1 ranked team since that 2002 Duke game.
Kentucky is a young and inexperienced team. They start three freshmen and two sophomores. They only play one senior and only use two-to-three guys off the bench.
This can come back and bite them.
The atmosphere is going to be something they’ve never experienced. The crowd will be raucous and it will be deafening loud in there. Kentucky usually stacks their team with one-and-done's and this will hurt them early in the season.
Later in the season, the team would have had time to gel and would have played together long enough to know where they’re supposed to be in a raucous atmosphere. Saturday, I feel, is too soon. These guys haven’t had much time to gel against a quality opponent so far.
They also are far too young and immature and can get flustered in the heat of the game. With that much talent and the jawing that is sure to go on, young, immature players get selfish and try and do things their own way. This will be bad for Kentucky.
These guys are those type of “immature” players, and don’t even try and say they’re not. Each and every one of Kentucky’s starters can go pro, and when pushed, they get selfish.
This will cause foul trouble and turnovers, which is something Kentucky can’t afford to have if they want any shot at winning this game.
Indiana is disciplined and shoot the ball very well. They also play great defense and can give opponents fits. If they exploit Kentucky’s weaknesses like they should, this game could turn into a rout.
The following slideshow previews every positions matchup and the keys to the game.
Point Guard Matchup
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Marcus Teague 6'2'' freshman vs. Jordan Hulls 6'1'' junior
This will be a key matchup of former Indiana High School basketball foes. Teague is a fellow Indiana native from Pike High School on the north side of Indianapolis and Hulls is a Bloomington native.
These guys battled the two years they were in high school together, since they were in the same conference.
Teague is very fast and he uses that to his advantage to get to the hole quickly. By being so fast and explosive, defenders try to play off of him to stop the penetration skills, but if you play off too much, he will kill you with his great open shooting ability.
Teague is averaging 10.3 points per game so far this year while shooting 44 percent from the field. He also shoots 36 percent from behind the arc.
Another thing Teague does well is he finds the open man. He leads the team in assists with 4.1 assists per game.
Once he gets in the lane, defenders have to come off their man and help, and that’s where he gets his assists.
One thing Teague has struggled on this year is free throw shooting. He’s only 52 percent from the line, which can play a big role on Saturday.
Jordan Hulls, on the other side, is a great ball-handler and rarely turns the ball over. He’s a great shooter and even better set-shooter. If you give Hulls just a little bit of room, he can make you pay.
Hulls, unlike Teague, isn’t as quick, but he can penetrate well and find the open man.
Where Hulls can beat Teague is that he’s not selfish. Teague gets wrapped in the moment too much at times and will shoot his way into trouble or try and create too much. I think Teague’s emotions will be high in coming back to Indiana to play, and Hulls can exploit that.
Teague has committed 23 turnovers this season; that may be something to look out for on Saturday. Put that against Hulls’ 13 total turnovers, and that can be the difference on Saturday.
Hulls is patient on the offensive end and lets the game come to him. I think Hulls can win this matchup.
He’s shooting a blistering 57 percent from the field including 53 percent from three-point land. Hulls is also an excellent free throw shooter and is a perfect 11-of-11 on the year.
If he gets daylight, it’s lights out in Assembly Hall in this matchup.
Shooting Guard Matchup
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Doron Lamb 6'4'' sophomore vs. Verdell Jones III 6'5'' senior
This matchup could be a bit of a wash. Doron Lamb definitely has a bit of an advantage of the skill level, but if Jones lets the game come to him and is shooting as well as he has been this season, he can easily sway the advantage his way.
Lamb is a very good scorer and has proved that early this season. He lit up Penn State for 26 points a few games ago. He’s second on the team in scoring at 14.4 points per game.
Lamb has good range and if you leave him open he will hit the shot nine times out of 10. He’s actually a bigger version of Jordan Hulls when it comes to shooting.
Lamb is currently shooting 47 percent from the field including a staggering 50 percent from three-point land. Indiana will need to get a hand in his face at all times.
Another thing Lamb does well is he’s good at the charity stripe. He’s 25-of-28 on the year, which is 89 percent. If Indiana can keep Lamb off the line, they would be doing good for themselves.
One thing Lamb doesn’t really like to do is penetrate all the way to the rim. He’s a great pull-up shooter and uses his speed to get separation and hit those high percentage shots for him. Jones will need to body him up big time.
Where Lamb could get into some trouble, though, is if Indiana gets a hand up on all of his shots. Jones’ experience and height can alter his shots a bit. If Lamb is off, he’s usually off for an extended period of time.
If the Hoosiers can get Lamb off of his game early, he will struggle, especially with the expected raucous crowd. I know from experience the goal seems smaller when things aren’t going your way.
This can help Indiana in that Kentucky looks to Lamb for the majority of their scoring in big moments. They will look to Lamb in a close game, and if he’s off, it will be in his head.
Verdell Jones III will need to play Indiana’s game, not his, on Saturday. The Hoosiers don’t need him to try and penetrate so much and turn the ball over or take a bad shot. He needs to let the game come to him and not do what he did with the Wood kid on NC State.
Jones III doesn’t like when defenders are in his ear like Wood was. He thinks he needs to be a scorer and prove them wrong, but this team isn’t like the past years where we need him to do that.
Because he gets in trouble like that, he leads Indiana in turnovers with 21 on the year. If he can keep his composure and hit his shots, he will be fine.
Jones III is leading Indiana in three-point shooting at 74 percent. The Hoosiers will need that to continue, and I think he can do it on Saturday.
Small Forward Matchup
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Michael Kidd-Gilchrist 6'7'' freshman vs. Victor Oladipo 6'5'' sophomore
This will be an explosive matchup.
Kidd-Gilchrist is a very long player and his 6'7'' frame will show that. He’s got an NBA body in that he’s tall, long, deceptively strong and quick.
Kidd-Gilchrist uses his length to his advantage and drives to the lane with ease. He’s not the fastest guy on the court, but once he gets to the lane, he’s tough to stop due to his height and long arms.
Kidd-Gilchrist is a great open shooter, but if you defend him well, he will miss. He’s shooting 47 percent from the field and 35 percent from three-point land, so if you get a hand up, he will struggle shooting.
If you don’t get a hand up or let him get going in transition, he will get confidence and has shown to penalize opponents. He’s averaging 12.1 points per game so far this season by doing much of that.
Oladipo is a very quick athlete as well. He will be the best guy to guard Kidd-Gilchrist on Saturday. He can stop the penetration that Kidd-Gilchrist will try to do and use his long arms to deflect passes and keep Kidd-Gilchrist from getting any kind of rhythm.
Oladipo is also great in transition as well and good on the offensive side of the ball. He’s second on the team in scoring with 12.3 points per game and second in rebounding with five per game.
Oladipo also shoots the ball very well, shooting 53 percent from the field and 71 percent from the foul line.
If Oladipo can stay out of foul trouble, this will be a great matchup.
Power Forward Matchup
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Terrence Jones 6'9'' sophomore vs. Christian Watford 6'9'' junior
This will be a great battle and could be one that decides this game. Both guys play the same way and like to bring their man out of the paint and beat them off the dribble.
They also like to post small opponents up near mid-range and shoot over them. Luckily for this matchups sake, they’re the same size, so they will be playing a lot of outside-inside scenarios.
Jones leads Kentucky in scoring, averaging 15 points per game. He’s shooting 71 percent from the field including 50 percent from behind the arc. Jones also is a good free-throw shooter at 71 percent from the line.
Jones is the leading scoring option and the guy they go to when they don’t go to Lamb. He scored 35 points last year in a game as a freshman, so we know he can score.
Jones is a lefty, but is a great dribbler with both hands.
He’s also a great rebounder, averaging 7.5 per game.
Sometimes he gets selfish and shoots ill-advised shots. By doing that, he is very inconsistent when it comes to shooting, so if Watford can get his hands up on every shot and the team plays great help defense, he will struggle.
Jones will try to shoot threes, and if Indiana defends him well, they will welcome that.
Many people compare Jones to Josh Smith in the NBA. Many Indiana fans should know of Smith in that he was an Indiana recruit out of high school before he decided to forgo college and go pro.
Watford, on the other hand, isn’t as physical as Jones. Jones has an NBA-ready body and you can be assured he will try to use that to his advantage. Watford needs to play smart and try and get Jones into foul trouble early.
Watford needs to play his game on the offensive end and show us he’s ready to be a big-time player. He’s averaging 10.4 points and five boards per game.
He’s finding the basket very well this year, shooting 42 percent from the field and three-point range.
Watford needs to make most of his shots and rebound the back side well. Indiana struggled against NC State in backside rebounding in the first half, and Watford was a big key. He needs to stay disciplined and keep Jones off the glass or Kentucky could blow Indiana out.
Watford also needs to flash to the basket on weak side a lot. When Indiana throws to Cody Zeller in the post, Kentucky will attack him with multiple defenders. Zeller is a great passer, so when Jones leaves Watford to go help, Watford needs to get big and find the open lane for Zeller to pass to him.
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Anthony Davis 6'10'' freshman vs. Cody Zeller 6'11'' freshman
This will be the best battle on the court. Davis was the No. 1 ranked high school player by scout.com and the No. 2 by ESPNU. Zeller was top 10 on everyone’s rankings as well. This could be a battle that brings this rivalry back for years.
Davis is a great scorer, averaging 12.3 points per game, but he averaged over 30 per game in high school. Zeller needs to shut him down.
Davis is shooting an outstanding 67 percent from the field. He’s great in the paint and has a great all-around game.
Davis is also a great defender. He leads the team with 9.1 rebounds and an outstanding 4.5 blocks per game.
He will try and defend Zeller very hard, but that can lead him into some troubles.
Zeller will need to use his body and force Davis into foul trouble. Kentucky will collapse on Zeller once he catches the ball, so Zeller will need to pump fake and get Davis in the air and put his body into him to draw the foul or just turn and shoot.
Either way will be good for Zeller. He shoots 67 percent from the field and 75 percent from the foul line. This could be a tough matchup for Kentucky in the way they play.
The first part of this game will tell the whole story. Kentucky is guaranteed to bring pressure. How Indiana responds will be the key for this game.
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Kentucky vs. Indiana
Indiana clearly wins this battle.
Kentucky only plays seven or eight players total, so there’s only a couple guys that play off the bench. Indiana, on the other hand, will play four-to-five guys off the bench and usually gets good contributions from them.
Kentucky will get good leadership from team caption Darius Miller, but they don’t look for much out of him. He can score when given the opportunity, but he’s usually the fourth of fifth option when on the court.
Indiana gets good scoring from sophomore Will Sheehey and junior big man Derek Elston when they come in. When they do come in Indiana doesn’t miss a beat, but when Kentucky goes to the bench, they drop dramatically.
If Indiana gets Kentucky into foul trouble, Kentucky will be in a huge mess. Their bench will not matchup well with Indiana at all.
Look for Indiana to try and exploit this in the game.
Keys to the Game
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The keys for Kentucky to win this game
- Must shoot the ball well. They shoot 49 percent on the year, but Indiana holds opponents to around the 30-35 percent range.
- Win the boards. Indiana struggles on backside rebounding.
- Force Indiana under 40 percent shooting.
- Quiet the crowd.
- Slow the game down. Indiana can run with them, and if Kentucky gets tired of in foul trouble, they don’t have as deep of a bench as Indiana.
The keys for Indiana to win this game
- Must rebound better. Backside rebounding was horrible in first half of the NC State game.
- Get hand up on ALL Kentucky shots. They don’t shoot well with hands up and pressure.
- Move to open spots when Zeller has the ball. Kentucky will double- and sometimes triple-team the ball when entered in the paint. Shooters need to move to open spots and make the shot when passed to them.
- Shoot over 50 percent.
- Get Kentucky in foul trouble. Kentucky isn’t a deep team.
- Solid bench contributions.
- Keep crowd involved.