Two struggling teams will meet Saturday when the Kentucky Wildcats host the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in Lexington, Ky.
Kentucky (1-3), which was ranked No. 10 in the AP preseason poll, has fallen out of the Top 25 after three straight losses, to Richmond, Kansas and most recently Georgia Tech on Sunday.
The Fighting Irish (1-2) have dropped games to Michigan State and Ohio State. In between, they barely held off Detroit Mercy 78-70 on Dec. 6 for their lone win.
Wildcats coach John Calipari was rather blunt after his team fell 79-62 to the host Yellow Jackets.
“There’s a lot of stuff we’re working on, and losing games makes it harder,” Calipari said. “I mean, everybody is knocking us around right now.”
Kentucky started four freshmen in its most recent game. That’s not unusual, considering the recruiting classes Calipari has brought in over the past several years.
However, the more glaring issue is the Wildcats lost eight of their nine leading scorers from 2019-20.
Only two Wildcats are averaging double digits thus far. Freshman Brandon Boston Jr. paces the team at 14.5 points per game and is adding 6.8 rebounds per contest.
Fellow freshman Terrence Clarke is contributing 13.8 points per game while senior teammate Olivier Sarr is at 9.8 per game.
The team also is struggling mightily from beyond the 3-point arc, hitting just 25.4 percent.
Turnovers are plaguing Kentucky as well, as it averages 18.3 per game compared to just 11.8 turnovers from its opponents.
The Wildcats hope Saturday will be a get-right game against a Notre Dame team that is also off to a poor start.
Notre Dame received a big night from Prentiss Hubb in its most recent loss, 90-85 to the 22nd-ranked Buckeyes on Tuesday. The junior guard scored a career-high 26 points and added six assists and six rebounds.
Fighting Irish coach Mike Brey praised Hubb for nearly willing the team to victory.
“Prentiss Hubb is a flat-out winner,” Brey said. “He, at times, has been dragging this group along with him, and he did tonight. I love his leadership. I love his toughness.”
Hubb is averaging a team-best 22.3 points per game this season. Teammates Nate Laszewski (15.0), Dane Goodwin (14.3) and Cormac Ryan (13.3) are also in double figures for a Fighting Irish starting lineup that soaks up a ton of minutes.
Brey has essentially played just a seven-man rotation this season, with Hubb, Laszewski, Goodwin, Ryan and Juwan Durham all averaging at least 27 minutes per game.
Nikola Djogo and Tony Sanders Jr. are the only Irish players averaging meaningful time off the bench.
Brey thinks his team is close to getting into a groove. However, defensive rebounding will be key on Saturday against a Kentucky team that has outrebounded its opponents by nine boards per gmae this season.
“I just thought we couldn’t get our hands on a couple of defensive rebounds that really would have made a difference,” Brey said on the Ohio State game. “That just kind of hurt us. Almost like we were trying too hard. We were almost working too hard to get it and squeeze it. I can’t fault our guys for that. I just kind of love who we are.”
–Field Level Media