Notre Dame has never beaten Kentucky in eight tries at Rupp Arena,, but if there’s ever a time for the Fighting Irish to snag their first victory in one of college basketball’s most hallowed halls, this is it. The Wildcats enter Saturday’s showdown on CBS on a three-game losing streak that has exposed just how far this young UK team has to go.
The Fighting Irish are only off to a 1-2 start themselves, but their losses are against No. 4 Michigan State and No. 22 Ohio State. At one time, it appeared this game against Kentucky would be yet another contest against a ranked foe during Notre Dame’s tough early-season run. But after the starting the season at No. 10 in the AP poll, the Wildcats didn’t receive a single vote this week following their 1-3 start.
Both teams could really use a victory here, because Kentucky has UCLA and Louisville up next while Notre Dame is scheduled to open ACC play against Duke in its next game on Wednesday before returning to nonconference play against Purdue.
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- When: Saturday, 12 p.m. ET
- Where: Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky
- TV: CBS | Live stream: CBSSports.com, CBS Sports App (Free)
- OTT: CBS Sports App (Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast)
Notre Dame: Notre Dame’s 44.1% 3-point shooting percentage through three games ranked 13th nationally through Thursday’s games. But the Fighting Irish are still searching for depth and brawn. They used just seven players in a 90-85 loss to Ohio State on Tuesday as four of their five starters played 37 minutes or more. The fifth starter, 6-foot-11 Juwan Durham, would have played more than 22 minutes if he’d not encountered foul trouble and eventually fouled out. Ultimately, veteran coach Mike Brey highlighted some missed defensive rebounds as making the difference in a narrow loss. Though he likely won’t be available Saturday, there is optimism that Santa Clara transfer Trey Wertz could gain eligibility soon and help add depth. Although he won’t help in the front court, Wertz is a 6-foot-5 guard who averaged 11.9 points per game while shooting 40% from 3-point range last season.
Kentucky: If there’s a bright spot to counteract Kentucky’s abysmal 25.8% 3-point shooting through four games this season, it’s that the Wildcats have also held opponents to just 26.1% shooting from beyond the arc. That creates an interesting matchup against Notre Dame, which relies heavily upon the 3-point shot. With sophomore forward Keion Brooks Jr. still doubtful, the Wildcats are again expected to deploy a rotation featuring no contributors from last year’s team. The lack of continuity and the lack of games against lower-tier competition early this season have forced Kentucky to try and find an offensive rhythm under adverse circumstances. It has not gone well. But if the Wildcats can use their length and athleticism to bother Notre Dame’s shooters, they could avoid what would be just the program’s second losing streak of four games under John Calipari.
Game prediction, pick
Kentucky has gone 10 deep at times early this season, and if Calipari is willing to do it again against Notre Dame, the Wildcats should be able to wear down their ACC foe by contesting shots and collecting second-chance points. But don’t bet on these young Wildcats to cover a three-possession spread.. Prediction: Kentucky 81, Notre Dame 77
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