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Game Preview: Illinois State Redbirds

The eighth-ranked Kentucky Wildcats will take on the Illinois State Redbirds on Friday night in the last game of the non-conference slate (excluding Gonzaga). The matchup will take place at Rupp Arena at 7:00 PM on the day of a rare Kentucky Football/Basketball doubleheader. It will be the first home game in 27 days and the last home game before conference play gets underway.

Coming off a blowout rivalry win at Louisville, the young 'Cats are riding high. They are back in the top-ten and people are starting to notice the potential of this team. Although, we cannot look ahead to SEC play just yet. The 'Cats still need one more win to keep the momentum riding as they will head down to Gainesville on January 6th in a rowdy environment to try to start 1-0 in the conference.

This game against Illinois State was mostly scheduled because Antonio Reeves went there for multiple years before he transferred to Kentucky. The Redbirds have started the season 8-4 playing against a pretty average mid-major schedule. Illinois State struggles offensively, averaging just 68 points per game which is 336th in the nation. They also only shoot 42% from the floor as a whole. Their top scorer is Darius Buford who averages 13.7 points per game, which does not match up with Kentucky's five-plus double-digit scorers. Defensively, they are a little better as they only allow 65 points per game. The Redbirds will need to rally if they want to have any chance against the high-flying Wildcats.

The keys to winning are pretty simple: Just maintain the high level offense that we've seen through the entire season, shoot a high volume of three-pointers, and make Illinois State run at your tempo in transition basketball. Make them play to your style and you should have no problem winning this one.

It is kind of hard to know what the crowd will be like at Rupp Arena on Friday with the bowl game taking place at noon, but no matter what the turnout is, Kentucky needs to come to play because clearly we cannot overlook anyone anymore after the UNC-Wilmington loss which came the very last time they took home court. Losses like that hang with you all season and hurt your seeding come tournament time.

The game will be on the SEC Network and I'll be watching endlessly. It's going to be a big day in the UK world, so let's get a big bowl win at noon and keep the momentum rolling through the night.


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