#754 University of Kentucky Wildcatsvs.#753 Canisius College Golden Griffins
Written by Chris Kubala
NCAAB: Sunday, November 13, 2016, Rupp Arena, Lexington, Kentucky, 6 pm ET
Spread: Kentucky -30, Over/Under: N/A
A non-conference matchup takes place between a mid-major school and a real threat to win the NCAA title. The Canisius Golden Griffins are on the road as they open their season with a matchup against the #2 Kentucky Wildcats Sunday evening. Canisius plays their season opener here. Kentucky is coming off an 87-64 home win over Stephen F. Austin in their opener Friday night. The Wildcats won each of the two previous meetings, including a 68-45 win in the only meeting here on January 9, 1997.
Canisius stumbled to their first losing season in their last four in 2015-16 as they finished 14-19 on the year. The Golden Griffins were 8-12 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, finishing 7th in the conference standings. Coach Jim Baron retired after the season: in his stead, Canisius hired Chattanooga assistant and former Buffalo coach Reggie Witherspoon. Canisius has been terrific on the offensive end of the floor as they are 89th in the country with an average of 76.5 points per game. The Golden Griffins are shot just 42 percent from the floor (276th in the nation) as a team. Canisius averaged 8.6 three point field goals per game while they hit 34.1 percent (202nd) from beyond the arc. Canisius’s leading returning scorer is Phil Valenti, who averaged 14.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per contest.
The Golden Griffins have been weak on the defensive end of the floor as they were 314th in the nation by allowing 78.4 points per contest. Opposing teams shot 47.6 percent from the floor (338th in the country) against the Golden Griffins. Canisius allowed 8.3 three point field goals on 38 percent (328th in the country) shooting from beyond the arc. Kassius Robertson and Jermaine Crumpton are back as well after averaging in double figures last season. Chris Atkinson and Isaiah Gurley are going to have to step up and contribute for the Golden Griffins.
As seems to be the trend every fall, there’s a new crop of young stars for the Wildcats looking to lead the school to a potential championship in early April. This year seems to be no exception for Kentucky and coach John Calipari. The Wildcats jumped to a 16 point edge at the half and kept the Lumberjacks at bay the rest of the way to get the victory. Kentucky shot an even 50 percent from the floor in the game and forced 28 turnovers in the game. The Wildcats forced Stephen F. Austin to commit 32 fouls in the game and saw two Lumberjacks foul out.
Isaiah Briscoe led the way with 17 points in the victory for Kentucky. Derek Willis chipped in 15 points while DeAaron Fox posted a double-double with 12 points and 12 assists in the victory. Wenyen Gabriel and Malik Monk each finished with 10 points for the Wildcats. The Wildcats lost the rebounding battle 36-28, went 5 of 18 from three point range and clanked 10 of their 30 free throw attempts. Kentucky recorded 12 steals and blocked eight shots in the game.
The Golden Griffins may be a better team than they were a year ago but this is a massive undertaking. Kentucky is extremely deep and talented in their roster with a ton of skill players. The Wildcats are at home and have too many weapons. Canisius should get their shots but they’re no match for the #2 Wildcats. Kentucky rolls to a big win in this contest.
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Christopher Kubala has been crunching stats and following sports for over 30 years. His in depth analysis and passion for sports have led him to writing books about sports, regularly being featured on sports talk radio and as the go-to person for any obscure trivia. He keeps an eye on transactions and statistics like a hawk, especially when it comes to football, both the NFL and college, the NHL, the NBA and college basketball and MLB.