Baylor-Kentucky Preview

The Associated Press

Kentucky and Baylor were feeling much better about themselves before their last meeting.

This time, both will be looking to rebound from upsets as the eighth-ranked Wildcats host the Bears on Saturday in a rematch of last season's South Regional final, which Kentucky won 82-70 on the way to a national championship.

After combining for 68 wins last season, these programs have endured their shares of early struggles.

Kentucky has lost two of its first six games for the first time since 2008 after Thursday's 64-50 defeat at Notre Dame. The Wildcats (4-2) had strung together three straight wins against inferior competition since a 75-68 loss to then-No. 9 Duke in Atlanta on Nov. 13.

The 50 points were the fewest they've scored since coach John Calipari took over in 2009. Kentucky shot less than 30 percent from 3-point range for the second time in three games and attempted a season-low 47 shots from the floor.

The Wildcats averaged 85.2 points in their first five games, topping 100 twice.

"We came out a little shell-shocked and we started playing their game, which is slow down and half court," said guard Julius Mays, who had a team-high 16 points. "I think we're more of an up-tempo team."

Kentucky's defense also faltered, giving up season highs in overall shooting percentage at 48.0 and 53.3 from 3-point range.

The Wildcats' starting lineup is entirely new with three freshmen, a familiar situation for Calipari. Nerlens Noel had 10 points and seven rebounds Thursday, but Archie Goodwin scored three on 1-of-7 shooting after coming in averaging 19.0 points. Alex Poythress, who was averaging 18.4, also scored three.

"It's tough to coach new teams each year, that's what is hard," said Calipari, who started three freshmen last season who all departed for the NBA draft. "That's just part of what we have to deal with. Every team is new, and we are just learning about our team.

"What I hope they figure out is you've got to do it together."

The Bears (4-2) are looking for their first win against Kentucky after losing the first seven meetings. They'll also be trying to redeem themselves after being ranked No. 24 and suffering a shocking 63-59 loss to the College of Charleston last Saturday, their first home defeat against a non-conference opponent since falling 85-84 to South Carolina on Jan. 2, 2009.

"We've got to be better prepared. Got to stay focused," senior guard A.J. Walton said. "Any given night, any team can be beat, no matter ranked or whatever, what's on paper. We've just got to stay focused."

Leading scorer and Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year Pierre Jackson had 21 points but shot 8 of 21. He missed his final four attempts after tying the game at 55-all with 3:53 to play.

Baylor was without senior guard Brady Heslip, averaging 11.6 points, after he had his appendix removed four days earlier. He will be a game-time decision Saturday.

Noel will be matched up against the Bears' own highly heralded freshman big man in Isaiah Austin. The 7-foot-1 center is averaging 14.2 points and scored 12 against Charleston while still working through a sprained ankle.

Jackson had 21 points in the last meeting with Kentucky, while forward Kyle Wiltjer - the only returning Wildcat who played - scored three.

What to Read Next