How Kentucky and Iowa State match up

mstory@herald-leader.comMarch 16, 2012 

Point guard

In Kentucky's four post-season tourney games so far, Marquis Teague has made nine of 28 shots. The freshman has 20 assists vs. 10 turnovers in tourney play.

Iowa State's Chris Allen, who played three years at Michigan State, has more NCAA tourney experience (15 games) than any player in the 2012 field. Allen (12.1 ppg, 38 percent shooter) had 20 points in Iowa State's round of 64 triumph over Connecticut, but turned the ball over four times.

Advantage: Even

Shooting guard

After Doron Lamb struggled with his shot in the SEC Tournament (12-for-33; 4-for-15 three-pointers), the Kentucky sophomore got back on the beam (7-for-12, 2-for-4 treys) against Western Kentucky University in the round of 64. For the season the 6-foot-4 Lamb is shooting 45.8 percent on three-point shots.

Iowa State's Scott Christopherson is even more lethal from long range than Lamb: He's shooting 46.2 on treys this year and, at 44.5 percent for his career, is Iowa State's all-time top three-point percentage shooter. Another transfer, the 6-3 senior was a reserve on the Marquette team that eliminated UK from the 2008 NCAAs.

Advantage: Kentucky

Small forward

Has Michael Kidd-Gilchrist hit a freshman wall? Counting his nine points against Western, the 6-foot-7 UK frosh has failed to score in double figures in six of his last 10 games. UK's defensive stopper, will MKG get the assignment of guarding Iowa State star Royce White?

At 6-5, 225 pounds, Iowa State's Chris Babb is the biggest of the three guards the Cyclones start. A transfer from Penn State, Babb (8.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg), has made 64 three-pointers on the season. He had only two points against UConn in 31 minutes.

Advantage: Kentucky

Power forward

Terrence Jones has turned it up a notch in post-season play, averaging 16 points and 10.3 rebounds in UK's four tournament games so far. An impressive post-season performance could help the 6-8, 244-pound Jones climb in the esteem of NBA Draft evaluators.

Iowa State's Melvin Ejim is undersized for a four man at 6-6, 220, but the Canadian is effective (9.4 ppg; 6.6 rpg; 1.1 assists). He has three double-doubles this season.

Advantage: Kentucky

Center

Kentucky's Anthony Davis just missed his fifth straight double-double with 16 points, nine rebounds and seven blocked shots in his NCAA tourney debut against WKU. The lanky shot blocker needs seven more swats to break the SEC single-season record (170 by Jarvis Vernardo). It might be time for Davis to harness his new enthusiasm for perimeter jump shots.

Royce White leads Iowa State in scoring (13.1), rebounding (9.3), assists (5.0), steals (1.1) and blocks (0.9) — the only player in the country to lead his team in all five categories. White, a burly 6-8, 270-pound transfer from Minnesota, is such a good passer that he is something of a "point big man." He had a triple-double — 10 points, 18 rebounds, 10 assists — against Texas A&M.

Advantage: Kentucky

Bench

Kentucky sixth man Darius Miller is off to a slow start in his final trip down the college tournament trail. The senior is 9-for-26 from the field in UK's four post-season games. UK is apt to need Miller and his knack for hitting big shots in tight games in this tourney, perhaps against Iowa State. Freshman Kyle Wiltjer's outside shooting ability (40.9 percent three-point shooting) could also be needed in a tourney game by the Wildcats.

Iowa State sixth man Tyrus McGee (7.9 ppg; 3.4 rpg) is another three-point threat (40.3 percent). Former walk-on Bubu Palo (4 ppg; 1.6 assists) is the point-guard backup. At 6-9, 250, Anthony Booker (3.6 ppg; 2.9 rpg) is a wide-load post reserve.

Advantage: Kentucky

Intangibles

After beating UConn, ISU head coach Fred Hoiberg correctly proclaimed that Saturday will be a "home game" for Kentucky in Louisville. The KFC Yum Center was a sea of blue Thursday for the round of 64 and will be so again for this one.

Iowa State is 7-8 this season in games played outside Ames (3-1 neutral sites; 4-7 road). A mature Cyclones team won't be easy to rattle. Four of the five starters are transfers from other Division I programs; six of 12 active ISU players have redshirted during their careers. Iowa State also has an unconventional playing style (White inside; four players out) that will test the Cats.

Advantage: Kentucky

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