Mark Story

How Kentucky and Wofford match up — with a game prediction

Calipari and the Cats break down Kentucky’s NCAA win over Abilene Christian

Kentucky's John Calipari, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson and Reid Travis talked to the media after Thursday night's 79-44 victory over Abilene Christian in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Jacksonville, Fla.
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Kentucky's John Calipari, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson and Reid Travis talked to the media after Thursday night's 79-44 victory over Abilene Christian in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Jacksonville, Fla.

How the men’s NCAA Tournament Midwest Region No. 2 seed Kentucky Wildcats (28-6) and No. 7 seed Wofford Terriers (30-4) match up at each position — with a game prediction:

Small forward

Kentucky freshman Keldon Johnson (13.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg) had a stellar NCAA Tournament debut in UK’s 79-44 demolition of Abilene Christian on Thursday night in the round of 64. The 6-foot-6, 211-pound freshman from South Hill, Va., hit 10 of 16 shots, three of five three-pointers, and scored 25 points. Through three postseason games, Johnson is tied with Tyler Herro as UK’s leading scorer (14.7 ppg).

Wofford junior Nathan Hoover (13.3 ppg, 45.7 percent three-pointers) is one of three guards in the Terriers’ lineup. A 6-4, 185-pound junior from Memphis, Hoover hit four of seven treys and had 18 points in the Terriers’ 84-68 round-of-64 victory over Seton Hall on Thursday night. In Wofford’s 81-61 win at South Carolina this season, Hoover made nine of 12 treys and had 30 points.

Advantage: Kentucky

Kentucky freshman Keldon Johnson talks to the media after scoring 25 points in UK’s 79-44 win over Abilene Christian in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. UK advanced to Saturday’s second round in Jacksonville, Fla.

Power forward

Kentucky’s EJ Montgomery (3.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 36 blocked shots) has now started seven games. As a starter, the 6-10, 225-pound freshman from Fort Pierce, Fla., has made only seven of 24 shots and averaged 2.6 ppg but has contributed 5.9 rpg. Montgomery scored only three points but had 11 rebounds vs. Abilene Christian. If the sprained foot of PJ Washington (team-bests of 14.8 ppg and 7.5 rpg), keeps him sidelined Saturday, Montgomery is a major key to UK’s hopes for advancement.

Wofford’s Cameron Jackson (14.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 58.1 percent FGs) is the hub around which the Terriers’ three-point bombers orbit. A 6-8, 250-pound senior from Winchester, Va., Jackson had a double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds) in the Terriers’ loss at Kansas and went for 20 points and six boards in a loss at Mississippi State. In the win over Seton Hall, Jackson had 14 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.

Advantage: Wofford

Cameron Jackson.JPG
Wofford’s Cameron Jackson (33) is averaging 14.6 points and 7.6 rebounds this season. John Raoux AP

Center

Kentucky’s Reid Travis (11,4 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 53.3 percent FGs) made his long-awaited NCAA tourney debut a success. The 6-8, 238-pound graduate transfer from Stanford — who never made the NCAAs with the Cardinal — had 18 points and nine rebounds vs. Abilene Christian. If PJ Washington is out, UK will need Travis to step up as its primary low-post scorer.

Wofford’s Keve Aluma (6.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg) is the only Terriers’ starter who is not a three-point marksman. The 6-9, 230-pound sophomore from Berlin, Md., has missed his only attempted trey this season. However, Aluma makes his two-point field-goal tries count — he is a 67.2 percent field-goal shooter.

Advantage: Kentucky

Kentucky forward Reid Travis said the team hopes to have PJ Washington for Thursday night’s NCAA Tournament opener against Abilene Christian. Washington has been wearing a walking boot as a precaution, according to UK.

Shooting guard

Kentucky’s Tyler Herro (14.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 94 percent FTs) made seven of 12 field goals and had 14 points and five rebounds vs. Abilene Christian in his NCAA tourney premier. Billed as a scorer entering UK, the 6-5, 195-pound freshman from Milwaukee has turned out to be an adept all-around player.

Wofford’s Fletcher Magee (20.5 ppg, 42.8 percent treys) has made more career three-pointers (509) than anyone who has ever played men’s NCAA Division I basketball. Playing in his home state Thursday night, the 6-4, 200-pound senior from Orlando, Fla., lit up Seton Hall, making seven of 12 treys en route to 24 points. However, in five prior games against power-conference opponents in 2018-19, Magee made only 30.1 percent of his shots (25-of-83) and 23.7 percent of his three-pointers (14-of-59).

Advantage: Wofford

Kentucky basketball freshman Tyler Herro talks about being named SEC Newcomer of the Year by the AP. Teammate Keldon Johnson was voted SEC Freshman of the Year by the league’s coaches. UK plays in the league tournament on Friday.

Point guard

Kentucky’s Ashton Hagans (7.6 ppg, 4.5 assists) has 22 assists in three postseason games. The 6-3, 192-pound freshman from Cartersville, Ga., had four points and four assists in the win over Abilene Christian. Against Wofford’s precision offensive attack and perimeter shooting, Hagans’ capacity for defensive disruption could be key.

Wofford’s Storm Murphy (8 ppg, 3.2 apg, 48.5 percent treys) turned the ball over only once against Seton Hall’s pressure defense. The 6-foot, 180-pound sophomore from Middleton, Wis., had 11 points and five rebounds vs. the Pirates, but made only one of four three-pointers vs. Seton Hall.

Advantage: Kentucky

Bench

Kentucky’s Nick Richards (4.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg, team-high 46 blocked shots) had eight points and four rebounds in the rout of Abilene Christian. Redshirt freshman guard Jemarl Baker (2.2 ppg) logged 24 minutes and scored seven points, both career highs, vs. ACU. Freshman point guard Immanuel Quickley (5.4 ppg) missed all six of his shots vs. Abilene Christian and is 1-of-10 from the field since he went 4-of-4 against Alabama in the SEC tourney quarterfinals.

Wofford’s Tray Hollowell is a Kentuckian. The 6-2, 185-pound sophomore (5.1 ppg, 1.6 rpg) from University Heights Academy in Hopkinsville is part of a 10-man rotation employed by Terriers Coach Mike Young. Matthew Pegram (5.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg), a 6-11, 260-pound senior, and Chevez Goodwin (4.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg), a 6-9, 225-pound sophomore, give the Terriers quality interior depth.

Advantage: Even

Tray Hollowell shooting.JPG
Wofford guard Tray Hollowell (21) is an alumnus of University Heights Academy in Hopkinsville. Wade Payne AP

Intangibles and history

Kentucky is 127-51 all-time in NCAA Tournament history, and 29-7 in the NCAAs under John Calipari; Wofford is 1-4 all-time in the Big Dance.

UK and Wofford have never played each other before.

The Wofford College campus in Spartanburg, S.C., is 379 miles from VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. The Terriers had a large, enthusiastic fan following for their victory over Seton Hall on Thursday, too. You can expect all neutral fans to get behind the underdog Terriers, as well.

Advantage: Even

Kentucky is heading into the NCAA Tournament seeking their ninth National Championship. Here's a look back at how the program, along with Coach Calipari, has fared in March.

Prediction

Kentucky 73, Wofford 65

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Mark Story has worked in the Lexington Herald-Leader sports department since Aug. 27, 1990, and has been a Herald-Leader sports columnist since 2001. I have covered every Kentucky-Louisville football game since 1994, every UK-U of L basketball game but three since 1996-97 and every Kentucky Derby since 1994.
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