#5 Texas vs Kentucky

#5 Texas vs Kentucky Route to March Madness

Written by on January 28, 2021

SEC/Big 12 Challenge is Saturday around the nation and the marquee matchup is a prime-time affair between No. 5 Texas and unranked Kentucky – which is having a shockingly bad season and will be a home underdog on the NCAAB odds.

How to Bet Texas at Kentucky NCAA Basketball Odds & TV Info

About the Challenge

All 10 of the Big 12’s teams and 10 of the SEC’s 14 schools will participate in this year’s SEC/Big 12 Challenge Each of the 10 SEC teams that participated in the 2020 Challenge will be a part of the 2021 event. In 2020, the two conferences shared the Challenge title with both leagues earning five wins. Over the last four years of the Challenge, both conferences have won 20 games.

Kentucky and Texas last met Dec. 5, 2014 in Rupp Arena in the second season of SEC/Big 12 Challenge. The top-ranked Wildcats won 63-51 over the No. 6/7 Longhorns behind 21 points and 12 rebounds from All-American Willie Cauley-Stein. The only other matchup between the two schools was in December 1993 for the Maui Invitational.

Why Bet on Texas? | 2021 NCAA Basketball Expert Analysis

The Horns (11-3) played without head coach Shaka Smart and a few key players on Tuesday and were upset 80-79 at home to Oklahoma – Smart tested positive so he presumably will not return by Saturday.

Austin Reaves scored 23 points and made two free throws with 18.3 seconds left that proved to be the difference for the Sooners. Texas rallied from 11 down to force the game into the final seconds despite without starters Jericho Sims and Courtney Ramey, and key reserve Brock Cunningham. Three more Longhorns fouled out and Texas was down to just five scholarship players by the final play. Assistant coach K.T. Turner took over for Smart for the game.

“There were a couple of times our guys could have just laid down and quit. They kept fighting,” Turner said. “There was rust … We’ve had guys out left and right.”

Kai Jones registered his first collegiate double-double with 15 points and a career-best 10 rebounds in the loss. Jones converted 5-of-11 field goals and 4-of-6 free throws while adding a career-high three assists, two blocks and two steals in a career-high 37 minutes of action.

Freshman forward Greg Brown registered 14 points and eight boards in 31 minutes, while junior guard Andrew Jones added 13 points, eight rebounds and four assists in 38 minutes. Senior guard Matt Coleman III contributed 13 points and four assists, and sophomore guard Donovan Williams tallied a season-high 11 points.

The Longhorns registered a 38-20 advantage in points in the paint and an 18-12 edge in second-chance points. Texas posted a plus-5 rebound margin (45-40). The Longhorns have now outrebounded 10 of their first 14 opponents (8-2 mark in those games).

Texas has registered a 3-4 mark in its previous seven Challenge appearances. UT posted a 70-64 victory against Vanderbilt in Austin on Dec. 2, 2013, then fell at No. 1/1 Kentucky 63-51 on Dec. 5, 2014. Texas recorded a 72-58 home win against Vanderbilt on Jan. 30, 2016, then lost at Georgia 59-57 on Jan. 28, 2017. The Longhorns registered an 85-72 home victory against Ole Miss, before falling at Georgia 98-88 on Jan. 26, 2019. Last year, Texas dropped a 69-67 decision to LSU in Austin (Jan. 25, 2020).

Why Bet on Kentucky? | 2021 NCAA Basketball Expert Analysis

The Wildcats (5-10) were beaten 70-59 at No. 9 Alabama on Tuesday and UK is clearly going to miss the NCAA Tournament barring winning the SEC Tournament. After a back-and-forth second half, Davion Mintz’s 3-pointer put Kentucky up 54-52 with 4:52 remaining in the game. The Alabama defense then made stops on five straight possessions which led to a 10-0 Crimson Tide run that essentially put the game away. The Tide swept Kentucky for the first time since 1989.

“We had our chances,” said Kentucky coach John Calipari. “We again got out toughed. Just makes me sick. Not throughout the game, we fought like crazy. The last three minutes we backed away, playing not to lose versus playing to win.”

Olivier Sarr scored 12 points on 4-of-10 shooting for his second straight game in double figures and seventh this season. Davion Mintz scored 12 points on a 5-for-11 night from the floor, plus five rebounds and a team-high four assists. He’s led the Wildcats in scoring a team-high-tying six times. Dontaie Allen also netted 12 points with all four of his field goals coming on 3-pointers. It was his first game in double figures since scoring 14 vs. Vanderbilt on Jan. 5.

Kentucky was held to a season-low 59 points for a third time this season. UK is now 0-10 this season when scoring 65 or fewer. The Wildcats are 5-0 when totaling at least 76 points. They have not scored between 66 and 75 points in a game this season. Kentucky held Alabama to 39.2% shooting. UK is 206-23 under Calipari when holding the opposition to 40% or less from the field but only 4-4 this season.

Kentucky committed 17 turnovers that led to 20 Alabama points. It’s the fourth time in five games the Wildcats have turned the ball over 17 times or more. UK is averaging 16.7 turnovers in its losses this and 11.6 turnovers in its wins. Kentucky remains without five-star freshman Terrence Clarke due to injury and he’s not likely to play here.

UK is 4-3 in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge and has won three straight games in the event. The Wildcats went into a hostile environment in Lubbock, Texas last season and defeated the nationally ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders 78-76 in overtime thanks to a monster game from 2020 NBA Draft hopeful Nick Richards.

Expert Prediction

  • Texas 67, Kentucky 65

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