Terriers face tall task in clash with top-ranked Wildcats

Nov 21, 2014 - 4:28 PM Lexington, KY (SportsNetwork.com) - The top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats return home to Rupp Arena on Friday night and will attempt to continue their unbeaten season against the Boston University Terriers in non-conference action.

After losing its opener to Northeastern in the Boston-centric Coaches vs. Cancer Tripleheader on Sunday (71-65), BU notched the win column on Wednesday with an impressive 71-63 road victory at Norfolk State. This matchup marks the first time the Terriers will face off against a No. 1 team since playing Duke in the 2005 season opener.

Kentucky asserted its dominance against No. 5 Kansas on a neutral floor in Indianapolis on Tuesday night in the Champions Classic, running away with a 72-40 victory. The No. 1 Wildcats are now 3-0 after convincing victories over Grand Canyon (85-45) and Buffalo (71-52) during opening weekend.

The Wildcats have won all three previous meetings with the Terriers, most recently in November of 2010, 91-57.

Although the Terriers trailed at the half of their most recent game, they made some clear adjustments at intermission and ripped off a 16-0 run early in the second stanza to take control of the contest. They played well on both ends of the floor, shooting 50 percent from the floor (including 9-of-21 from 3-point range) while holding Norfolk State to just 38.5 percent shooting. John Papale knocked down 5-of-9 from beyond the arc on his way to 17 points. Cedric Hankerson tallied 16 points, seven assists and three steals, Justin Alston netted 13 points and Nathan Dieudonne logged a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

The sample size is small this season, but despite outshooting its opponents from the field by a wide margin (42.5 percent to 30.4 percent), BU has just a +1.0 scoring margin. Hankerson (15.5 ppg, 7.5 apg) and Palale (14.0 ppg, 4.5 apg) are the only players in double figures.

The Wildcats' fate was never in doubt in their marquee showdown with Kansas, as they ran out to a 16-point lead less than 11 minutes into the game and cruised from there to a 32-point win. The outstanding defensive effort was the big story, as they held Kansas to a woeful 19.6 percent field goal shooting, and the Jayhawks had the same number of field goals as the Wildcats had blocked shots (11). Only Dakari Johnson (11 points) and Andrew Harrison (10 points) scored in double figures, but 10 players put up at least four points. Willie Cauley-Stein (seven points, 10 rebounds, one block) and Karl-Anthony Towns (nine points, eight rebounds, four blocks) were difference makers in the frontcourt.

Defense has been the story for Kentucky in each of its wins, as its opponents are shooting just 28 percent from the floor for 45.7 ppg, although its offense (.444 FG percentage, 76.0 ppg) has been stellar as well. Johnson (10.0 ppg, 9.3 rpg), Trey Lyles (10.0 ppg) and Andrew Harrison (9.7 ppg) pace a balanced squad that has 10 players averaging at least 5.0 ppg.

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