Mavericks face uphill climb in clash with top-ranked Wildcats

Nov 25, 2014 - 5:05 PM Lexington, KY ( - The top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats will continue their eight-game homestand at Rupp Arena on Tuesday night when they take on the Texas-Arlington Mavericks as part of the Cawood Ledford Classic.

UTA has gotten off to a strong start to the 2014-15 campaign with wins in three of its first four games, most recently downing Houston Baptist on Saturday, 87-69. The Mavericks begin a three-game road trip on Tuesday and are already 2-0 away from home this season after going just 5-11 on the road in 2013-14.

Kentucky has cruised to a perfect 5-0 start with each win coming by at least 19 points, including a marquee nationally-ranked showdown with Kansas on Nov. 18 (72-40). The Wildcats dismantled Montana State on Sunday, 86-28, allowing the fewest points in program history since the shot clock era began in 1985-86.

The teams met for the first time last November in Lexington, with Kentucky coming away with an easy 105-76 win.

The Mavericks had their most well-rounded performance of the season in their 18-point victory over Houston Baptist the last time out, as they outshot their opponent from the field, 50 percent to 39.4 percent. They were also lights out from 3-point range, knocking down 13-of-21 (.619). Jamel Outler was especially hot from deep, going 7-of-8 from beyond the arc on his way to 26 points. Also helping out in the triumph were Drew Charles and Lonnie McClanahan with 12 points apiece and Kaelon Wilson with 10 points.

UTA has established its prowess behind the 3-point line this season with 9.3 3-pointers per game made at a lofty 42.5 percent clip, which has helped it to 76.8 ppg. Seven players score at least 5.8 ppg, led by McClanahan and his 12.5 ppg. Outler brings 11.8 ppg and a team-high in 3-pointers (12) to the table, while Johnny Hill (10.0 ppg) rounds out the double-digit scorers.

The Wildcats' defense has been outstanding all season long, but Sunday's performance was particularly dominant, as it held Montana State to under 20 percent field goal shooting (including 2-of-23 from 3-point range) while forcing 21 turnovers. On the other end of the court, they made good on 43.3 percent of their field goal tries and were paced by the efforts of Devin Booker, who tallied 18 points in just 17 minutes off the bench. Aaron Harrison netted 14 points, Dakari Johnson tallied 13 points and eight rebounds and Karl-Anthony Towns logged eight points, 10 boards and six blocks.

On the season, Kentucky outshoots its opponents by a commanding spread, 46.7 percent to 28.1 percent, for a +34.6 scoring margin, and its scoring defense (46.0 ppg) is fourth best in the nation. UK employs a deep rotation with nine players scoring at least 6.3 ppg. Aaron Harrison (11.2 ppg), Johnson (10.8 ppg) and Towns (6.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 3.6 bpg) have shined the brightest early in the season.

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