Kentucky vs. Penn: Preview, Odds, How to Watch

On3 imageby:Jack Pilgrim12/09/23

Kentucky looked like one of the hottest teams in college basketball, then sputtered in a head-scratching home loss to UNC Wilmington. Now it’s time to get past its hangover in a neutral-site matchup in Philadelphia against the University of Pennsylvania Quakers. The battle of historic programs tips off on Saturday inside the Wells Fargo Center at noon ET on ESPN2.

The Cats are coming off a loss, but they’re certainly not chopped liver. They still rank fifth nationally in scoring, eighth in effective field-goal percentage and first in assist-to-turnover ratio. Rebounding and defense have to improve, but it’s still among the best offenses in the nation. Can they get back on track with a win over Penn in Philly? Let’s break down the matchup.

How To Watch

No. 16 Kentucky (6-2) vs. Penn (6-4)
12 p.m. ET | Saturday, December 9 | Wells Fargo Center


Team Records

No. 12 Kentucky: 6-2 (KenPom: 22)

  • 11/6: 86-46 W vs. New Mexico State
  • 11/10: 81-61 W vs. Texas A&M-Commerce (Wildcat Challenge)
  • 11/14: 89-84 L vs. No. 1 Kansas
  • 11/17: 101-67 W vs. Stonehill (Wildcat Challenge)
  • 11/20: 96-88 OT W vs. Saint Joseph’s (Wildcat Challenge)
  • 11/24: 118-82 W vs. Marshall
  • 11/28: 95-73 W vs. No. 8 Miami (FL)
  • 12/2: 80-73 L vs. UNC-Wilmington

Penn: 6-4 (KenPom: 191)

  • 11/6: 102-57 W vs. John Jay College
  • 11/8: 80-61 W vs. Bucknell
  • 11/10: 69-61 L vs. Saint Joseph’s
  • 11/13: 76-72 W vs. No. 21 Villanova
  • 11/18: 83-80 L vs. Maryland Eastern Shore
  • 11/24: 74-72 W vs. Lafayette
  • 11/25: 84-79 L (OT) vs. Belmont
  • 11/26: 76-61 W vs. Monmouth
  • 12/2: 93-92 L (OT) vs. La Salle
  • 12/6: 111-57 W vs. FDU-Florham

Series History

This weekend’s matchup will be the sixth meeting between the teams with Kentucky winning all five previous battles. It’s just the second matchup to be played in Philadelphia, the first taking place in The Palestra back in 1968. The most recent head-to-head battle came back in 2011, a 24-point win in favor of the Wildcats.

  • 12/9/1967 – at Kentucky 64, Penn 49
  • 12/14/68 – Kentucky 102, at Penn 78
  • 11/24/90 – at Kentucky 85, Penn 62
  • 11/27/99 – at Kentucky 67, Penn 50
  • 1/3/2011 – at Kentucky 86, Penn 62

Penn is coached by Steve Donahue, who is in his 22nd season as a head coach and his eighth with the Quakers. He’s racked up a career record of 318-310 and 118-96 at Penn.


Kentucky vs. Penn Odds on FanDuel

Spread: Kentucky -14.5
Total: 156.5 points

Kentucky Projected Starters

(Starting lineup based on the last game)

#15 – Reed Sheppard
6-3 • 187 • GUARD • FRESHMAN
13.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.9 APG, 3.0 SPG

#12 – Antonio Reeves
6-6 • 195 • GUARD • SENIOR
18.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG

#3 – Adou Thiero
6-8 • 222 • GUARD • SOPHOMORE
8.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG

#1 – Justin Edwards
6-8 • 203 • FORWARD • FRESHMAN
10.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG

#4 – Tre Mitchell
6-9 • 231 • FORWARD • GRADUATE STUDENT
14.4 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 3.9 APG

Head Coach: John Calipari (32nd season, 15th at UK) – 838-255 overall, 393-115 at UK

Penn Projected Starters

Clark Slajchert

#0 – Clark Slajchert
6-1 • 170 • GUARD • SENIOR
19.3 PPG, 3.4 APG, 2.8 RPG

Tyler Perkins headshot fall 2023

#4 – Tyler Perkins
6-4 • 205 • GUARD • FRESHMAN
15.7 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.8 SPG

Sam Brown  headshot fall 2023

#11 – Sam Brown
6-3 • 180 • GUARD • FRESHMAN
11.2 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 1.3 APG

Nick Spinoso

#13 – Nick Spinoso
6-9 • 240 • FORWARD • JUNIOR
9.1 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 3.5 APG

George Smith

#40 – George Smith
6-4 • 205 • GUARD • JUNIOR
5.0 PPG, 3.4 RPG

Statistical Comparison

(via Kentucky’s game notes)

Fun stats from UK’s game notes:

  • UK begins a stretch of playing just five games over the next 35 days. Four of the five games will be played away from Rupp Arena
  • Kentucky is dishing out 20.0 assists per game, which is the sixth-best in the nation. Four players have 23 or more assists (3.3 per game) thus far.
  • The Wildcats lead the country with a 2.29 assist-to-turnover ratio. Four players have a 2.56 assist-to-turnover ratio or better and they all rank among the top 83 in the country. Tre Mitchell leads the way at 3.88
  • UK is shooting 41.5% from 3-point range which ranks third-best in the country. Sheppard’s 61.1% from long range is the best in the nation

Pregame Storylines

HOMECOMING FOR FRESHMAN TRIO

Kentucky has won 11 games all-time in Philadelphia (11-6), but a trio of Wildcat freshmen are hoping to make it 12 in a homecoming win. Justin Edwards is a Philly native, while DJ Wagner grew up right across the bridge in Camden, NJ — a ten-minute drive. Aaron Bradshaw is a Roselle, NJ native, about 80 miles away, but played his high school ball with Wagner at Camden. Edwards and Wagner played with Philly-based Team Final together in the eighth grade before Wagner and Bradshaw teamed up on the NJ Scholars to close out their EYBL careers.

WILL DJ WAGNER PLAY?

John Calipari described Wagner as “day-to-day” with an ankle injury this week, receiving treatment after it turned “black and blue.” The Kentucky head coach said the freshman guard wants to play, but his status wouldn’t be confirmed “for a while,” sometime leading up to the game. It’s an important game for Wagner personally with friends and family in attendance, but it’s also important for the Wildcats, who struggled without him in the lineup vs. UNCW.

ANOTHER HOT 3-POINT SHOOTING TEAM

UNCW knocked down 11 threes inside Rupp Arena to set up the upset win over Kentucky a week ago. Next up for the Cats? A team who just broke a school record with 21 made 3-pointers in a blowout win, nine different players knocking down a shot from deep. The Quakers are now 45-84 from deep in their last three matchups and are now shooting 41.5% from beyond the arc overall, with eight different players shooting at least 40% from three. Kentucky could use a cool-down performance from Penn.

A HISTORICAL MATCHUP

Kentucky is college basketball’s all-time winningest program with 2,381 victories in NCAA Division I history. That tops Kansas (2,378), North Carolina (2,350), Duke (2,278) and UCLA (1,991) in the top five. Keep going down the list, though, and you’ll find Penn at No. 22 overall with 1,841 wins. The Quakers, who started playing basketball in 1897, have won 26 Ivy League titles and have made the NCAA Tournament a total of 24 times in the program’s rich history.


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