Riley LaChance has averaged 25 points in his last 3 games and Jeff Roberson has averaged 20.3. They've been superb players and leaders. We'll need Riley and JRobe to give us everything they've got tonight as we travel to Rupp Arena to play No.21 Kentucky at 8 PM CT on ESPN.
We moved to 8-13 overall on Saturday with a huge 81-78 SEC-Big 12 Challenge victory over TCU. The SEC won that competition 6-4, with Kentucky defeating then No.7 West Virginia at Morgantown, 83-76, behind freshman Kevin Knox's 34 points. Knox was 11-for-17 from the field, 5-for-8 from trifecta, and 7-for-8 from the stripe. He's fantastic. The 6'9", 215 pounder from Tampa, FL. is averaging 15.5 ppg and 5.7 rebounds. They have great length with guys like P.J. Washington, who is 6'7", 236, Nick Richards, who is 6'11", 240, and Jarred Vanderbilt, who is 6'9", 214, all playing big roles on the team. Hamidou Diallo is a 6'5", 198 pound guard who averages 12.7 ppg. Jarred Vanderbilt, who's only played in 4 games so far for UK due to a foot injury suffered before the season, is leading the team in rebounding with 7 per game. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is another long guard at 6'6", 180, who is averaging 11.8 per game. Washington is their leading assist guy at 4.3 per game. They don't really have a true point guard like the great De'Aaron Fox last year or the awesome John Wall several years ago or Andrew Harrison three years back, but they've got a lot of lengthy guys who are versatile. They really hit their stride on Saturday, so we have our work cut out for us.
But I really like the way our team is playing. We lost Matthew Fisher-Davis for the season with a shoulder injury, which was a tough blow for our team and really tough luck for MFD. Hoping that Matt can get healed up and progress towards a professional career, whether it's in the NBA or the European League. He certainly shoots like an NBA player. Matt's an underrated rebounder and underrated player overall. I can see him making some noise in pro basketball, wherever that is, hopefully in the NBA. Jeff and Riley sure look like NBA players to me as well. But we want to concentrate on this season and particularly tonight. We led them by 13 last year at Rupp, but just couldn't close it out.
But the guys are confident. Saben Lee is a difference maker at point. Saben is and will be a spectacular player for us. Saben needs to give us a Saben Lee performance tonight. Riley and JRobe need to be the leaders that they are on this team and perform well obviously. Clevon Brown has really been playing well lately. Like where Clevon is. He can really help us tonight with his 6'9" length. Hoping Djerry Baptiste can give us some good minutes. Djerry can really help us with a good performance. His 6'11", 250 pound size will help a lot if he can utilize it. I like where Payton Willis, Larry Austin, Jr. Joe Toye, and freshman Maxwell Evans are. They're all giving us good minutes. Ejike Obinna is going to be a really good player for us. Ejike, a freshman from Nigeria via Virginia Academy in Virginia, is 6'10", 234 and has massive potential. Ejike will help us this year, hopefully tonight. He's already done some good things and shows excellent potential. We'll need everybody to step up tonight.
Defense and holding our own on the boards are critical. Of course, we need to take care of the basketball, and shoot it well, both from 3 and get some scoring from drives to the basket and scores from our inside guys. We'll need to be good from the line when we get those opportunities. All of that matters tonight. Those are the principles for every game, but tonight it's at a premium. If we're not shooting it well early, we need to stick with it and defend and board well. Our shooting will come around. We just need to be patient and relaxed and not get nervous. I believe we can do all that.
JRobe was interviewed by VUcommodores.com great columnist Zac Ellis, and Zac asked him if the team is confident heading into Rupp tonight.
"We believe in ourselves," Jeff told Zac. "We believe we can win every game. We go in with that mentality."
That mentality will lead to more victories. Hopefully that mentality will prevail tonight and the Commodores improve to 9-13 overall and 3-6 in the SEC as we work our way back into the tournament conversation.