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Kentucky junior forward Nick Richards smiles as he shakes hands with sophomore forward EJ Montgomery during the UK vs. University of Alabama basketball game on Saturday, January 11, 2020, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. UK defeated Alabama 76-67. Photo by Rick Childress | Staff

No. 13 Kentucky makes its return to Rupp Arena Wednesday against SEC foe Vanderbilt. The Commodores have lost 24-straight SEC games, but the Cats know to expect a fight no matter the trend. With other “bad” losses on the resume, falling to the SEC’s bottom-dweller would put them another notch below the nation’s top teams. For that reason, motivation should be plentiful.

The Commodores are in their first season under 18-year NBA veteran Jerry Stackhouse, who took the job after serving as the assistant coach of the Memphis Grizzlies in 2018-2019. He had no prior NCAA coaching experience before being hired. The team has an 8-11 record thus far, and is on a seven-game losing streak. Its last win was December 30th versus Davidson.

This is due in part to injuries to some of Vanderbilt’s top players. Sophomore forward Aaron Nesmith was the conference’s leading scorer, but went down with a foot injury earlier in the month. He will not play in the game, and is expected to miss the remainder of the season. Senior forward Clevon Brown has been out since December 14th with a knee injury. Their contributions have been sorely missed.

Guards Saban Lee and Scotty Pippen Jr. are the double figure scorers, primary distributors and now leaders of the team. They combine for 26.9 points and 8.6 assists per game, and have the team on their backs. The Commodores overall are not threatening from behind the arc, as Pippen Jr. shoots 31.5% to lead team (not including players with fewer than ten attempted). Lee connects on 29.4% of his treys. Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley will have to prevent them from getting in the lane and creating off of penetration.

Forward Dylan Disu lead the team in rebounds with 5.6 per game. Ejika Obinna and Matthew Moyer, also forwards, have seen more minutes with the absences of Nesmith and Brown. Guards Maxwell Evans and Jordan Wright cracked the opening lineup when Vanderbilt faced South Carolina. Another guard, Braelee Albert, was in the starting five against Alabama.

The Commodores and Wildcats play tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. ET. A Kentucky victory would give Vanderbilt the longest SEC-game losing streak in conference history. The game can be seen on the SEC Network and the ESPN app.