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Big Blue Preview: Kentucky vs. Gonzaga

Two of college basketball’s most successful programs over the last 15 years meet on Saturday night when No. 17/15 Kentucky hosts Gonzaga at Rupp Arena.

Since the 2010-11 season, Gonzaga has the highest winning percentage in the country. The Zags have won 399 games against just 62 losses (.866 winning percentage). Kentucky is fifth in that category with 368 wins against 116 losses (.760 winning percentage).

Now, the Cats and the Bulldogs get together in the final nonconference game for both teams this season (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, CBS). In 2023-24, Kentucky is 16-6, while Gonzaga is 17-6. The Cats broke a two-game skid by beating Vanderbilt 109-77 on Tuesday night. The Bulldogs have won six of their last seven games overall.

Kentucky’s players are aware of how good Gonzaga is once again this season.

“They run a lot of sets, a lot of real good sets,” said UK freshman Aaron Bradshaw. “We just have to stick to our game plan and do what we’ve got to do because they are a really good team.”

Bradshaw believes that the Cats’ preparation for the Zags is going well.

“We feel good. Day by day, you’ve got to stack days,” Bradshaw said. “I feel like we’re preparing really good. We’re doing everything that we’ve got to do.”

Kentucky has had little trouble scoring this season. The Cats lead the nation in scoring, averaging 89.7 points per game. UK has scored at least 90 points in 15 games this season and have scored at least 100 four times.

Gonzaga is also a high-scoring team. The Bulldogs average 84.7 points per contest, good for 12th in the country.

When UK has struggled this season, it has been on defense. That has been a point of emphasis for the Cats in practice, especially recently. Communication is key on defense, according to freshman Jordan Burks.

“If all of us can talk, it just makes the job easier,” Burks said. “That’s how you stay connected, you have to talk if you want to be a high-level team.”

Burks believes that if the Cats can improve defensively, they will be very hard to beat.

“If I can stop you, then we can go do whatever we want to on the offensive end,” Burks said. “We’re the number one offensive team in the country. If all 16 (players) can play defense, who can beat us?”

If that happens, Bradshaw thinks this team can be one that UK fans will remember for years to come. How good can the Cats be?

“Really good. Like really, really good,” Bradshaw said. “Like one of Coach Cal’s old teams. We can be really good.”

Kentucky’s next chance to be that great team comes on Saturday night against a very talented Gonzaga squad.