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UK Men’s Basketball Draws Texas Tech for Big 12/SEC Challenge

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The final piece of the 2019-20 Kentucky men’s basketball nonconference schedule came into place Thursday, and it’s a good one. The Wildcats will visit the 2019 national runners-up, the Texas Tech Red Raiders, on Jan. 25 at United Supermarkets Arena as a part of the annual Big 12/SEC Challenge. The full slate of games was announced Thursdayby the respective leagues. It will mark just the fifth all-time meeting between the two schools and the Wildcats’ second trip to Lubbock, Texas. UK has won the previous four meetings between the programs, including the 89-73 victory on Dec. 22, 1965 in the lone visit to Lubbock. The schools haven’t met since Kentucky beat Texas Tech 83-68 in Cincinnati onDec. 17, 1994. The 2020 slate of Big 12/SEC Challenge games will mark the seventh season of the annual event between the Southeastern Conference and the Big 12 and the fifth straight in which all 10 games of the challenge willbe played on the same day. The four SEC teams not participating will play each other in conference games the same day. Ten of the SEC’s 14 teams will participate in the 2020 challenge against all 10 of the Big 12’s institutions, with each conference hosting five games apiece. The four SEC teams not participating will play each otherin conference games the same day. All 10 games will be air across ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU and will be available on the ESPN app. ESPN’s College GameDay Covered by State Farm – the Saturday roadshow that discusses the top storylines of the collegebasketball season – will originate from one of the Challenge games. The show has originated from Kentucky’s matchup in each of the last four seasons. In addition to game times, network designations will be announced at a later date for the challenge. The Big 12/SEC Challenge has been balanced over the last three seasons. The leagues split the games in 2017, the SEC won it 6-4 in 2018 and the Big 12 edged the SEC 6-4 last season. The SEC, of course, has been one of the best conferences in the country over the last two seasons. After a league-high eight programs made the NCAA Tournament in 2018, another seven earned a berth in 2019. The SECadvanced two teams to the Elite Eight, one to the Final Four and posted a 12-7 record in NCAA Tournament play last season. Texas Tech is coming off a historic season. In addition to advancing to the Final Four and national championship game for the first time in school history, the Red Raiders helped end Kansas’ streak of 14 straightBig 12 regular-season championships with a suffocating defense that ranked second in the country in field-goal percentage defense (.370) and third in points allowed (59.5 per game). Texas Tech will be without key pieces from its 2019 Final Four run, including sixth overall NBA Draft pick Jarrett Culver, but the Red Raiders feature one of the top coaches in the country in Chris Beard, who hasled Texas Tech to back-to-back Elite Eight appearances. The addition of Texas Tech completes the 2019-20 nonconference schedule for the Wildcats. UK announced five additional games Tuesday, adding Utah Valley (Nov. 18), Mount St. Mary (Nov. 22), Lamar (Nov. 24), UAB(Nov. 29) – all four of which will be a part of the BBN Showcase – and Georgia Tech (Dec. 14). All five of those games will be in Rupp Arena. Already announced for the 2019-20 nonconference slate is a matchup vs. Michigan State on Nov. 5 in the State Farm Champions Classic in New York, a two-game trip in Las Vegas with games against Utah (Dec. 18) andOhio State (Dec. 21 as a part of the CBS Sports Classic), and the annual rivalry vs. Louisville on Dec. 28 in Rupp Arena. Both Michigan State and Louisville are expected to be preseason top-10 teams. With the addition of Texas Tech, seven of UK’s 13 nonconference opponents in the upcoming season made a postseason tournament in 2019, five of which made the NCAA Tournament. Six teams finished the 2018-19 season with an NCAA Evaluation Tool ranking in the top 100 and four ended the season receiving votes in one of the two major polls. All told, Kentucky’s current 2019-20 nonconferenceopponents combined for a record of 253-188 in 2018-19, a .574 winning percentage. That nonconference schedule will give way to one of the toughest league schedules in the country. Although dates have not been finalized yet, UK will play its permanent home-and-away opponents of Florida, Tennesseeand Vanderbilt twice, plus host and visit both Auburn and Georgia. Kentucky’s league home schedule will include the five aforementioned teams as well as Alabama, Mississippi State, Missouri and Ole Miss. UK’s road matchups will come against Arkansas, LSU, South Carolina and TexasA&M, in addition to Auburn, Georgia and the three permanent home-and-home opponents. The nonconference and league schedule combined reveals that 15 of the 26 opponents UK will face played in the postseason in 2018-19, including 11 in the NCAA Tournament, five in the Sweet 16 and three in the FinalFour. Six teams are in ESPN.com’s way-too-early top-25 rankings. Kentucky will meet that schedule head on with what looks to be a solid blend of talent and experience. The Wildcats welcome back sophomore guards Ashton Hagans (7.7 points per game and 160 total assists in 2018-19)and Immanuel Quickley (30 3-pointers), junior forward Nick Richards (74 career games), and sophomore EJ Montgomery (3.8 points, 4.1 rebounds in 2018-19). To replace the losses of first-round NBA Draft picks PJ Washington, Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson, plus Reid Travis, who signed a professional contract with Medi Bayreuth in the German Basketball Bundesliga onMonday, Calipari has brought in another top-ranked recruiting class that features six freshmen and graduate transfer Nate Sestina. Dates for the SEC schedule are expected to be unveiled soon. A complete list of tip times and TV networks will also be announced at a later time. The complete dates and opponents of Kentucky’s schedule to this point can be found under the schedule tab at ukathletics.com. Seasonticket renewals for the 2019-20 season are now available for last year’s season ticket holders. Fans interested in acquiring new tickets may still enter the men’s basketball season ticket lottery online. For more information on K Fund seating availability, please call 859-257-6300. Additional ticket information is available at UKAthleticsTix.com. For the latest on the Kentucky men’s basketball team, follow @KentuckyMBB on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and on the web at UKathletics.com.

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