Free throws a struggle for No. 16 UK

Dec. 10—When No. 16 Kentucky hits the floor to face Yale on Saturday, the Wildcats will enter with an emphasis on improving their all-around performance — especially free throws.

Tipoff is set for noon CT at Rupp Arena in Lexington.

The Wildcats, though they're 31st in the nation in scoring at 82 points per game, have struggled mightily at the foul stripe. On the year, UK (6-2) is converting only 68.4% of their free throws, putting them at 228th in the country.

Things got off to immediate rocky start for the Cats, beginning with their 16-of-28 shooting performance (57.1%) in the season-opening win over Howard. After that, UK converted 10-of-15 free throws (66.7%) against Duquesne.

Poor foul shooting didn't present itself in a meaningful way into the Cats' loss in the Champions Classic last month against Michigan State, in which Kentucky made just 16-of-24 from the charity stripe (66.7%) in what turned out to be an 86-77 loss in double overtime. Freshman guard Cason Wallace missed two free throws down the stretch that allowed the Spartans to stay in the game and eventually come out victorious.

Wallace, who's averaging 11 points per game on 53.1% shooting from the field and 50% from 3, has made only 6-of-12 foul shots on the year.

"I'm not used to missing this many free throws, myself," Wallace said. "It's nothing that I'm going to get used to or that I want everybody else to get used to.

"Just practicing on it, making sure I'm still sharp on it. Next game, I plan on not missing free throws."

Only four Wildcats — Chris Livingston (92.3%), CJ Fredrick (85.7%), Oscar Tshiebwe (81.3%) and Antonio Reeves (78.6%) — are shooting better than 70% at the charity stripe.

Much of the team's focus, Wallace said, has been getting used to shooting foul shots in different scenarios to simulate game action.

"We're starting to shoot one-and-ones instead of 10 free throws in a row," Wallace said. "So, one-and-ones are what I've been struggling with at the line. So, going up there with confidence, knowing that I do it in practice all the time, I should be able to do it in the game. Just getting that mental practice and repetition, hopefully it will help."

Joining Wallace in the double-digit scoring column for Kentucky are Antonio Reeves (14.4 ppg), Oscar Tshiebwe (14.2 ppg, 13.5 rpg) and Jacob Toppin (12.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg).

They'll face a Yale squad that enters at 8-2 following Tuesday's 71-61 loss at Butler. The Bulldogs are led by a group that includes Matt Knowling (16.2 ppg), John Poulakidas (10.8 ppg) and EJ Jarvis (10 ppg).

Saturday's contest, the Cats' prelude to facing UCLA at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 17, will be broadcast on SEC Network.