UK alum Tom Leach has been the play-by-play "Voice of the Wildcats" for the football Cats for 12 years and 9 year's for men's basketball. He is a four-time winner of the Kentucky Sportscaster of the Year award. Tom offers an entertaining and insightful perspective into UK athletics. Column entries will be posted twice per week through April. Read Tom's full biography
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Even with a noon eastern time tipoff last week at Indiana, coach John Calipari had his team go through a gameday practice of a little less than an hour at Assembly. Hall. He says it's not something he would normally do for a game that starts that early, but with such a young team, he had to adjust his thinking.
"Normally, on a noon game, we're not going to get up at 7 o'clock and shoot around but this team needs to be out here. We need to go over stuff, we need to keep talking to them over and over again. Repetition, they need it," he said during his courtside pregame interview after the shootaround. "When I have a veteran team, I don't do this."
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John Calipari is a man-to-man guy when it comes to his defensive philosphy but he is open to other options. Last week at Indiana, the Cats played a few possessions of a 1-3-1 zone for the first time. Coach Cal says he likes it because of his team's length and the speed and leaping ability of Eric Bledsoe on the back line of that zone.
"I was reading a book and it talked about coach Rupp going to the 1-3-1 after coach (Harry) Lancaster went to him. We didn't know this but I showed it to coach (John) Robic and said 'how about this one?'," Calipari said. " It's neat to know that the guy that developed this program played really fast--didn't like the dribble--but played really fast, relied on man-to-man defense, great teamwork, toughness, hard practices, best conditioned, shoot jumpers, run patterns--they ran patterns like we do. He was so far ahead of his time--and that's why he was the winningest coach and did the things that he did."
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Next up for the Cats is a matchup with Austin Peay at 4pm tomorrow in Rupp Arena.
The most memorable meeting between these two foes came in the 1970 Mideast Regional semifinals in Nashville, when the Cats prevailed in overtime 106-100 against a Governors' squad coach by Lake Kelly, who would later work on Joe B. Hall's staff at UK.
APSU was led by James "Fly" Williams, who was a New York city playground legend in high school.
"If he didn't feel like running down the floor, he didn't run the floor. Kinda surprised us. It was an interesting game," recalled former UK big man Jim Andrews, in an interview for coachcal.com. Andrews led the Cats with 30 points and 14 rebounds that night.
In those days, the NCAA Tournament took only conference champions and Andrews remembered that there was a time that season--Hall's first--where it looked like UK might not make it to the NCAA.
"We had gotten beat by Vanderbilt and it looked like we were pretty much out of the conference race, but we actually won nine straight games to tie for the (SEC) championship and we won because we had beaten Tennessee twice," he said.
UK clinched the title by beating the Vols on the final night of the regular season, before a packed house at Memorial Coliseum. Andrews says a big-game enviroment there was something special.
"You couldn't think, you couldn't hear. It was just an incredible atmosphere," he said.