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Calipari pleased with Canada trip

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Kentucky's exhibitions series in Canada came to a close Tuesday afternoon with a 104-75 rout of Windsor in the third game in three days in Windsor, Ontario.

Head coach John Calipari had plenty to be satisfied with as his team got ready to head back to the Lexington. UK won by an average of 30 points per game, freshman point guard Brandon Knight shined in his debut, and veterans Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins showcased an offseason worth of improvement.

More than anything, though, Calipari was pleased with what his team learned about itself.

"As a staff, as the game was winding down, we said we learned about our team," Calipari said in a postgame interview with broadcasters Dave Baker and Kyle Macy. "We've established the dribble-drive. They have the culture of how hard we have to play - we're not close, we stop a lot - but we saw some guys are going to have to work to get any minutes or they won't play.

"With the young guys, we're going to be alright. We needed size. We had no size (without Terrence Jones, Enes Kanter and Eloy Vargas), so the last couple of games they got baskets that hopefully during the season teams don't get, but it was pretty good."

Calipari was ecstatic when he started to talk about the experience his team received in Canada. The NCAA allows teams to make preseason trips once every four years.

"Right now we're probably ahead, and we are ahead," Calipari said. "This was - for what you guys did on the national broadcast, for radio, which went throughout the state - for $35,000, this was the best investment our school has ever made."

Knight shined in his collegiate debut, averaging 25.0 points, 8.3 assists and 5.0 rebounds while committing just five turnovers in three exhibition wins. As the successor to NBA No. 1 overall pick John Wall, Knight has huge shoes to fill.

So far, he's filled them spectacularly.

"We scored 100 and are taking 75 shots a game and we're not turning it over. A lot of that is Brandon Knight," Calipari said. "He's not turning it over. He's making good decisions."

Knight displayed a lethal scorer's mentality that earned him the title as one of the best signees in the 2010 recruiting class, but Calipari was happy with his ability to distribute the ball.

"What he did was get Doron (Lamb) going the last game and then even this game," Calipari said. "He told Doron, 'If you run I will get you the ball, but you've got to sprint the floor.' So then he got him some shots and got Doron going. That's what a point guard does. I told him, 'If they're not running with you, take it to the rim.' We're trying to figure out ways to keep that court open so he can go."

After struggling in his first game, Lamb finished the exhibition series with a 17.7 scoring average. Miller looked to be the leader of the team, averaging 20.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.0 steals, even filling in as the team's low post presence after Jones left the first game with a stress fracture in one of his ribs.

Brandon_western[1].jpgBut the player that continues to improve more than anyone else is Liggins, who could be a significant factor in the success of this year's team. Liggins averaged 10.3 points and 4.7 rebounds.

"DeAndre Liggins played his heart out," Calipari said. "I keep telling our team, he's got like a fire in the belly. If we all would play as hard as him - I said, 'When you're sitting on the bench and he's playing, watch him away from the ball defensively. Watch what he's doing. Watch how he goes after rebounds. They're not in his wingspan, but he still goes after them.' "

With such a successful trip, Calipari said he will give the players two weeks off to go home and maybe even more. The team is expected to resume practice in mid-September with individual workouts.

"For us as a basketball program, to be able to come here - now we could have gone to Europe and all that, sure, but it would have been really expensive and two, what different would we have gotten?" Calipari said. "Now the kids get to go home. It's what we needed. These teams were quick enough and big enough to bang us and make us do certain things. We looked organized, so I was happy."

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