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Finally, it's Kentucky-Louisville time

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IMG_3230.jpgNow it's back to business, or at least on to the most important annual business in the state of Kentucky.

With Coppin State, Winthrop and the holidays now safely in the rearview mirror, it's indeed that time of the year when the collective blood pressure of the Bluegrass skyrockets and all attention turns to the hardwood.

Yes, it's finally Kentucky-Louisville basketball time.

"It's a huge rivalry," junior guard/forward Darius Miller said. "In my opinion, it's one of the best rivalries in the NCAA. ... It's kind of hard to talk about (with the younger players). It has to be something you have to be ready for and experience."

The Cats dusted Coppin State 91-61 Tuesday night with relative ease. Without Coppin State leading scorer Michael Harper able to play - Harper was a late scratch with the flu - there wasn't much to tell.

Kentucky experienced no post-Christmas/look-ahead-to-Louisville hangover. The Cats marched to a 15-2 lead, took a strangling 40-19 lead to the locker room and smashed the Eagles in the second half with 20-of-27 precision-like shooting.

Freshman forward Terrence Jones paced UK with 18 points and freshmen guards Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb each chipped in with 17 points.

Darius Miller, despite a modest seven points, actually had the most impressive game. Miller finished with six rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block in what head coach John Calipari said was "as good as he's played in a long time."

"The main thing was he got aggressive," Calipari said. "The reality of it is if he'll go rebound and battle like that, you're going to see his game blossom. That' what we're all looking for."

For a player that's possessed the potential to play like that all along, where did it finally come from?

"I just think it comes from building habits," Miller said. "Coach has been staying on me and I've been trying to do it in practice a lot. I've been developing better habits than I had when I was playing at first."

Now, exactly what can we take out of Tuesday's cruise in regards to Friday's Dream Game other than Miller's resurgence?

The most intriguing part actually came on defense. After a few hints of a funky 3-2 zone, Calipari debuted the "Cal"zone against the Eagles.

Kentucky was already rolling on defense as Coppin State missed its first 11 field goal attempts, but Calipari could have been sending a message to Rick Pitino and his Louisville team when he utilized the zone midway through the first half. What that message is, we don't quite know yet.

Was the 3-2 zone a ploy to mess with Pitino's head and force his coaching staff to misguidedly work on it? Or was it some actual in-game work to prep the Cats on the zone one final time before the annual rivalry game?

Calipari said he isn't a fan of slowing down the game while adding a huge and interesting caveat for Friday's game.

"What did it do to the game? Slowed it down," Calipari said. "I don't like coaching that way. That's what it did. They had to pass. They almost had shot clock violations (and) I don't want that. I want them to shoot it in 15 seconds so we can come down and play. I don't know if there were people here that said, 'Boy, this is fun to watch them pass the ball 22 times.' I don't know. I wasn't one of them. And what I told my staff was, 'Now you see why I don't like playing zone.'

"But we have a game coming up Friday. Maybe we want to be slower; do what Drexel did. So maybe we play zone. But we'll see."

That is one very big "but."

If you can remember back a few weeks ago, Drexel employed a snail-like pace against Louisville. As a result, the Cardinals suffered their lone loss of the year, a 52-46 titanic struggle.

"Maybe sometimes throwing a 3-2 zone at a team, they're a jumbled a little bit not really seeing a whole lot from us because we're a man-to-man team," said Knight, who dished out a career-high eight assists Tuesday. "I think it helps us out a little bit. It gets them a little bit flustered because they haven't seen it a whole lot. When we come out and execute it right, it's a pretty good zone."

Calipari originally mentioned the 3-2 zone in Maui, Hawaii, but Tuesday night was the zone's first extended look. Knight admitted they've worked on the zone more in practice lately, but he denied it was for Louisville.

Whatever the truth really is, the official Kentucky-Louisville pregame breakdown/chatter/previewing has officially begun. Speculation and talk about the annual Dream Game will run rampant through Friday, and rightfully so.

But according to Calipari, who said his team hasn't started preparation for Louisville - really, do you believe him? - Kentucky isn't where he'd like it to be with the most important regular-season game of the year finally on the horizon.

What does he want it to eventually look like?

"You'll see a team that bounces on defense the entire time, that's talking and yelling to each other," Calipari said. "The gang rebounds with two hands and comes up with those 50/50 rebounds and balls. Shot goes up, they put a body on somebody. And offensively you see a sequence which is people are flying down that floor, and if they don't have it, that ball swings and we're trying to get in the gaps.

"And we do it for 40 minutes. That's what you see. That's my vision of where we're trying to go."

Kentucky is trying to get there by Friday. The annual title of the Commonwealth depends on it.

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Good reading here. UK by 6 or 8.

cats win in ot by 2 what a game that would b

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  • mari: cats win in ot by 2 what a game that would b read more
  • UKFAN: Good reading here. UK by 6 or 8. FREE ENES GO CATS read more