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Calipari, Cats not taking first loss sitting down

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Anthony Davis return to Rupp Arena to face the Chattanooga Mocs at 8 p.m. on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Anthony Davis return to Rupp Arena to face the Chattanooga Mocs at 8 p.m. on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Reliving Christian Watford's buzzer-beating 3-pointer than sent Kentucky to its first loss was probably the last thing any UK fan wanted to do this week.

They didn't want to have to think about the fact that the Wildcats failed to get a hand on any Indiana player in 5.6 seconds when they had two fouls to give. They didn't want to recall the Hoosier faithful streaming onto the floor of Assembly Hall to celebrate.

For anyone who didn't want to hear about that play that's been replayed countless times over the past week, a Kentucky practice was not the place to be. Anytime John Calipari notices one of his players failing to listen, he doesn't hesitate to remind them of what happened when the Cats did just that on the final sequence in Bloomington, Ind.

"Every time they don't listen in a drill or to what I'm saying, I stop practice and I say, 'Five-point-six seconds left and there's a timeout,' " Calipari said. " 'We're going to pick up three-quarter court and when they get near half-court, we're going to foul. Do you hear me?' "

It may not have been pleasant for his players to hear the instructions Calipari barked out in the timeout huddle at IU over and over, but they knew it served a purpose.

"He always talks about that last play when someone doesn't listen," freshman forward Anthony Davis said."He always brings up that last play talking about you have to listen and if you don't, this is what happens. He always brings it up just to remind us that we have to pay attention and focus."

Davis and his teammates were forced to dredge up that painful memory more times than they care to count as they bided their time for a full week before Saturday's return to action against Chattanooga (3-7) at 8 p.m. in Rupp Arena. As badly as the Wildcats wanted to get back on the floor, they know all the practice time has done them well.

"Anytime you lose you want to go out there and play again just to get that win," Davis said. "Unfortunately, we don't play 'til (Saturday) and we had a whole week off. We had lots of practices every day and went hard. I think (Calipari) prepared us very well for this game tomorrow."

Davis may never have experienced a loss at the college level, but that doesn't mean he didn't have an idea of what to expect out of his coach in practice once Kentucky fell for the first time. As soon as the Wildcats lost to Indiana last Saturday, Davis knew intensity in practices would be turned up a notch.

"We knew practice was going to be a lot tougher and more intense with people really going after each other," Davis said. "That's what we expected and that's what he's been doing. It's done nothing but make us better."

Calipari has mentioned before how he is more effectively able to capture the attention of his team in the wake of a loss, but he went a step further on Friday.

"I'll be honest with you," Calipari said. "If we had won, I probably would have stuck my head in the sand and not said, 'We're not in good enough condition and we're not tough enough, let's go.' I would have said, 'Let's keep this ball rolling.' This was a wakeup for me and hopefully I'll do a better job helping these guys."

Taking notice of his team's need for improvement in terms of toughness and conditioning, Calipari has tweaked practice.

"The one thing that I learned after the game last weekend with Indiana is that we need to have a little more roughhouse practices, a little tougher," Calipari said. "And we needed more conditioning so we did that this week."

The other primary focus coming off two games when UK allowed Indiana and North Carolina to make a combined 20-of-33 (60.6 percent) 3-pointers was closing on shooters and forcing the opponent to put the ball on the floor and cope with the nation's best shot-blockers.

" 'Let them drive into the teeth of our defense,' " Calipari said. " 'Do not let them play HORSE. I know they can beat us playing HORSE and shooting free throws. We're not fouling them and we're not letting them play HORSE. Make them play basketball.' "

Chattanooga will be a good test to see if UK has improved in that area. The Mocs have attempted 42.2 percent of their field goals from beyond the arc and scored 40.3 percent of their points from 3-point range, seventh-highest in Division I. Vanderbilt transfer Keegan Bell distributes 7.1 assists per game, many of which go to shooters like Omar Wattad (28 made 3's) and Ricky Taylor (18 made 3's).

For all the talk about intense practices, becoming tougher and boning up on perimeter defense, Calipari isn't losing perspective. His team is 8-1 and ranked third in the nation. They have ways they must improve, but Calipari is pleased for the most part with his young team.

"To win the games that we've won, play the way that we've played for this time of year defensively and be one of the best teams in the country defensively with a lot of room for growth, we're pretty good for this stage," Calipari said.

Beckham set to make debut

Almost a year ago, Twany Beckham arrived in Lexington as a transfer from Mississippi State. Since then, the junior guard has been practicing with his new teammates but unable to play due to NCAA transfer rules. On Saturday, Beckham's waiting will be at an end as he'll be eligible to suit up in a Kentucky uniform for the first time.

"I'm ready to go," Beckham said. "This has been a long time coming. I have been with this team for a whole year and I'm ready to get out there on the floor with my teammates."

Waiting hasn't been easy for Beckham, who has played in Rupp Arena multiple times in college and high school as a Ballard Bruin, but the time has given him a chance to learn a new system and get to know his teammates. Davis expects Beckham to make his impact felt quickly, especially on the defensive end.

"Twany is very aggressive on defense," Davis said. "He's a very talented player (with) a lot of energy. There are key things he can bring to this team."

At 6-foot-5, 205 pounds, Beckham has played point guard for much of his basketball career, but Calipari expects him to play at shooting guard and small forward when he does enter the game. Calipari will be looking for Beckham to "make the easy play" when on the floor with a willingness to use his size and athleticism to get after it on the defensive end.

"He's a good athlete," Calipari said. "He can defend and be tough."

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