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As pace quickens, Teague slows down to play 'best floor game'

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Marquis Teague had a career-high nine assists in UK's 86-63 over Arkansas. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Marquis Teague had a career-high nine assists in UK's 86-63 over Arkansas. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
In the lead-up to a game against Arkansas, Marquis Teague and his Kentucky teammates expressed excitement at the prospect of playing a fast-paced game.

John Calipari offered words of caution, saying the Razorbacks would present challenges the likes of which UK's guards have not seen with their brand of pressure. Teague would need to remain disciplined even though he was playing a style he preferred.

He responded with an "unbelievable floor game," according to his coach, managing to actually slow himself down in spite of fast-moving game.

"I just slowed down a lot more today than I have," Teague said. "I found people earlier, didn't take extra dribbles and found them when they were open."

Teague set a career high with nine assists in UK's 86-63 win, giving the No. 2 Wildcats (18-1, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) their 10th consecutive win. He scored just seven points on 2-of-4 shooting and was overshadowed by Anthony Davis, who set a single-season school record for blocks in a 27-point, 14-rebound and seven-block performance.

Teague, though, drew the praise of Calipari for his efforts. He committed just three turnovers in a high-possession game and effectively picked his spots when to attack and when to set up the offense.

"He's really focused and zoned in on how he's got to start playing," Calipari said. "He's playing as a point guard versus trying to score baskets. He's still scoring and making free throws. The biggest thing is our team is a totally different team when he's playing."

Teague has gone through an adjustment period in his first college season. He is just now beginning to realize how dangerous his team can be when he looks first to get his teammates involved.

"In high school I had to score more because I wasn't playing with guys that are as good as these guys," Teague said. "On a team like this, you can find people and you know they're going to finish and make plays too."

Many of the plays Teague made on Tuesday were in the open floor finding Davis, Terrence Jones (13 points) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (10 points) for alley-oops, but those plays won't always be there as Kentucky proceeds through its SEC schedule. Most future opponents figure to force UK into much more of a half-court game and, even though he would rather play up-tempo, Calipari is confident Teague can handle himself well.

"I would love to play fast the whole game, but you've got to be able to play in the half court, defend in the half court, play offense in the half court, grind out clock and make people make plays late in the clock," Calipari said. "He's got to run us and be able to do that, and he did that today."

Teague did not score a field goal for the first 29:02 against Arkansas, opting instead to involve his teammates. However, twice in the final 10:58 the ball ended up in his hands with time running short on the shot clock. Both times, he created for himself off the dribble and beat the shot-clock buzzer.

"I just take whatever the defense gives me," Teague said. "I don't really look to do anything in particular. If I have a bucket, I'll take that. If I have a pass, I'll make the pass."

The Indianapolis, Ind., native looks forward to the chance to play another team like Arkansas whose style thrusts them into an up-tempo game with the Cats, but he doesn't see that happening too often.

"All five of our players that are on floor are fast and can get up and down the floor," Teague said. "We all can handle the ball and finish at the rim.

"Some teams (will try to run with us) anyway: that's their style. I don't know. I don't see why people would want to run with us. It's what we're real good at doing."

After the game, Calipari reported, "We got better," and much of that had to do with Teague's performance. With his best game as a Wildcat under his belt, what does the future hold?

"I don't know," Teague said with a smile. "I guess we'll just have to see. I just want to come and play the way I'm playing and run the team. That's my main focus."

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