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Coach Cal: Indiana game isn't about revenge

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UK will face Indiana in the Sweet 16, a rematch of one of the Wildcats only two losses this season. (Chet White, UK Athletics) UK will face Indiana in the Sweet 16, a rematch of one of the Wildcats only two losses this season. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
In an effort to bring you the most comprehensive coverage of the Kentucky basketball team's postseason run, and Cat Scratches will be teaming up throughout UK's journey in the SEC Tournament and NCAA Tournament. You can find stories on the team at and

When you get punched in the mouth, what's your natural reaction? Punch back. When you get embarrassed by someone, what do you want to do? Embarrass them back. And when someone defeats you, what do you hope to do in return? Beat them right back - and do them badly.

So goes the cycle of human emotions.

Revenge, no matter how solid our hearts are, how true our spirit is or how balanced our head sits on our shoulders, is a part of our basic instincts. No matter how much we try to deny it, we've all felt it at one point or another.

In the postgame locker room Saturday, just 30 minutes after defeating Iowa State to set up a rematch with Indiana in the Sweet 16, one could understand if the feeling of revenge had already crept into the minds of the Wildcat players.

The Hoosiers handed Kentucky its first and only loss of the regular season in early December in buzzer-beating fashion, prompting IU students to the rush the court and ESPN to base a commercial for a mobile app around it. To this day, the players still talk about using the constant ESPN replays of Christian Watford's shot as motivation.

"They can show the commercial every break from now until the game for me and the whole team," Terrence Jones said in his locker room stall in Louisville. "Hopefully the keep showing the commercial and give us motivation."

Three days prior to the rematch with Indiana at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, that's exactly the type of mentality John Calipari does not want his players to have.

"I don't ever teach anger because the physiology of that is really close to fear," Coach Cal said. "If you try to make your team angry and angry and it doesn't go right, it turns to fear within their own bodies, so I don't do that."

Not to get all nerdy, but what was that quote from Yoda in the Star Wars series? Ah, yes, here it is: "Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering."

Channeling his inner Yoda, was he? That's hardly the point. The bigger picture from both men (or is one a creature?) is that anger - in UK's case, revenge - is a dangerous game to play, especially when the stakes are so high.

"We're worried about us being our best," Calipari said. "If that's not good enough, then someone played an outstanding ballgame and deserved to win."

Yes, Coach Cal is doing what you think he's doing. He's going there. He's preaching to his team to treat it just like they would any other game. He wants them to remove the December game in Bloomington, Ind., from their heads and focus solely on getting to the Elite Eight.

Nothing more, nothing less.

"Let's not worry about what happened four months ago," Calipari said. "It doesn't matter now. We haven't talked about it in any of the meetings. It's not like, 'OK, we've got another shot at these (guys).' It's none of that. It's we've got a ballgame, a team in front of us. They can beat us because we know that. They've already beaten us, so we're going to have to play a terrific ballgame."

With a couple of exceptions, his players were already taking the cue as early as the aftermath of the Iowa State game.

"We can't go in thinking about revenge," Anthony Davis said Saturday. "We've got to go in thinking it's another game and have a great mindset."

Freshman guard Marquis Teague: "We're not really saying anything about revenge or anything like that. We're just going to come out and play like we would any other game."

Kentucky fans will almost surely have a different idea. Chances are just about all of them looked ahead to a possible Sweet 16 date with Indiana when the bracket was released on Selection Sunday, and some of them were praying long before for a rematch on a neutral court.

Coach Cal is fine with that but cautioned fans against providing Indiana with too much bulletin board material for the rematch. Remember, Calipari said, ""The score wasn't indicative. They beat us in every way."

"Come on now, this is going to be a war," Calipari said. "If there's 16 teams left, every one of them can play and every one of them are inspired and every one of them is playing out of desperation - every team. So if you're still playing now, you're fortunate, and if you get a chance to play in a game and if you expect that it's going to be easy, you'll get beat. These games are going to be tough. Every one of them."

Calipari said the Indiana game was "like a season ago," but he was quickly reminded of IU's talents when he watched tape this week. The Hoosiers are No. 2 in the country in 3-point field-goal percentage, and Cody Zeller continues to be not only one of the best freshmen in the country but one of the best front-court players in America.

"The one thing about it, we're better, but so are they," Calipari said. "Both teams are way better than they were then. They execute better. They have a better plan for what their strengths are, how they're playing to cause mismatches and trying to get Zeller the ball. Their guys that are driving are driving and doing a great job and then defensively they're way better than they were. They're more physical."

The Hoosiers won't have point guard Verdell Jones this time around after the senior injured his knee in the Big Ten Tournament, but Coach Cal downplayed his loss because of the ball handling of Jordan Hulls.

"They shortened their rotation," Calipari said. "This time of the year you can get by playing five guys, literally, if they stay out of foul trouble."

In an attempt to limit UK's front-court size and athleticism, Calipari expects Indiana to back off Teague and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and dare them to shoot it, but both have shown the ability to score the ball from anywhere on the floor.

Regardless of what style both teams try to employ or what type of revenge is on the line, Calipari said the best team will come out on top.

"Let's not get too fancy, let's not get too crazy," Coach Cal said. "This isn't like the trick 'em time. When you end up trying to trick at this time of the season, you know who you trick? Yourself. You trick yourself. We're established who we are; they're established who they are. They have a good idea of how they'll play us. He knows how we're going to play them.

"Throw it up and let's see what happens."

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