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Cats thinking present, not past in rekindling Duke rivalry

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Archie Goodwin had 16 points in his collegiate debut on Friday against Maryland. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Archie Goodwin had 16 points in his collegiate debut on Friday against Maryland. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
For Kentucky, matchups with Duke are rare. But when they happen, they are something to behold.

The last four times the Wildcats and Blue Devils have matched up - spread over two decades - both teams have been ranked in the top 10. Of the 19 total games in the series, 12 have been played between ranked teams and six with a team at No. 1. They have played once for the national championship, once in the Final Four, twice in the Elite Eight and once in the Sweet 16. Thirteen of the games have been decided by six points or less and three in overtime.

With the two teams set to add another chapter to the storied series for the first time in 11 seasons, it's only fitting that John Calipari would spend both practices of the weekend leading up to the game not even mentioning Duke.

Wait, what?

"They play really hard, they deny, they try to steal, they switch, they switch out of bounds plays, they play pick-and-roll defense funky," Calipari said. "Yet for two days we worked on us."

More specifically, they worked on rebounding.

In the season opener, UK was outrebounded 54-38 by Maryland. The Cats gave up 26 offensive rebounds, meaning that for just the second time in the Coach Cal era, a miss by UK's opponent was more likely to wind up in the hands of the opponent than Kentucky.

"It's more or less of us just being conscious about, we follow the flight of the ball," Calipari said. "Which, I think that's sixth grade, might be seventh grade (when players learn that). You don't follow the flight of the ball, you see the flight and you go find somebody (to block out) and then go get the ball."

With a team as young as the one he's coaching, Coach Cal has eschewed the concept of winning or losing in favor of "winning or learning." In the case of the Maryland game, it turned out to be winning AND learning.

Early-season games over the past four seasons have called attention to the areas where UK needs work. Calipari didn't necessarily expect rebounding to be one of the issues that arose, but he's glad he now knows.

"If we haven't worked on it, I can't be upset," Calipari said. "And we hadn't. I just thought we're 7-foot, 6-11, 6-10, 6-9; we'll rebound. No. When your guards are taking off and they're wedging you under and you're looking at the ball and you're next to the cheerleader, you're probably not going to get the ball."

Working in UK's favor on that front when the Cats face Duke at 9:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday is that the Blue Devils are unlikely to punish the Cats on the boards as the Terrapins did. With a frontcourt made up primarily by returners from a team that ranked 69th in offensive-rebounding percentage and 165th in defensive-rebounding percentage in 2011-12, Duke was actually outrebounded 33-31 by Georgia State in a season-opening 74-55 victory.

That's not to say, however, that there aren't a bunch of ways in which the experienced and ninth-ranked Blue Devils can expose UK.

"When you watch Duke, they're a veteran team, they know how they are playing, they do a great job of posting the ball, they do a great job of spacing the court, they use pick-and-rolls for threes and if you leave corners, which you guys know that's one of my no-no's, if you leave a corner it is automatic buried three," Calipari said.

Duke made 11 3s in 24 attempts (45.8 percent) against Georgia State on Friday.

No matter the style of play or the personnel, plenty of intrigue surrounds any game between UK and Duke. Though the two teams have played just three times in his lifetime and none since he was eight years old, Archie Goodwin has an idea of what the game means to fans.

"I know (Kentucky fans) don't like Duke and I know Duke doesn't like Kentucky," Goodwin said.

The most famous UK-Duke game was, of course, in 1992. The details of the Elite Eight battle need not be rehashed because they are so familiar to the college basketball world. And besides, UK fans would probably rather avoid any reminders of Christian Laettner's overtime buzzer beater.

Goodwin knows about it even though it happened before he was born, but Willie Cauley-Stein, on the other hand, is a little behind. He said on Monday he had never even seen the shot that sank the Unforgettables' Final Four hopes.

"I don't keep up with that," Cauley-Stein said.

As surprising at the revelation may be to some, Goodwin didn't hesitate in saying he believes it to be true.

"People don't understand; Will's a different dude," Goodwin said. "He doesn't even watch TV or anything, so I wouldn't think he was lying if he did say that."

Calipari wasn't surprised to hear it either, but for a different reason.

"You can say George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (and they won't know)," he said. "Magic Johnson was the big guy that came to the game. That's it. They know three years. Three years ago they were 14, 13."

They might not know about the Elite Eight in 1998 or 1992, the national championship in 1978 or the Final Four in 1966, but they'll surely remember the Champions Classic in 2012.

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