Kentucky Meets Kansas in Champions Classic Top-5 Battle
Kentucky and Kansas meet on Tuesday, November 18 in a battle of top-5 teams. Tip is set for 9 p.m. ET and the game will be televised on ESPN.
State Farm Champions Classic
Kentucky vs. Kansas
Tuesday, Nov. 18 - 9:30 p.m. ET
Game Notes: UK | KU
Radio: UK Sports Network
Live Video via WatchESPN
Cat Scratches: Kansas matchup offers kind of challenge UK needs
Kentucky is for a step up in competition on Tuesday.
It's no slight to Grand Canyon or a Buffalo team that outplayed UK for 20 minutes, but Kansas is at a different level.
Entering the test against the Jayhawks, John Calipari sees two ways it can go.
"If we play like we did in the first half last game we will get smashed," Calipari said. "If we play like we did in the second half we have a chance because you have to fight on every possession."
UK got a lesson in exactly that in the aforementioned matchup with Buffalo.
The Cats (2-0) went into the break down 38-33, needing halftime to refocus after a first half in which Coach Cal said they were "disconnected." UK would overcome the slow start with a dominant second half, holding Buffalo to 14 points in four field goals in a 71-52 win.
Ahead of Tuesday's matchup with No. 5 Kansas (1-0) at approximately 9:30 p.m. in Indianapolis, the Cats know what's in store for them if they pull that Jekyll and Hyde act again. ... Read the full story
This Week's News:
Calipari One Win Shy of No. 600
- With 599 victories under his belt, John Calipari is just one win shy of his No. 600th victory as a Division I head coach.
- He will become just the 13th active Division I coach to achieve the feat.
- Trey Lyles won SEC Freshman of the Week honors after averaging 13.0 points and 4.0 rebounds per game in two UK victories.
- Was the lone UK player to reach double-figure scoring in both wins
- Poured in 14 points vs. Grand Canyon
- Had a team-high 12 points, four rebounds and three assists in the win over Buffalo
- Scored the first five points of the second half to spark the Wildcats vs. the Bulls
- Willie Cauley-Stein, Aaron and Andrew Harrison and Karl-Anthony Towns were among 50 players selected to the preseason Wooden Award watch list.
- UK led the country with four representatives on the list
- The Wooden Award National Advisory Board will select 25 players for the midseason list in early January. The leading candidates will be further pared to 20 in early February. Fifteen top players who have proven to their universities that they are also making progress toward graduation and maintaining at least a cumulative 2.0 grade-point average will be placed on the ballot and submitted to voters prior to the NCAA Tournament and voting will take into account play during the opening rounds of the tournament.
- Kentucky won its second straight game to open the 2014-15 season with a 71-52 victory over Buffalo.
- The win marked UK's 20th win in its last 22 games as the top-ranked team.
- The Wildcats' platoon system continued to shine:
- No player logged more than 26 minutes
- Three players reached double-figure scoring
- UK shot 50.0 percent (13 of 26) in the second half. The four field goals UK gave up in the second half tied for the fewest field goals UK has allowed in a half in the Calipari era. The tying mark was the Samford game on Dec. 4, 2012
- In the second half vs. the Bulls, UK forced 10 turnovers and surrendered just four field goals.
- Buffalo's 14 second-half points were the fewest UK had surrendered this season
- The nation's tallest team owned the glass with a 45-25 edge, including 19 offensive rebounds. UK has out rebounded its opponents by 50 boards in the first two games of the season
- Trey Lyles and Tyler Ulis led the Wildcats on Sunday with 12 points apiece. Lyles, the only Wildcat to score in double digits in both games this season, scored the first five points of the second half to erase UK's five-point halftime deficit. Ulis made his first four 3-point shots and dished out a game-high six assists
- Dakari Johnson just missed out on his second straight double-double with nine points and 12 rebounds. He's averaging 9.5 points and a team-high 12.5 rebounds through two games
Head coach John Calipari Media Opportunity - November 17, 2014
On Kansas ...
"They are running their stuff. They are doing a terrific job of doing what they do. I mean, they play a style and they play it well. They are playing hard and pressing and denying. They are pushing up on defense and trapping randomly at times. They are trapping pick and rolls. They are being very, very aggressive."
On the timing of the event and the early test and its meaning to the team ...
"We are in a little different position than we have been in the past, where we have a brand new team and trying to get your team together. This team needs to be challenged to see where we are. This is going to be one of those kinds of games. So, you know, Kansas is always well coached and always going to play hard and be physical and get that ball inside and what they do they do really, really well."
On how he compares the competition Kansas presents to what he has faced so far ...
"Well, everybody has the same kind of schedules. You play games that you get at home and then you start playing these kinds of games. Some people play them early. I am hearing Texas is playing really well. I am hearing that UCLA is really good. Obviously, Louisville is really good and North Carolina, Kansas, Providence (are all good). We have a tough schedule. Our thing is (it is) kind of spread throughout the whole preseason, but, this is the next step. They (Kansas) are a top-five team and predicted to be in the Final Four. They are that good. If we play like we did in the first half last game we will get smashed. If we play like we did in the second half we have a chance because you have to fight on every possession."
On if he liked that they were able to flip the switch after coming out flat on Sunday ...
"I don't know if it is flat, but we were a little disconnected. We are going to work on that today. There are some things I think we can do to get them to better understand things, especially offensively. The energy thing is on them. It is not like they didn't come to play, it was just that the other team came like a pack of hungry dogs. Well, then you can't just say this is good enough. We are learning that. When we play with great energy and match the other team or go beyond the other team, we are long and athletic. But if they are blowing us out of the water with their energy it is going to look like it did. And it doesn't matter who we play."
On what he means by disconnected ...
"We just didn't create good shots for each other, that is why we shot such a low percentage. We didn't get easy baskets. We were just disconnected. That is fine, we should be, it is November 16."
On how much that is a product of Buffalo making it a half-court game ...
"That was perfect, I wish we would have played half court the whole game we would have probably shot a bigger percentage. We executed in the half court, where we had mistakes was when we played and the decision making we made or we just went pick and roll. When we ran our half-court offense, as a matter of fact, we were really good. When I watched the tape I said, `shoot, maybe we are a grind it out kind of team.'"
On Trey Lyles returning to his home state to play ...
"If he plays well he will be the first player that we have taken home in my career that has played well. It is possible. He could be the first."
On what he is looking for more from Karl-Anthony Towns ...
"Well, we have got to get him the ball more when he is open. He has got to get the ball in a position where he can score. He has got to play more to the scheming we are doing on offense or defense and he is not. He is kind of breaking things off. Like he is the odd man out on a lot of stuff because he hasn't learned this is five guys playing off of each other the same way and if one guy goes south it is a basket, it's a dunk. Then you show them, `why did you do this?' But there was a play, and this says a lot about the kid, there was a play that I really, really got on him about. It was an out-of-bounds play, and when I watched the tape he never said one word. He took it. I mean, I killed him and I killed him for about eight minutes straight. It wasn't him. It was another guy. He never said a word and never threw the other guy under the bus. Until I watched the tape, I went up to him and said, `That says a lot about who you are. You took it and it wasn't you.' He is going to be fine."
On if there is a challenge to get in a rhythm during a four-minute stretch ...
"Well, the other team had a great rhythm in the second half and scored three baskets. This thing will be decided on the court. You want more minutes, play better. You don't play as well, you are getting less minutes. You don't deserve to play, you won't play. This is about the players. I am not doing this to be a genius. I already told you that. They all deserve a chance to show what they are and they are going to. I would love to do this the whole year, but we may not be able to. It will be decided on the court. If anybody uses this as an excuse, then you won't play. You won't play. You will be the guy left out. If anybody enables you to use this as an excuse, you won't play. The USA basketball team played the Olympics and basically (did this) and not one of those players used it as an excuse. They just went out and showed what they can do. Look, you guys (the media) are supposed to talk about stuff, so just do it and talk and say stuff. It ain't true, but say it anyway. Then what happens is there are some out there that say it over and over and over thinking that makes it true. Bottom line is I am doing this for these players and they will decide how this plays out. My hope is that they will all play and they all play because they deserve to all play. If some of these guys really stand out - but you can't do it game-to-game. If you did it after one game I would say, `OK, here is the seven.' If you did it after the second game I would say, `OK, here is the seven.' But you let it play out."
On the clutter from the outside and how the team is handling that ...
"Good, good but you know you expect it. I know what is coming down the pike and I am fine with it. Everybody thought, `Well, watch he won't do it the second half.' I platooned in the second half the same way. If Karl didn't get in foul trouble we would have gone straight by the line. Now, if someone goes in there and they aren't playing, like they are not - you are out. You just lose your minutes. Look, I am enjoying doing it. I am enjoying it because I know no kid is getting left behind. I know the easiest thing for me to do is to play seven guys."
On if he is more confident playing this game this year with a more experience group ...
"No, no because they are playing exactly like Michigan State. They are denying wings, they're pressuring the ball, they're trying to steal passes, they're trapping pick and rolls and going nutty. We could start out 10-0 the same way and it wasn't 10-0 we were up, it was 10-0 I had to call two timeouts to get it settled down. I would hope these veterans understand what they are walking into, but teams are going to play like their life depends on it and we have to do the same."
On if he likes the fact that Louisville was awarded an NCAA Tournament site in 2016 ...
"When we played in 2012 it was great. One, it's good for our state. It's good for a city that drives the state, Louisville. It's good for all the fans that love basketball in this state. So it's a good thing. Our team played well in that arena."
On what he wants to see his guys improve on against Kansas ...
"Just that we sustain energy, that we follow schemes, that we're really executing together, more defensively than offensively. And then we're a little more specific offensively, because here's what's happening: We're like this, so we're disconnected. We're going to narrow it a little bit so they're more connected, so they understand a little bit better. So you'll know when a guy is stepping away from what we need him to do. It doesn't mean I don't want him to have freedom to play, but I want him to know - like, we didn't run enough stuff when we could have. We just kept trying to go. It's not there. There's five guys back there. When we did run our stuff on either group, we were good. We got the ball wherever we wanted it, we scored, we got great shots, we got fouled, we were in great position to offensive rebound. When we didn't and just shot quick, contested (balls) -- they had three guys around the goal or drive into five guys and charged - we didn't look the same."
On if he means a more controlled bench when he says a more narrowed approach ...
"No. Just give them more specifics what they're looking for."
On if he's heard from other coaches about what he's trying to do ...
"Yeah. I just talked to guys today. They're all saying the same thing. One guy said, `I'm playing 10. They're not saying I'm platooning. Why do you get all the credit?' (It was) a coach from one of the better leagues. And he said, `Look, the bottom line is they're asking me about my rotation. The kids decide that.' They do. They'll decide as the season goes on. We don't even know if this is how we're going to defend at the end of the year. I don't know if this is the best way for us offensively to play in. We don't. Is this the best way for us to prep. We don't know. We have so many questions to answer. What we're doing here is just unique in that we got a new every year. Like, you can say what you want, but this is a totally different team than last year's team even though we have some guys back. So it's now, OK, what does this team need? What do they need from me? How do we need to play? What gives them the best chance? And by the end of the year, hopefully those questions are answered and it's not as late as last year. Last year was, what, March 1 when we answered questions. It took that long! There were five freshmen. `Oh, but they're really good. You just roll out the balls. They should just win.' This stuff's hard, man. This stuff is hard. Now, I love it. I wouldn't want it any other way. I wouldn't it any other way for our kids. It would be easier for me to have the same team back four years and say, `You guys did great. Thank you for all those wins and sold-out buildings and you're the best. Get out. Beat it.' I mean, that's not how we do it here."
On trying to help the fans with perspective on not getting carried away with each game and how much he feels like he needs to do that to keep it off the players ...
"Well, anything I'm saying out there, if you've known me, is trying to protect these kids against all the stuff that can run. The greatest thing about the social media that we have is I can cut stuff off in the bud. Someone makes a statement, if we need to respond, we can do it in 12 seconds. It doesn't run for three days. In the case of knowing that Andrew didn't have one of his better games, knowing that Tyler had one of his better games, I knew where the dialogue was going. So I shut it down. Knowing that Karl could barely play in the game and Dakari was a double-double, I knew where the dialogue was going. Wait a minute. I knew how well Trey played and how much (Alex Poythress) struggled, and I knew where the dialogue (was going). Stop it. The next game. And then I put it back on me, which was, what, do you want to change coaches every time we play poorly? And I was off the top of my head, just so you know. So when I was going through the line of coaches I could say, when I got to Coach Hall I went back the other way. Then you start - I'm thinking on my feet. So there was no (intentional name dropping). I should have thrown Coach Hall under the bus because I would like for him to get booed since he jumped off the bandwagon last year."
On if he expected there to be a lot of clutter this year ...
"Oh yeah. It's us and it's me. It's Kentucky. And, you know. I'm going to be one to speak my mind."
On if there has been more clutter than he expected ...
"No. But it's going to be worse. People are waiting. You've got people right now on radio silence because there's not enough to write that story. The problem is they've written those stories and gotten burned because we turned it around and they look like fools, so there's radio silence right now because they're not going to do it yet. And even after this game there will be a couple that just can't help themselves. `I gotta!' They'll write something like, what did you do? Why? I mean, it's just how it is here. Sometimes it wakes me up in the morning and makes me laugh."
On why UK is playing in Bankers Life Fieldhouse instead of Lucas Oil Stadium, where the 2015 Final Four is ...
"I don't know. I would have liked to have been in the dome, but I have no idea."