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Kentucky Faces Louisville in Battle of the Bluegrass




Dec. 27, 2013

Scouting the Cardinals

Louisville enters the matchup with the Cats owning an 11-1 overall record with its only loss of the season coming against common foe North Carolina.

Gameday
Gameday Information
Kentucky vs. Louisville
Saturday, Dec. 28 - 4:00 p.m. ET
Lexington, Ky.
Game Notes: UK Get Acrobat Reader | UL Get Acrobat Reader
Coverage
TV: CBS
Radio: UK IMG
Gameday Live: Live stats, audio, blog, and social media
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Four players average double-figure scoring led by All-American Russ Smith’s 16.8 points per game. Smith also leads the way with 60 assists an average of 5.0 per game.

Sophomore forward Wayne Blackshear is logging 12.5 points and a squad-best 8.3 rebounds per game.

Series History with Louisville

Kentucky owns a 30-15 record in the all-time series and has won seven of the last 10 against Louisville including a Final Four matchup in 2012. This is the 31st regular-season meeting between the teams since the series was renewed in 1983-84.

UK has won 20 of the 31 games in that span. The series began in 1913 with UK winning seven of the first nine contests. The teams then met three times in the NCAA Tournament between 1948-59. After a 24-year absence, the series was renewed at the 1983 NCAA Mideast Region title game in Knoxville, with Louisville winning the “Dream Game,” 80-68 in overtime to advance to the Final Four.

UK coach John Calipari is 10-6 versus Louisville. UofL head coach Rick Pitino is 5-8 against the Cats. Pitino was 6-2 against the Cards while coaching at Kentucky.

Kentucky-Louisville Connections

Current UK assistant coach Kenny Payne played his college ball at Louisville. A four-year letterwinner at UL from 1985-89, he helped lead the Cardinals to the 1986 national championship. He finished his career scoring 1,083 points and shooting 40 pct. from 3-point range.

UofL head coach Rick Pitino spent eight seasons (1990-97) as head coach of the Wildcats, leading UK to a 219-50 record, two SEC championships, five SEC Tournament titles, three Final Fours and the 1996 National Championship.

Final Game of the Calendar Year

The Kentucky-Louisville game will mark the final game of the calendar year for the Cats. In the history of the program, UK is 70-17 on the last game played prior to turning the page to the New Year. From 1961-62 until 1981-82 the Wildcats traditionally played Notre Dame in the final game of December. The Irish and Cats met 17 times during that span with UK owning a 13-4 overall record.

Since 1988-89, Louisville has become a popular opponent for UK’s final game in December. The Wildcats are 6-3 in the nine matchups the teams have endured since the first meeting in 1988. The Blue and White is 3-1 under the direction of John Calipari which includes two wins over Louisville.

Bluegrass Sports Commission Award

The Bluegrass Sports Commission (BSC) will once again present an award to the Most Valuable Player of the men’s basketball game between the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville. The award, presented after the annual game is played each year, was given to former

UK forward and current Charlotte Bobcat Michael Kidd-Gilchrist won the award in 2011 when the game was last played in Rupp.

Pregame Media Opportunity - December 27, 2013

Head Coach John Calipari

On Dominique Hawkins saying Kentucky has to prove they can beat a good team …
“Well, glad he’s thinking in those terms because, you know, the schedule that we’ve played is top-heavy to this point. You know, there were games that we won that are good wins for us but they’re not a team that’s in the top five or top 10. So, how many opportunities will we have at games like that, how many are we going to have from here on in? Just not have that many opportunities. And again, for us, this game for us we’ve got to look like a team, we’ve got to play with more energy, when the adversity hits, we’ve got to respond; those are three things. The winning will take care of itself. If we look more like a team, if we play with more energy, when adversity hits we respond to it in a positive way. We haven’t to this point in the season, but you know that’s where we’re going.”

On how he wants the team to respond to adversity …
“Well the body language, stuff happens in a game. You can’t worry about officiating; forget about it, you don’t control it. A bad bounce of the ball, a turnover, you made the right play and you missed the shot, so what? They come down and make two bomb 3s, one of them banks in, so what? Just play. All that other stuff is clutter. Just play. Compete, battle, you don’t know whether you’re winning or losing ‘til you do so don’t worry about that, just play. We still have a lot of clutter but we’re getting better. I mean, my team’s getting better.”

On how much of a challenge Louisville’s smaller guards will be …
“It’s going to be hard. They, not only, they play in fourth and fifth gear, here they come. So if you stop at any point, it’s like, oh my gosh you stopped playing. It is really evident. But they run good stuff. They’re well coached, they play hard, if they see weakness, they see blood, they’re coming. Here they come. And they’re a good team; they’re where they should be ranked. They’re a top-five team.”

On how to keep the younger guys from getting in the frenetic pace Louisville plays …
“Well we try to play that way. I’m trying to get us to play that way. It’s amazing. Play fast, push it, go. Their nature and habits are to pull back, to stand up, to mess with the ball. It’s easier than really, ‘bang, here I come.’ Well, I can only really do that for two minutes at a time. Sub yourself. So we’re still learning that.”

On worrying about the teams getting caught up in the rivalry before the game …
“That’s an issue that both teams will have so we’ll deal with it when the game starts.”

On the responsibility added to other guys if Louisville focuses on taking away Julius Randle
“Well, they’re playing zone so they play zone the way they’re playing zone. Now they may go through with a cutter but the reality of it is it’s a zone. You’ve got to attack it, they’re aggressive with it. Occasionally they’ll flip into a man-to-man but they’re switching and they’re trying to keep their big guy in, they don’t want to put him in pick-and-rolls because he’s not very good in pick-and-rolls. But both of us are doing the same thing, we’re trying to figure out what’s the best way for us to play each other, how they’re going to play us and how we’re going to play them.”

On having nine guys averaging over 17 minutes …
“Our bench has helped us and there are times it hasn’t. You know when you talk about the bench, two of them are starters from a year ago, they’re not starting anymore. Maybe a third guy that played minutes last year so you’re talking about a veteran group of guys coming off the bench. We’re still young; two of our guys coming off the bench would be freshmen, maybe three. So it’s a little different. And when you’re talking about having a veteran team, you don’t have to be on the court as much because you already know how to play together so now it becomes just managing minutes but when you’re trying to teach a team to play together, you’ve got to keep units together so that they get some sort of synergy going.”

On considering starting Alex Poythress to try to get his practice performances to transfer to the games …
“No, he’s fine. He’s fine. He was good again in practice yesterday. He’s just got to carry it over to a game. He’s playing well; he’s playing as well as he’s ever played here.”

On how big rebounding is in this game …
“Big. They’re a good offensive rebounding team and so are we. That will be one of those battles.”

On his and Louisville’s head coach Rick Pitino having different approaches to building a team …
“100 different ways to coach and 100 different ways to playing, how you approach this. We’ve had four-year guys too, we’ve had three-year guys but we’ve also had guys that have been one-year guys. The good news is that our guys have gone to the league and done well. Terrence Jones and I talked yesterday and I said, you had 21 (points), 14 (rebounds) and three blocks and you weren’t on the ticker. And you said I held you back. That’s what I said to him and he laughed. But I’m proud of what we’ve been able to do here for the players. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to do for the program. But there are all kinds of ways of doing this and everybody knows I’m not into this one-and-done stuff. I don’t like it but I’m not going to hold players back, when it’s time for them to leave then the rules are the rules and we play by them.”

On if this is an NCAA Tournament resume building opportunity …
“You can’t, it’s too early to even start talking about that and this game is not, it’s only a big game if we win. If not it was the next game, move on. We win, it was a huge game. Other than that, no.”

On being 0-3 against ranked teams …
“They’re all top-10 teams, it’s pretty hard to beat those guys and obviously we’re not, three minutes to go in all those games, it’s a one-point game and we’re right there. We’re not ready to win those games yet. This team, in February is not going to be what it is right now. Guys will get it. I like this team but we’re still, one, we’re not what everyone said we were to start and I said it. This is a team game, it’s not a collection, it’s a team game and we weren’t the kind of team, we’re only now beginning to be that kind of team. We’ll see where we are against a top opponent, we’ll see and we’ll figure out from there where we’ve got to go. Are we further along than we thought? Maybe. Are we behind where we thought? Maybe. When you’re talking about a team like this it’s more or less the progress and you just take steps along the way.”

On looking forward to practice time without the games …
“It’s been good, lot of time together, lot of time for them to be together. They start to become more of a team because they’re together so much. We’re together three, four times a day now. Even now, today we’ll be together three, four times. Yesterday was, you know, from a breakfast meal together, from a practice in the morning to go back to take a nap; come back to practice to dinner together and a meeting last night. They’re together all day now. They did well academically; they had another 3.0, a B average. They work hard in the class. They’re in classes, they have to do their thing and they’re doing it. Now that’s all shut down, now we are a basketball team and we’re worried about getting better as basketball players and coming together as a team.”

On what stands out about UofL forward Montrezl Harrell …
“Just so active, really a good player. So active, goes after every ball, accepts his role. And the one thing with, what Louisville does best is the two guys that take all the shots, the two guards, the other guys that are supposed to shoot 3s, do it. The rebounders rebound, the screeners screen, the post play behind and they go rebound. They are, collectively they know what their roles are. He knows what his role is. The guy on our team that does his role better than anybody else is Dominique (Hawkins). Does his, what this team needs him to do, he does. We’re trying now to get everybody else to understand, do you know what you have to do to help our team become better? So we’re still working on that with our team but he does it for them. Their two guards shoot most of the balls, just how it is. They take 60 shots; those two are taking nearly 40. The rest of you, take a few shots here and there, go rebound that ball and they do it. And they do it well.”

On how Willie Cauley-Stein’s role has evolved …
“He’s been great, he’s got a great presence about him, he’s getting better offensively. People forget, and I’ve said this before, Anthony Davis had no post-game at the beginning of the year, we never went to him except if it was a dunk. By the end of the year we were throwing him the ball in the post and he was confident. That takes time, it’s taken time for Willie. Willie was playing football, dodge ball, tennis, kickball, I went in, they’re playing kickball one day. I’m like, do you ever play basketball? I never see you – he’s now zeroing in on the basketball and he’s showing it, he’s getting better.

#25, Dominique Hawkins, G, Fr.

On whether the intensity has picked up after break …
“I have felt the intensity pick up in practice because we’re going much harder than we usually do. But we’re just doing this to prepare for whatever they got coming for us.”

On whether there is a UK-UofL game he remembers from his youth …
“The one that I probably remember the most, I think it was—I want to say when Francisco Garcia was playing and that he, like, scored a ton of points on us and I think we lost the game. That’s the only one that I particularly remember when I was a little kid.”

On how important it will be to control Russ Smith …
“It’s a big, big key to control him. We know that he’s going to shoot a ton of shots and we’re just going to try to contain him as best as we can.”

On whether he thinks he will guard Smith …
“I don’t know yet. Coach really hasn’t decided on who’s guarding who, but whoever’s guarding him, we’re going have to make him take tough, contested shots.”

On why the game is important to him …
“It’s important to me because it’s a big game for us and we gotta prove that we can take on top teams. We haven’t beaten a ranked team yet and so it would be a great improvement for us if we can win this game.”

On whether this team can get dirty in a physical game …
“I believe this team can get dirty, but we don’t want to play dirty. But if we have to and they’re doing that stuff to us we’re not going to back down from it.”

On whether he has told his teammates about the rivalry …
“Yes, I have. But they already know how the atmosphere has been like. Most of them have been here on a recruiting visit or anything like that or watched it on TV and they all think it’s crazy.”

On whether he experienced a rivalry like this in high school …
“No, never.”

On whether providing energy is still his goal …
“Definitely. As soon as I come off the bench I’m trying to give the team energy and make everything that I can do well. I know what my role is and I’m just trying to play my role to the best of the ability I can.”

On whether the pressure is on UK …
“Well really I don’t think the pressure will be on us because right now everybody’s got us winning by probably one point or something like that, but I feel like there’s no pressure because we’re coming out to play on our home court and hopefully our sixth man can get us going and stuff like that.”

On what Coach Calipari has concentrated on since returning from break …
“Basically we’re doing the same stuff that we usually do. We’re doing a lot of offensive and defensive stuff that we usually do and breaking the press and stuff like that.”

On the importance of playing well entering conference play …
“It’s very important because, like I said, we haven’t beaten a ranked team yet and we’re trying to prove to people that we’re able to do that and winning this game, it’s a big rivalry. I think it’s on CBS, I’m sure, so it’s going to be a lot of people watching it and they’re going to be—when they’re watching it they want to see how well we’ve improved as we play Louisville.”

On the keys to the game …
“I’d say the keys to win this game would probably be being able to handle their press and how well they play on defense because they’re really aggressive denying the ball. To be able to get the rebounds, we have to block out big time because they shoot a ton of 3s and long 2s so we’ll have to box out and I feel that’s the two main keys right now for the game.”

On whether it could come down to 3-point shooting …
“For them I think it’ll come down to 3-point shooting because I think Russ (Smith) and (Chris) Jones, they take a ton of 3s for their team and we have to box out off the long 3s that they take.”

On how big of an opportunity to make a statement this is for UK’s guards …
“It’s a good challenge for us. We need to play guards like this because in the future, in the long run we’ll be playing two guards, probably, because these guards, they’re able to shoot the ball well and attack to the basket well. It’s going to challenge us pretty well.”

On what the rivalry means to him having grown up in Kentucky …
“Oh, it meant a lot for me when I was watching it on TV. I remember crying one time because we lost to Louisville. But this year we’re trying to change it and win this year because we know that last year they got us.”

On which game made him cry …
“My mom just told me that I was crying one game. I can’t really remember, but I think I was really little when I was crying that game.”

On what it means to play in the game …
“I really don’t have words to describe how it feels for me. It feels like a dream when I’m probably going to be on the court for this game and I can’t believe that I’m even going to be playing against this rivalry team.”

On whether he’s told his teammates what it means to him …
“No, I haven’t told them what it means to me but I’m pretty sure they know what it means to me and I’m pretty sure that Hoody (Jon Hood) and (Jarrod) Polson probably know exactly how I’m feeling right now for my first game.”

More on what it means to him …
“It means a lot to me. It’s hard to describe what it really means to me because as a kid growing up in Kentucky you want to be able to play for Kentucky and play against Louisville and hopefully beat them. It just means a lot to me.”

On why you grow up wanting to beat Louisville …
“It’s a rivalry team that usually Kentucky fans don’t like at all. And this win’s probably one of the biggest wins just for a regular-season game.”

On why UK fans dislike Louisville …
“I really don’t know what it’s about. I just know a lot of fans just don’t get along with Louisville.”

On how much UK needs this win …
“We definitely need this win because we haven’t beat a ranked team yet and we’re trying to prove that we can play good competition with any team in the nation and stuff like that. But if we get this win, there will be a lot of teams that are probably looking at us that we probably belong in the top 10 and stuff like that.”

#22, Alex Poythress, F, So.

On how practice has been since they got back from the holiday break …
“It’s been intense. We’ve been having really good practices the past couple of days, just trying to get prepared and ready for the game.”

On UofL’s ability to generate turnovers …
“We’ve been working on our press attack, just being poised and focused on offense.”

On whether the freshmen understand what the rivalry means …
“I don’t think they really understand, but we’re just trying to tell them how it is, how big of a game it is.”

On his understanding of the rivalry …
“That this is the one game everybody in Kentucky looks forward to. This is the one game they circle on their calendar. In their eyes, they really could care less about other games, but we’re just trying to take it one game at a time, trying to focus on the game we have.”

On whether he was surprised how big this game was in his first experience with it …
“No, it’s just a big rivalry. All rivalries are big.”

On this being an opportunity to show this team can get a big win against a marquee opponent …
“We’re just trying to show that we’re still a good team, a great team, and we can win games.”

On needing a win of this game’s caliber …
“I feel like every game we go into we want to win, so every game I feel like we need.”

On how much the bench will be a factor in this game …
“The bench will be a factor for both teams. We can go deep if we need to. We can go eight, nine deep, so we’ve just got to prepare.”

On how he has been practicing and how he translates that over to the games …
“I’ve been practicing good, just making plays, being active on defense, active on offense, being aggressive. And when I get in the game, I just got to do the same thing really.”

On whether they have circled this game on the calendar …
“We’re just trying to take it one game at a time. Our next game is always our biggest game.”

On how brutal practices have been after the break …
“They’ve been pretty good. You can tell guys went home and did stuff, so it’s good. You see where people’s minds and heads are at, how focused they are, how prepared they are for this game.”

On whether anyone puked in practice after time off for the holidays …
“Nah, nobody puked. Everybody had a good practice.”

On the Waffle House visit on Christmas …
“We did go to Waffle House. It was probably one of the best meals I’ve had in a while.”

On why they went to Waffle House …
“It was just after practice. We had a late practice and he wanted to feed us. I guess Waffle House is the only thing open on Christmas night so.”

On why this game is important to him …
“We just want to get a great win against a good team, just show that we’re still a great team. Show what we’ve been working on in practice.”

On it being hard to recognize the rivalry when you’re around it as much as the fans …
“It’s kind of hard, especially when you’re not from Kentucky like some other people. They grew up with it. But still, you can pretty much understand how big of a rivalry it is just from the people and how people react towards it.”

On what the most important matchup is in this game …
“I feel like all the matchups will be important this game.”

On where size will be advantage for UK …
“Yeah, we do hope to attack them down low, but Cal’s got a whole lot of different schemes that we’re going to try, so we’re just going to try to execute our game plan.”

On people doubting UK because of the losses against top-25 teams …
“Nah, we just want to play like we’ve got a chip on our shoulder, to say we’re still here, we’re still a great team, just show them we’ve got a lot to prove.”

On UofL doubling Julius Randle
“If they double team Julius, it opens up lanes and stuff for everybody else, so we’ve just got to be prepared. We’ve got to be ready to hit shots, make basketball plays.”

On what he says to the young guys about Louisville’s hectic pace …
“Just slow down and be poised really. It’s going to be like this the whole game. Just be prepared for it.”


 

 

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