By LARRY VAUGHT
At times Kentucky coach John Calipari can have quite a way with words.
His Wildcats play Michigan State Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden in New York. The Spartans opened the season with a big-time matchup against Arizona they lost while UK has played two games against lower level teams.
So how will Calipari’s young team respond?
“I have no idea. Like I said last night, they may pee down their leg. I just have no idea because there are some tough matchups,” Calipari said Monday.
Michigan State has a lot of good freshmen like Kentucky starting with Miles Bridges, a player Calipari tried to recruit but lost to Tom Izzo.
“Miles Bridges is legitimately one of the best players in the country – physically, skill wise. He’s a big body with guard skills. Not afraid. He’s Tom’s kind of player, too. He’s gritty. He’s tough,” Calipari said.
“He’s good, but we’ve recruited the Cassius (Winston) kid. A couple of the wings. I mean, we recruited those guys, and I know how good they are. Good kids too, all good kids. It’s like, we don’t get every guy we recruit.”
Calipari didn’t need to see a scouting report to know how the Spartans will play.
“They fly up and down the court. They set great screens. Offensive rebound, they absolutely jam you in the back and they’re coming. There’s no, ‘Let me try to get around you.’ It’s mush mouth around that goal, and they go for balls. They play like his (Tom Izzo) teams play. I think they’ll probably go under pick-and-rolls. They’ll probably sag a little bit and get us to shoot jump shots and things like that,” Calipari said.
“They dig in the post. They do a great job of digging in the post. They wait until you bounce and then they kind of converge. Sometimes they trap. Most times they don’t.”
On offense Calipari expects Michigan State to do what Canisius tried to do with a much less athletic roster on Sunday against UK and had some success.
“They’re probably going to pass it three or four times, throw to a wing, cut away and try to beat the guy one-on-one. They’ll run the stuff that they run, but if you’ve watched us, you say, ‘When so-and-so is guarding you, you start dribbling. Go right at the rim,'” Calipari said.
“We’re going to do some stuff today. They’re currently watching tape with the assistant coaches of last night’s game and then we’ll go out and practice for about an hour or so and then walk through their stuff. They run good stuff, but us running good stuff doesn’t matter.
“It’s about will you rebound? Will you run up and down that court and fly because they’re going to fly? And, will you get screened or will you physically screen the same way they do? And that’s going to be just talking to each other, trusting each other, and other stuff that we’re just learning how to do.”
Isaiah Briscoe is coming off a career-high 21-point game against Canisius and is doing things better than any other UK player. That’s what was expected from the sophomore. He doesn’t think Tuesday night’s game will overwhelm his freshmen teammates.
“Like Coach said, he forces young guys to grow up quick. Three games into the season, we’re playing at the Garden. Gotta come out with the win,” Briscoe said. “They’ve played in other big-time games before, I’m sure, and this is another big game. We gotta come out and play.
“I’m looking forward to it. Michigan State is a great team from what I hear and we’ve been playing pretty well. Got practice, go over the scouting report and just take it from there.”
Briscoe is from New Jersey and this will be like a homecoming game for him.
“A lot of my fan base is out of New York. That’s where I grew up playing basketball at. It’ll be good playing back in front of my fans again,” he said.