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By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coach John Calipari again emphasized Monday this was not a traditional Michigan State team that UK will play in Chicago Tuesday night.
“They fly up and down the court. And the guys that are out ahead can make plays. And they have a four man who can shoot or post. So whether they rum him to the block or they trail him, you got to guard people,” Calipari said. “Like if someone loses a man, there’s a3. They’re making it. That’s how they play.
“They’re a terrific 3-point shooting team. They’ve got big people. Their front line is as big as ours. You got to guard them. They run their stuff. They run their little back screens and they run their curl cuts and they get the ball from one side (to the other). Their pick-and-rolls are really effective, and their guards shoot it. So you can’t go under pick-and-rolls. They’ll come up shooting. We got a challenge on our hands.”
Calipari insists his young team is not ready for a marquee matchup like this, but he knows the game will benefit the Cats.
“That’s why you play the games, so you can figure out where you need to go with your team. And thank goodness it’s not football where you lose a couple early, you’re done. Now it’s, ‘Hey, get your team right. Keep learning about your team.’ We’ll see after the game. Like I said, I’m encouraged by how we are, but I don’t know how that will play out versus a team like Michigan State,” Calipari said.
“My hope is we play great, that you watch us and say, ‘Man, (after) 30 practices, for them to play that way, wow. They played hard, they played as a unit. They break down but they scrambled. They didn’t stop playing, they had a great presence, great spirit.’ And then we move on. If that’s a loss — I’d like it to be a win, but if it’s a loss and I get that from this team, it’s the building point that we go from. Because right now, there’s so many things that we haven’t been able to go over and talk about. I can’t clutter their minds. Right now, we’ve got very little in. This is who we are. This is all we have. Let’s make this work.”
Calipari did talk to freshman guard James Young, who is 5-for-18 overall from the field and 3-for-11 from 3-point range, about the game since Young is a Michigan native.
“I thought he’s, like, pressing offensively for no reason. Like, he’s got the ultimate green light. No reason to press,” Calipari said. “You’ve already established who you are as a player. You don’t have to play great every night out. Just about every third night out. You’ve established who you are, so why would you press? If you don’t shoot open shots, I take you out of the game. I think he’s the best shooter in the country. Now you got to go in games and do it.”