By LARRY VAUGHT
John Calipari said the Terps do a variety of things that could give his young team problems tonight.
“They are trying to come down each time and get good shots and really, really post the ball. They do a great job of running screens and every ball screen ends up in a down screen. They are trying to get that ball into the post, into the post, into the post,” Calipari said. “So Kyle (Wiltjer) has his hands full. Our big guys have their hands full. Like, if you think you are just going to play, you are going to get screened first or your man is going to screen and then they are posting your man. So they put you in tough situations and they execute.
“I would imagine the first five or six times down the floor the ball is getting posted. Its bang, bang, bang, post the ball. We are going to find out where we truly are with post defense. That is why I saw we play these games early. I would rather have had a game or two under our belts before we played it. But the reality of it is, this team is so young let’s learn it right away.
“Here is where we are, here is where we are not. Don’t get crazy, this is where we are you can see it, here is where we are really awful let’s shore that up and I think that is where we are right now.”
Calipari said he’s not sure his team is “ready to beat a basketball team” based on what he’s seen in practice and exhibition games, especially with guard Ryan Harrow battling the flu and guard Julius Mays dealing with a knee strain.
“They play great position defense, they don’t give you a whole lot and they don’t turn it over a whole lot,” Calipari said of Maryland. “They try to take good shots every time down. They are not going to beat themselves. They are going to press us some and it’s going to look ugly. We just haven’t had the time to work on it.”
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon knows the inside battle could be key to the game.
“I like my bigs. They are good and getting better, but they struggle at times and Kentucky makes it so hard to score around the rim,” he said.
Turgeon watched UK freshman center Nerlens Noel play in high school and knows what he can do.
“Nerlens is one of the best I have ever seen. I watched him out of high school and he just changed games,” Turgeon said. “He is a special breed. Our big concern is how will we score around the rim.”
Turgeon said UK’s frontcourt players are “all good players and that’s why they are at Kentucky.” He described power forward Alex Poythress as a “slasher” who can do more. “He can hit an open shot and is good rebounder,” the Maryland coach said. “A physical kid that gives them a lot of versatility. So he can do a lot of things for them,” Turgeon said.
Freshman Willie Cauley-Stein has caught Turgeon’s eye also with his play in UK’s two exhibition wins.
“Willie is a kid who just looks like he is going to keep getting better. He’s just so long and active,” Turgeon said. “He seems skilled. They all make scoring look so easy even at their young age.”
Calipari stressed again Thursday that the first two games had to be about “winning and learning, not winning and losing” because of the youth on UK’s team.
“I have slashers in Alex and Archie (Goodwin), shooters in Ryan, Julius and Kyle and two good post-up players (Noel and Cauley-Stein),” Calipari said. “It’s just a different team than I have coached before. Nerlens is the hardest worker we have. I tell you Willie is good and will get better, but Nerlens is more active. You see his quick bounce, active hands and he really understands he can push through. He finds something in him most players don’t when he is tired. Is he a finished product? No. But I am not worried. I just want him to take shots.”