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Nerlens Noel operates in the paint in the loss to Duke. (Victoria Graff photo)

Nerlens Noel operates in the paint in the loss to Duke. (Victoria Graff photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Even if Nerlens Noel might have been leaving his feet a “little early” a few times against Duke trying to block shots, Kentucky coach John Calipari liked a lot of what his freshman center did in Tuesday’s loss.

“He was aggressive. What we’re not doing is when he goes to help somebody, no one is helping him. That’s the issue. It’s not Nerlens. I was really happy with Nerlens,” said Calipari Thursday. “Everybody can say, ‘Well, they’re leaving their feet and that’s why the basket is open.’ No. We did the same thing last year, but when he (Anthony Davis) left his feet someone got his back.

“Now we’ve got guys (when) he leaves his feet they’re running the wrong way. You’ve got to go that way and go get that ball. If you’re a big guy it should be easier. If you’re a small guy, just make sure his guy doesn’t get it. We’re just learning. We’re trying to figure out how to be a helper. The next step is be the helper’s helper. Then you can be the helper’s helper’s helper. We’re not quite there yet.”

Kentucky (1-1) will try to keeping getting there tonight when it hosts Lafayette in its Rupp Arena opener after playing neutral site games against Maryland and Duke.

Calipari wants Noel, who had 16 points and eight rebounds against Duke, to continue to be aggressive while learning when not to leave his feet early trying to blocks hots.

“He didn’t do it that often. He did it a couple times. How many blocks did he have? (Three). OK, he got three blocks and probably left three or four other times that he didn’t get it,” Calipari said. T”hey know he’s not getting any help, so they didn’t even try to make baskets because there’s no one helping him. That’s not Nerlens. Nerlens is doing fine.

“I need he and Willie (Cauley-Stein) both doing the same thing. That’s the rest of our defense. Again, we’re so far behind. There’s things that they exploited, there’s things that we were able to see. It was two good games for me to learn about my team.”

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