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December 14, 2012

As practice toughens, Cats start self-coaching

Ask Archie Goodwin who's the most competitive player on Kentucky's basketball team, and he doesn't hesitate in saying, "Me."

If you asked each of his teammates, they might tell you they each held that honor. Goodwin begs to differ.

"If they told you that they were, they're lying," Goodwin said Friday, "because I'm the most competitive person on this team."

He finishes first in sprints, not "to tickle my fancy," he said, but because he's driven to do it. He wants to win. Always.

And so Goodwin has paid particularly close attention to John Calipari questioning the Wildcats' desire to win.

"Anyone that is a true competitor takes that to their heart," Goodwin said. "That's something that I did. These last few weeks, I've just really been focusing on trying to really show how much of a competitor I am and hopefully spark it for the other guys to do the same."

He's not the only one who's stepped it up in practice.

Since last week when Calipari instituted early morning conditioning drills to pair with afternoon practices, the Cats - who host Lipscomb Saturday at Rupp Arena - are making strides, and not just the literal ones it takes to run sprints.

"We're getting better, but you got to go and perform on the basketball court," Calipari said.

The Wildcats (6-3) are riding a modest two-game winning streak into Saturday's game, but those wins came on the heels of back-to-back losses against Notre Dame and Baylor, the latter Calipari's first loss at Rupp Arena as the Kentucky coach.

Since a Dec. 4 win against Samford, Calipari has been a practice taskmaster. He's pushed his players harder than before. When one guy makes a mistake, everyone's on the baseline for a run. If the Cats don't complete it in 34 seconds, they do another.

If Calipari gets mad, the limit drops to 33 seconds. If he gets really mad, 32.

The result is a team that's beginning to coach itself. Players, tired of running sprints for teammates' mistakes, are demanding that the entire team shapes up.

"Guys are starting to be a lot more vocal, and we're holding each other accountable more than we were," Goodwin said. "That's something that's helping us out, because you don't want to be that one person that's going to be picked out for doing something wrong."

The Cats are improving as a result, Calipari said.

But there's more improvement to be made, and Calipari conceded on Friday that he should have instituted the extra conditioning and more rigorous practices at the start of the season.

At the time, he said, he didn't know what kind of team he had.

"That's why you've got to play the kind of schedule we played early on to find out what we truly were," Calipari said. "Now, hopefully, this helps but there is no given. This is us saying we're going to get tougher. It doesn't mean we're going to be better, but we're going to be tougher. We're going to be mentally tougher. We're going to be held accountable. We're going to try to play through possessions."

LIPSCOMB AT KENTUCKY| SATURDAY | 12:30 | FSN
KENTUCKY (6-3)
Coach: John Calipari (108-17 in fourth season at UK; 511-155 in 21st season overall)
Last game: Beat Portland 74-46
Roster | Stats
LIPSCOMB (4-4)
Coach: Scott Sanderson (214-187 in 14th season at Libscomb; 282-212 in 17th season overall)
Last game: Beat UT-Martin 86-62
Roster | Stats
Pos. Name Yr. Ht./Wt. PPG RPG
G Julius Mays Sr. 6-2/192 10.0 2.6
G Archie Goodwin Fr. 6-5/198 16.4 5.6
F Nerlens Noel Fr. 6-10/208 11.1 9.0
F Alex Poytress Fr. 6-7/239 15.4 6.6
F Kyle Wiltjer So. 6-10/239 10.4 4.2
Pos. Name Yr. Ht./Wt. PPG RPG
G Khion Sankey Jr. 6-5/220 8.0 8.1
G Deonte Alexander Sr. 6-1/175 11.6 3.0
G Talbott Denny Fr. 6-6/200 1.8 1.5
F Martin Smith So. 6-4/190 12.0 4.6
C Steven Hurt So. 6-10/285 8.9 6.3
Game/Series Information
Game Information
Site: Rupp Arena (23,000), Lexington.
TV: FSN (Dave Baker play-by play, Larry Conley analyst).
Radio: UK IMG Sports Network (Tom Leach play-by-play, Mike Pratt analyst); Sirius/XM 85).
Internet: Audio | Video
Favorite: TBA

Series Information
Series record: Kentucky leads 1-0
At Lexington: Kentucky leads 1-0
Coaches' records: Calipari 0-0 vs. Portland; Sanderson 0-1 vs. UK

Last meeting: Kentucky 67, Lipscomb 49, Nov. 14, 2005 (Rupp Arena, Lexington)
Rajon Rondo scored 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists, and the Wildcats used a 23-10 run to pull away from the Bisons late in the game, which was part of the Guardians Classic. The Cats held Lipscomb to 37.7 percent shooting, including 4-of-17 from the three-point line, and led by as many as 18 points. The Bisons led 9-3 early and hung tough late thanks to Eddie Ard, who scored 18 of his 22 points in the second half. Ravi Moss scored 13 points and Ramel Bradley 12 for UK.

Keys to the Game
1. Twin Thrilling: Lipscomb's two biggest threats will look pretty similar on Saturday. Twins Malcolm and Martin Smith are the Bisons' leading scorers, averaging a combined 25 points. Though he's not a triplet, guard Deonte Alexander also can score, averaging 11.9 points per game. That gives Lipscomb some punch in the paint and on the perimeter. Martin Smith and Alexander have made a combined 26 three-point shots.

2. Like Father, Like Son?: Lipscomb is coached by Scott Sanderson, the son of former Alabama coach Wimp Sanderson. Wimp went 11-18 against Kentucky in 17 seasons. The younger Sanderson hasn't had much success against top-flight opponents during his Lipscomb. The Bisons are 0-7 against ranked teams since making the jump to Division I, losing those games by an average of 19 points per game.

3. Long Layoff: Kentucky hasn't played since last Saturday, when it routed Portland, and practices reportedly have been grueling since. The layoff shouldn't be a problem against Lipscomb, which lost earlier this season 91-45 at Ole Miss. Downtime rarely has been an issue for Calipari's Kentucky teams. The Cats are 12-2 under Calipari when they have six or more days between games. One of those losses, however, came this season, when UK lost to Notre Dame on Nov. 29 after beating LIU-Brooklyn on Nov. 23.



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