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November 19, 2013

Notes: Cats look to run; Calipari installs press

Coach John Calipari wants his team to get out and run.

So much so that in practices following Kentucky's loss to Michigan State -- when the Wildcats scored just two points and allowed 21 in transition -- he subbed out any player who jogged.

"You must be tired," Calipari said. "It's okay. 'Well, I hit the guy and the line jumped up and I slipped on the broom.' Okay. Sub him."

Kentucky made significant progress in an 87-49 win over Robert Morris, scoring 14 points on fast breaks and allowing zero.

"You could see the last couple days that's all we worked on," Calipari said.

"I think they are great in transition," Robert Morris coach Andrew Toole said. "They do a good job of pushing the ball and putting pressure on your defense."

Kentucky will get an opportunity to get up and down on Tuesday, when Texas Arlington visits Rupp Arena as part of the Keightley Classic.

The Mavericks average 74 possessions per game and on average shoot 14.7 seconds into the shot clock.

Freshman forward Marcus Lee said after the Michigan State game, Calipari stressed sprinting up the court off defensive rebounds and trying to score quickly, if a good opportunity was available.

"And if we don't, then we can slow it down and do our thing," Lee said.

But this team would prefer to run when it can.

"Because we have scorers at every position," freshman guard Aaron Harrison said. "We got to get out and use our athletic ability."

Going to Press
Lee smiled. The press was on.

As Robert Morris tried to inbound the ball after a made Kentucky basket in the first half, Lee was the first line of defense in a new-look full-court press.

"I absolutely love pressing because that's where I shine," Lee said. "I just love giving the offensive player the worst possible -- I'm like, 'all right, you're not getting past half court, because I'm not going to let you.' People hate that. I love that."

The press didn't last long against Robert Morris -- just a few possessions -- but Calipari wants to expand that part of Kentucky's defensive playbook.

"I've got to add more of a press," Calipari said.

Lee figures to be an integral part of it whenever it's used.

"Did you like the press?" Calipari said. "That's Marcus Lee at the beginning of it, and it was pretty good, and he got us -- change the game up for us."

Lee said upping the defensive intensity overall is something Calipari stressed since the loss to Michigan State.

And installing a press works toward that goal.

"Seeing how it went today was -- I'm really happy about it," Lee said. "We'll see if more comes. I have no idea."

Free and Easy
College basketball's new rules and points of emphasis could mean significantly more free throws for Kentucky this season.

At times, that hasn't seemed like such a good thing for the Cats, who are shooting 64.1 percent from the line as a team.

UK was 20 for 36 from the free-throw line against Michigan State and missed a combined 40 free throws in its first three games before shooting a more respectable 24 of 34 (a season-best 70.6 percent) against Robert Morris.

Calipari typically leaves it to players to focus on free-throw shooting on their own time. But after the Michigan State game, tweaked his approach.

"That's been a big point," said guard Aaron Harrison, who made all 10 of his free-throw attempts against Robert Morris. "We all have to make 100 free throws before every practice, so we all get in the gym late at night, just getting free throws up. It carries over to the gym, I guess."

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