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December 9, 2013

Young Cats get test from experienced Boise State

John Calipari spent part of Kentucky's practice on Sunday teaching his players how to huddle at the free-throw line.

It's the sort of extreme back-to-basics lesson that's becoming the norm for Calipari, who said in the wake of the Wildcats' loss to Baylor last Friday, he's trying to impart on his players how to be good teammates.

They need to huddle at the free-throw line and to touch a teammate as he comes to the bench. These are basketball basics, Calipari said, but they seem to elude his team.

"Some of it I expected, and anytime I expect them to know something, I'm wrong," Calipari said. "I'm wrong. 'Well, they'll know this.' I am wrong."

He's been wrong about a few times about these Wildcats (7-2).

Once labeled a team with a chance to go undefeated, Kentucky this week dropped out of the Associated Press Top 10, falling to 11th headed into a difficult week that starts with Boise State's visit to Rupp Arena on Tuesday.

Still, Calipari remains convinced UK can make it right.

"Look, I haven't lost any confidence in the team," Calipari said. "It's just, I have a lot of work to do as a coach, and they have a lot of work to do changing and buying in. We're not near what we need to be."

As so often is the case with Calipari's Kentucky teams, experience plays a part in closing that gap.

In contrast to Boise State (8-0) -- which features three seniors and three juniors in its top six players -- Kentucky starts four freshmen and a sophomore. There are no juniors and seniors in the regular rotation.

That means growing pains. And last Friday's game against Baylor provided a particularly painful lesson. Leading by nine with 13 minutes to play, the Cats imploded and lost 67-62.

"This team, what they seem to do is they get it going and do it right and then they get arrogant and then they step back," Calipari said.

Whether that's the result of conditioning -- "As soon as we get tired, it's like our minds just go everywhere, scattering everywhere," guard James Young said -- or inexperience or both, it's been an issue for a Kentucky team that has struggled to put away opponents.

"Look, the way we do it is really hard," Calipari said. "The way they've always played has been really easy. Now, which way do you want to do it? The real hard way or the easy way and every chance you can revert back to see if it's still works you do? It's just how it is coaching young teams."

On Tuesday, he'll coach one against a Boise State team that's second in the nation in scoring and averages 8.2 three-pointers per game.

"We just got to play hard, just got to out-tough them, bust them a little bit," Young said. We have a height advantage, so if we use our height, I feel we'll be good."

And Kentucky -- despite folding against Baylor -- is good, Calipari said. Or it can be.

"I know they want to play together," Calipari said. "I know they want to win. I know they have that desire. I know we have the talent we need. We're just all 18- and 19-year-olds. We're really a young team."
BOISE STATE AT KENTUCKY| TUESDAY| 9 P.M. | ESPN
No. 10 KENTUCKY (7-2)
Coach: John Calipari (130-28 in fifth season at Kentucky; 533-166 in 22nd season overall)
Last game: Lost to Baylor 67-62
Roster | Stats
BOISE STATE (8-0)
Coach: Leon Rice (64-41 in fourth season at Boise State and overall)
Last game: Beat Carroll 80-52
Roster | Stats
Pos. Name Yr. Ht./Wt. PPG RPG
G Andrew Harrison Fr. 6-6/215 10.0 1.9
G Aaron Harrison Fr. 6-6/218 13.9 2.9
F Willie Cauley-Stein So. 7-0/244 9.4 7.8
F James Young Fr. 6-6/215 13.1 3.3
F Julius Randle Fr. 6-9/250 17.9 12.1
Pos. Name Yr. Ht./Wt. PPG RPG
G Igor Hadziomerovic Jr. 6-4/207 7.3 4.6
G Derrick Marks Jr. 6-3/204 17.6 4.4
G Jeff Elorriaga Sr. 6-2/201 13.3 3.3
F Anthony Drmic Jr. 6-6/192 20.4 5.1
F Ryan Watkins Sr. 6-9/242 10.1 10.4
Game/Series Information
Game Information
Site: Rup Arena 23,000), Lexington, Ky.
TV: ESPN (Dave O'Brien play-by play, Jay Bilas analyst)
Radio: UK IMG Sports Network (Tom Leach play-by-play, Mike Pratt analyst, Matt Jones sideline); XM 85/Sirius 85
Internet: Audio | Video
Favorite: Kentucky by 12.5

Series Information
Series record: First meeting
At natural sites: First meeting
Coaches' records: Calipari 0-0 vs. Boise State; Rice 0-0 vs. Kentucky

Game Storylines
1. No Baby Broncos: Boise State will be among the most experienced teams Kentucky has faced. The Broncos are the only 2013 NCAA Tournament team that returned all five starters this fall, and they'll start three juniors and two seniors. Four of those starters average double-figure scoring. "We have to worry about everybody on the court," UK guard James Young said. "It's just not our offense we have to worry about; we have to worry about our defense as well."

2. Mid-Major Mission: Boise State will look to become the first school from outside the Big Six conferences to beat a John Calipari-coached Kentucky team at Rupp Arena. Calipari's only nonconference home loss came against Big 12 opponent Baylor last season. The last team from outside the power conferences to win at Rupp Arena was VMI, which knocked off Billy Gillispie's second Kentucky team on Nov. 14, 2008. Gillispie lost three such home games in two seasons.

3. Sharp Shooter: The Broncos have a host of scoring threats, but the most dangerous is junior Anthony Drmic, an Australian who does most of his damage from the perimeter. Drmic has made 12 of 31 three-pointers this season, but he has an adept midrange game and knows how to get to the free-throw line, where he shoots 72.2 percent. He's indicative of Boise's perimeter-oriented overall approach. The Broncos shoot 41.3 percent from three-point range and their top seven players all shoot at least 72 percent from the foul line.



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