Ken­tucky eyes tougher sched­ule in De­cem­ber

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Aaron Beard

Ken­tucky spent Novem­ber rolling to lop­sided wins and leav­ing lit­tle doubt who should be the No. 1-ranked team in the AP Top 25. Coach John Cali­pari heads into De­cem­ber won­der­ing how his bunch will han­dle close games.

PAR­ADISE IS­LAND, BA­HAMAS

>> Ken­tucky spent Novem­ber romp­ing its way to lop­sided wins and leav­ing lit­tle doubt who should be the No. 1-ranked team in the AP Top 25 .

Coach John Cali­pari heads into De­cem­ber won­der­ing how his young, ath­letic bunch will han­dle play­ing in a close game as the sched­ule gets tougher, start­ing Satur­day against No. 11 UCLA.

“The ques­tion be­comes now how good can we be,” Cali­pari said Mon­day night af­ter a high­light-filled 11569 win against Ari­zona State in the Ba­hamas. “And it may not be ev­ery night. One of the things I told them be­fore the game is, look, we need to have a close game.

“We need to have an over­time game. We need to have a team make their first 10 shots and see how we re­spond. We need to shoot 32 per­cent and still win a game. We need to be in tough phys­i­cal bat­tles and know who can re­spond.”

So far, the Wild­cats (7-0) ap­pear to have no short­age of op­tions, from DeAaron Fox post­ing only the pro­gram’s sec­ond triple­dou­ble against the Sun Devils to Ma­lik Monk scor­ing a game-high 23 points to Bam Ade­bayo pro­vid­ing a rugged phys­i­cal pres­ence in­side.

The Wild­cats’ clos­est game this sea­son has been a 69-48 win against Michi­gan State on Nov. 15.

In ad­di­tion to Satur­day’s visit from the Bru­ins (7-0), Ken­tucky’s De­cem­ber sched­ule also in­cludes a game against No. 3 North Carolina in Las Ve­gas and a trip to No. 14 Louisville.

LEAGUE THROWDOWN

The ACC/Big Ten Chal­lenge head­lines the week ahead for Top 25 teams.

On Tues­day night, No. 22 Syra­cuse (4-1) vis­its No. 17 Wis­con­sin (5-2), while Michi­gan State — out of this week’s poll af­ter a 4-3 start — vis­its No. 6 Duke (6-1).

On Wed­nes­day, No. 15 Pur­due (5-1) vis­its No. 14 Louisville (5-1), while No. 3 UNC (7-0) vis­its No. 13 In­di­ana (4-1) — which tum­bled 10 spots in the poll af­ter a loss at IPFW. No. 6 Vir­ginia (6-0) also hosts Ohio State.

BUSY SATUR­DAY

In ad­di­tion to the UCLAKen­tucky game, Satur­day’s sched­ule fea­tures a busy day of ranked matchups.

The big­gest fig­ures to be No. 9 Bay­lor’s visit to No. 7 Xavier. The Mus­ke­teers (60) have been in the top 10 all sea­son, but Bay­lor (60) went from get­ting zero votes in the first two polls to No. 20 af­ter a win against Ore­gon and now to No. 9 af­ter beat­ing VCU, Michi­gan State and Louisville to win the Bat­tle 4 At­lantis in the Ba­hamas.

“We’ve got big­ger goals,” Bears coach Scott Drew said af­ter rallying from 22 down to beat the Car­di­nals in the At­lantis ti­tle game. “And we’ll be fo­cused on achiev­ing them. As long as ev­ery­body lis­tens to the up­per­class­men and buys in with that, then we can ac­com­plish those.”

The other mar­quee matchups that day are No. 25 West Vir­ginia at No. 6 Vir­ginia and No. 8 Gon­zaga at No. 16 Ari­zona.

NEW­COM­ERS

No. 18 Butler, No. 20 South Carolina and No. 24 Florida are poll new­com­ers. The Bull­dogs won their poll de­but at Utah on Mon­day night.

The Game­cocks host Ver­mont and the Ga­tors visit North Florida, both on Thursday.

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