UK gets qual­ity time with Cali­pari

Lexington Herald-Leader (Sunday) - - Sports - BY JOHN CLAY

Watch out, Ken­tucky bas­ket­ball Wild­cats.

John Cali­pari has you right where he wants you.

Yeah, we know, you think you re­ally did some­thing Sat­ur­day in Rupp Arena, ral­ly­ing from a half­time deficit to de­feat UNC Greens­boro 78-61. You held the Spar­tans to 27.8 per­cent shoot­ing the se­cond half. You outscored the vis­i­tors 22-4 over the fi­nal 10 min­utes. You won your sev­enth straight game.

And un­like many of your pre­vi­ous six vic­tims, Greens­boro is a good bas­ket­ball team. Coach Wes Miller’s crew lost to Gon­zaga by just four points in the first round of last year’s NCAA Tour­na­ment. Sev­eral key Spar­tans re­turned from that team, in­clud­ing a na­tive Spaniard named Fran­cis Alonso who scored 11 points in the game’s first 3:49.

“It was ei­ther the kid scores 60 or we put Ash­ton on him,” said Cali­pari af­ter­ward, ad­mit­ting the Cats started the game with the wrong guy

guard­ing UNCG’s best guy.

Ash­ton would be UK fresh­man guard Ash­ton Ha­gans. Or per­haps from Sat­ur­day for­ward we should re­fer to him as Ash­ton “Shut­down” Ha­gans. With Ha­gans track­ing his ev­ery move, Alonso scored all of 11 points the re­main­der of the game, in­clud­ing just three points in the se­cond half and a big fat zero points in the fi­nal 16:09.

“There de­fense was tremen­dous in the se­cond half,” Miller said. “We had a hard time com­ing by qual­ity shots.”

Only here’s the thing: Ken­tucky now has com­ing what Cali­pari has been wait­ing for all along — some qual­ity time with his Cats. Some qual­ity prac­tice time.

“We’re giv­ing them two-and-a-half days off, start­ing with the rest of to­day,” said Cali­pari, us­ing a fa­mil­iar joke in his reper­toire. “They get (Sun­day) off and we’ll just do in­di­vid­ual stuff on Mon­day. Then we get right back at it.”

Thanks to a quirk in the UK sched­ule, it’s just Sat­ur­day games the re­main­der of the cal­en­dar year. On Sat­ur­day, Dec. 8, the Cats face Se­ton Hall in New York’s Madi­son Square Gar­den. On Sat­ur­day, Dec. 15, they re­turn home to play

Utah. On Sat­ur­day, Dec. 22, they travel to Chicago to play North Carolina in the CBS Sports Clas­sic. Then Sat­ur­day, Dec 29, they play at Louisville.

There are no week­day games in be­tween. None. Zero. Nada. No quick turn­arounds. No light prac­tice to­day be­cause there’s a game to­mor­row. No ESPN or SEC Net­work 9 p.m. latenight starts with early classes the next morn­ing, film­work and prac­tice in the af­ter­noon and good luck squeez­ing in a good night’s sleep.

“Now I have time,” Cali­pari said.

Time for what ex­actly? Well, for all those things the coach says he just has not had time to work on with his team. Let Cal count the ways.


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“If we’re go­ing to press, what does it look like?” he said. “Who are the play­ers that can play against that zone? Some of­fen­sive things, how do we maybe space the court wider?”

These first eight games, we’ve learned some things. These Cats are beasts on the boards;

ALEX SLITZ [email protected]­

Ken­tucky head coach John Cali­pari re­acts to a call dur­ing their game Sat­ur­day against UNC Greens­boro.

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