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December 2, 2011
Cats and Heels figure to push pace on Saturday
There's a blueprint for beating bluebloods Kentucky and North Carolina.
Slow and steady wins that race. You run clock. You play zone.
On Saturday, you can burn that blueprint.
Both the No. 1-ranked Wildcats and No. 5 Tar Heels - who meet Saturday at Rupp Arena - take a pedal-to-the-metal approach. Both want to turn defensive rebounds and turnovers into quick transition points.
Neither wants to pump the brakes.
"I really believe they could save some power in Rupp Arena and not even have the shot clock this weekend," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said Friday.
You want to beat the Wildcats (7-0) or the Tar Heels (6-1), you slow things down.
Unless you only know one speed.
"I don't like teams holding the ball, shooting the last (second) shot on the shot clock," Kentucky guard Doron Lamb said. "I know North Carolina's going to play like we play - go up and down, just play hard, compete."
Or, as UK coach John Calipari put it, "I doubt if either one of us are going to try to hold the ball."
That should be a refreshing change of pace for the Cats and Heels, who are accustomed to opponents downshifting to a molasses pace in pursuit of an upset. Red meant stop this week for Kentucky against St. John's and North Carolina against Wisconsin.
The Cats beat the Red Storm 81-59 on Thursday at Rupp. North Carolina rallied past the Badgers 60-57 in Chapel Hill, N.C.
"Wisconsin is great team and they slow down the game," North Carolina forward John Henson said. "Kentucky is an even better team, and they speed up the game, so we're going to get a contrast of styles."
Williams estimated that the Badgers ran the shot clock to under 10 seconds on "20 percent of the possessions" on Wednesday. St. John's had four first-half shot clock violations on Thursday as it tried to extend possessions.
"We didn't want to give (Wisconsin) a great shot early or a great shot late, but they did work until they got the shot they wanted," Williams said. "Kentucky will be much more aggressive in trying to get the ball down the court and shoot it quicker. And so will we."
The Wildcats welcome the acceleration.
"We like having fun playing (fast)," UK senior Darius Miller said. "We think they do too."
But while a full-court game plays to Kentucky's strengths, it also presents challenges. North Carolina will be the first opponent this season capable of matching UK's length and athleticism.
"They're going to take away passing lanes and attempt to block shots, chase over the top of screens and do everything to disrupt you," Calipari said. "They want turnovers or bad shots, which leads to their break. That's what they're trying to create. So it's different and it's good for us."
There can be too much of a good thing.
Kentucky's happy to push the pace with Carolina, but there are limits to how fast even Calipari wants things to get.
"It should be an up and down game I imagine," Calipari said. "You let them get in too much of an up and down game, you'll get killed."
Steve Jones contributed to this report.