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January 2, 2012

Calipari wants to continue Freedom Hall game

John Calipari wants to continue Kentucky's tradition of playing a home-away-from-home game every year in Louisville.

But the UK head coach stopped short Monday of saying the game's future is guaranteed.

There are tickets available for Tuesday's game at Freedom Hall, when No. 2 UK (13-1) plays Arkansas-Little Rock (5-10). And if that continues to be the case for future games, Calipari hinted, it could impact the Wildcats' future scheduling in Louisville.

"People got to come to it and make it something they want us to do," Calipari said. "It's hard to say 'get us UCLA in there.' Come on. You can't. I know this: Little Rock at home, there will be 24,000 people there, here in Lexington."

Kentucky is averaging 23,266 fans per game at Rupp Arena this season. That includes a turnout of 24,230 last week for a game against Lamar, hardly a high-profile matchup.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats aren't always a bid draw at Freedom Hall.

Over the past 10 years, UK has drawn an average of 15,029 fans to its games at Freedom Hall. But two of those games came against Indiana - that series has since returned to campus sites - and both drew more than 20,000 fans to the Freedom Hall, which now has an official listed capacity of 18,865.

Subtract those Indiana games, and the average attendance over the last decade for UK's "home" game at Freedom Hall drops to 13,769.

The average is on an uptick since Calipari arrived at Kentucky. The Wildcats have drawn an average of 16,386 fans the past two seasons at Freedom Hall, including 17,404 for last season's game against Notre Dame, part of an SEC/Big East doubleheader that also featured Arkansas and Seton Hall.

Calipari said that as long as there's fan support, he'd like continue playing the game in Louisville.

"This is an opportunity for people that are not season ticket holders," Calipari said. "Can't get to a game? Here's a game. Lets go. Get in there to see them. I think the great thing about our fans is they come to see us play. They're not just there to see the other team. They're there to see us play."

Homecoming game for Beckham It was a long, strange road that finally led Twany Beckham back to Louisville.

The junior guard starred for Ballad High School in Louisville before landing at a prep school in 2007-08. He transferred to Mississippi State and spent three seasons with the Bulldogs.

On Wednesday, he'll finally be back in front of a hometown crowd when the Wildcats face Arkansas Little-Rock at Freedom Hall.

"It means a lot to play in front of a lot of my family and friends," Beckham said. "I've been waiting for this day to happen."

Beckham, who grew up a Kentucky fan, wasn't recruited by the Wildcats under then head coach Billy Gillispie. He wasn't disappointed, but kept his dream of playing for UK alive. He slowly worked his way into college basketball before eventually earning the opportunity to transfer midseason last year. He never considered any other schools at the time.

"I wanted to get back close to home and to play at my dream school," he said.

He's had plenty of distractions this week. He played in the first half of Kentucky's 69-62 win over Louisville on Saturday and has spoken with lots of family and friends hoping to get tickets for Wednesday's game.

He's trying to focus more on what will happen on the court than who will be in the stands, though.

"I'm really happy," Beckham said. "I'm ready to get this game over with."

Teague timetable Marquis Teague isn't where Calipari wants him to be yet. But the Kentucky coach isn't discouraged with the development of his freshman point guard.

"He's not there yet," Calipari said. "He's not totally bought in. But that's fine, neither did Brandon (Knight) last year at this point. John Wall, I think I remember 'I'm not having fun.' I think that was the statement halfway through (his freshman year). I mean it's a process for these guys."

Teague isn't the explosive scorer that Wall and Knight were, and he's still struggling to master Calipari's offense. He's averaging 10.7 points per game on 42.7 percent shooting. His 131 field-goal attempts are the second most on the team.

Teague has a team-high 64 assists, but he also leads the Cats with 45 turnovers.

"He's got to truly run the team and really be running the team for everyone and then picking spots when to go," Calipari said. "Right now he goes sometimes when he doesn't need to, he misses people when he really needs to find them, doesn't move people around before we run plays.

"In other words, you've got the ball and they're not in the right spot, well don't move yet. Get where you're supposed to go - 'No, No, get down.' He doesn't do any of that right now, but he's never had to. He just goes and gets his own. This is all new, but he'll be fine."



Game Information

Kentucky vs. Arkansas-Little Rock
Tuesday, 7 p.m.
Freedom Hall
Louisville, Ky.

TV: Fox Sports South
Radio: UK IMG Network
Series: First meeting
Last Meeting: None

No. 2 Kentucky (13-1)
Coach: John Calipari (480-151; 77-13 at UK)
Arkansas-Little Rock (5-10)
Coach: Steve Shields (24-27 overall and at Arkansas-Little Rock)
Pos. Name Yr. Ht./Wt. PPG RPG
G Marquis Teague Fr. 6-2/189 11.2 2.4
G Doron Lamb So. 6-4/210 15.4 3.5
G Darius Miller Sr. 6-8/225 10.3 3.5
F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Fr. 6-7/232 14.2 7.7
F Anthony Davis Fr. 6-10/220 12.1 10.2
Pos. Name Yr. Ht./Wt. PPG RPG
G D'Andre Williams Sr. 5-10/160 11.7 4.0
G Chuck Guy So. 5-10/168 10.3 3.5
F Courtney Jackson Sr. 6-6/225 6.8 4.5
F Taggart Lockhart Fr. 6-5/210 4.5 2.8
F Will Neighbour So. 6-10/209 12.0 6.1

Key Storylines

Like a Lion
Doron Lamb has been the target of some John Calipari criticism lately after a hot streak earlier this month. Lamb was a non-factor against Louisville. Freedom Hall has long been known as a shooter's gym. It could be a prime spot for Lamb to post big numbers.

Hall of a Home
Kentucky has won 26 of its last 31 games in Freedom Hall. The last time the Wildcats lost to a team besides Louisville in the building was Dec. 15, 2007, when UAB beat the Cats 79-76.



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