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January 25, 2013

Cats seek consistency as LSU visits Rupp Arena

When John Calipari met with the media Friday, he didn't mention Lousiana State, his Kentucky basketball team's next opponent.

He wasn't asked about LSU (10-6, 1-4 Southeastern Conference), which visits Rupp Arena on Saturday.

For one reason or another, the Wildcats (12-6, 3-2) have struggled to find consistency in this so-far disappointing season.

Kentucky needs wins. And getting back on the winning track is less about the opponent than about what the Cats need to fix internally.

"All we have to worry about is getting better," Calipari said. "If we don't change, we don't have to worry about (the NCAA tournament)."

If the players do change, Calipari said, resumes, bubble talk and the NCAA Tournament will take care of itself.

"If we change, we don't have to worry about all that," he said.

Calipari didn't exclude himself from needing to change. It'll be a team effort if the Cats can turn this season around. But with its bench short as is and Willie Cauley-Stein's availability for Saturday still up in the air, UK is running out of options.

"There are some guys who shouldn't be playing but about four or five minutes that are playing 30," Calipari said. "They really don't deserve to be on the court, but where we are right now, they've gotta be out there. Or we've gotta sit them and take the consequences, which is the next step."

He didn't elaborate as to which players he was talking about, but the good news for those unnamed players is they will get a chance to prove themselves against a struggling LSU team.

The Tigers have lost four of their last five and six of their last ten, and the Bayou Bengals have never beaten UK with Calipari as coach. If UK wants to build momentum and confidence, Saturday is the time to do it.

"Either we go ahead and take that step to be really good now or we're just going to be very disappointed because the seasons going to be over before you know it," guard Julius Mays said.

LSU will test UK by playing quick and trying to force turnovers. The Tigers forced 24 turnovers, including 19 steals, in a win this week against Texas A&M.

UK forward Kyle Wiltjer said he didn't know much about LSU besides they were "scrappy." He said UK could go over the Tigers in practice on Friday.

But come Saturday, the Tigers are just another team on the schedule, and a chance for UK to build some momentum and turn the season around.

It will be another chance for the Cats to win.

"I hate losing," Wiltjer said. "I would hope everyone has the same passion to win but definitely yesterday's practice we came out and made sure we were on each other, to be loud and vocal.

"We can embrace this and have fun and that's what I've been doing the past couple days, practicing hard and having a good time with it."


LSU AT KENTUCKY| SATURDAY | 4 P.M. | SEC NETWORK
KENTUCKY (12-6, 3-2 SEC)
Coach: John Calipari (114-20 in fourth season at Kentucky; 517-158 in 21st season overall)
Last game: Lost to Alabama 59-55
Roster | Stats
LSU (10-6, 1-4 SEC)
Coach: Johnny Jones (10-6 in first season at LSU; 215-168 in 13th season overall)
Last game: Beat Texas A&M 58-54
Roster | Stats
Pos. Name Yr. Ht./Wt. PPG RPG
G Ryan Harrow So. 6-2/170 10.1 2.6
G Julius Mays Sr. 6-2/192 8.6 2.7
G Archie Goodwin Fr. 6-5/198 14.6 5.0
F Nerlens Noel Fr. 6-10/208 10.7 9.4
F Alex Poythress Fr. 6-7/239 12.7 6.3
Pos. Name Yr. Ht./Wt. PPG RPG
G Anthony Hickey So. 5-11/182 11.7 4.0
G Andre Stringer Jr. 5-10/178 10.7 1.5
G Malik Morgan Fr. 6-4/188 5.4 3.4
C Andrew Del Piero Sr. 7-3/254 4.7 3.3
F Johnny O'Bryant III So. 6-9/262 11.1 7.9
Game/Series Information
Game Information
Site: Rupp Arena (23,000), Lexington, Ky.
TV: SEC Network (Clay Matvick play-by play, Joe Dean Jr. analyst); SEC Network affiliates.
Radio: UK IMG Sports Network (Tom Leach play-by-play, Mike Pratt analyst); XM 199.
Internet: Audio | Video
Favorite: Kentucky by 16

Series Information
Series record: Kentucky leads 82-24
At Lexington: Kentucky leads 40-5
Coaches' records: Calipari 4-0 vs. LSU; Jones 0-0 vs. Kentucky

Last meeting: Kentucky 60, LSU 51, March 4, 2012, (SEC Tournament Quarterfinal, New Orleans).
The Wildcats had romped the Tigers 74-50 in Baton Rouge, La., during the regular season, but the eventual national champs looked tired during the SEC Tournament, and LSU took advantage, never letting Kentucky pull away. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had 19 points and Terrence Jones added 15 points and 11 rebounds, including a streak of nine straight points in the second half to give UK the lead for good. Anthony Davis had 12 points and 14 rebounds. Storm Warren scored 17 points for LSU, which as a 17-point underdog never trailed by more than nine points and had a lead early in the second half.

Keys to the Game
1. Bench Boost: Shavon Coleman leads the Tigers in scoring despite having started only three of the 16 games he's played this season, and none of LSU's five conference games. Coleman averages 12.4 points per game and is second on the team in rebounding at 7.8 per game. He's tied for third in the Southeastern Conference in double doubles with five. Despite his sixth man role, Coleman plays starters minutes. He's averaging 29.3 minutes per game, second-most on the team. Those minutes are down slightly in SEC play (27.6 per game), and so is Coleman's production. He's averaging 8.6 points and 5.8 rebounds in conference play.

2. Local Flavor: LSU point guard Anthony Hickey will have a homecoming of sorts on Saturday. The sophomore is a native of Hopkinsville, Ky., who played at Christian County High School. Hickey is having a strong sophomore season, averaging 11.7 points, four rebounds and 3.7 assists per game, and he's a defensive terror. Hickey had a career-high eight steals against Texas A&M to raise his nation-leading average to 3.86 steals per game. Hickey has 54 steals this season and has five games with at least five steals.

3. Better from Deep: For LSU to have a shot Saturday, it likely needs to make shots. Deep ones. And the Tigers can do it. LSU has made 10 or more three-pointers three times this season after doing it five times over the previous two seasons combined. And the Tigers have made nine three-pointers four times this season, just missing double digits. Though LSU's three-point percentage (33.9) ranks eighth in the SEC, its average of 7.6 made three-pointers per game ranks third. The Tigers are on a pace to be the sixth team in school history to make at least 200 three-pointers.



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