Kentucky dominating the board game

Davis, Wildcats on a rebounding rampage the past several games

jtipton@herald-leader.comJanuary 5, 2012 

Kentucky already had been on an eye-catching stretch of rebound domination. Then on Tuesday night, UK outrebounded Arkansas-Little Rock 50-23. That marked the largest rebound margin for a Kentucky team since a 54-25 avalanche that buried Indiana on Dec. 20, 2003.

Numbers aside, UK center Anthony Davis spoke of a possessive attitude to explain his and his teammates' voracious appetite for rebounds.

"We just try to come out and get every rebound, especially me," Davis said after grabbing 16 against UALR. "I feel every rebound is mine. I just try to go get it."

In the last five games, Kentucky has grabbed 77 more rebounds than the opposition. That is an average of plus-15.4. Pittsburgh leads the nation in rebounding margin at plus 13.0.

"Anthony's way tougher than he was earlier, so he'll come up with balls," UK Coach John Calipari said.

Davis has grabbed 10 or more rebounds in four straight games, and five of the last six. In that span, he's averaged 12.8 rebounds.

"Terrence (Jones) has been trying to crack it out," said Calipari, who then noted one other key factor: "There's a lot of missed shots."

The latest NCAA statistics rank Kentucky first in blocks (9.2 per game) and second in field-goal defense (opponents shooting 35 percent).

Kentucky's rebound dominance did not catch UALR by surprise. After the game, Coach Steve Shields noted how "the glass was a big concern. He noticed in the box score how every UK player except Twany Beckham (who played one minute) grabbed at least one rebound, which he saw as a testament to the Cats' length and athleticism.

UALR emphasized the need to block out. "A tough challenge possession after possession," Shields said.

No doubt, Kentucky's next opponent, South Carolina, will also emphasize rebounding. When asked on a Southeastern Conference teleconference Wednesday about UK's rebounding, South Carolina Coach Darrin Horn said the boards had been a concern all season.

The NCAA ranks South Carolina at No. 154 in rebound margin: plus-1.4.

"We have to gang-rebound," Horn said. He called South Carolina "a team that has to do a lot of little things like boxing out and pursuing the ball."

Given South Carolina's poor shooting (No. 220 at 42.6-percent accuracy), there figure to be plenty of rebound opportunities in the SEC opener Saturday.

"Very important because we're not scoring the ball at a high rate," Horn said.

Kidd-Gilchrist update

Calipari said that doctors checked Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on Wednesday. But the coach said he had not yet consulted with the medical staff. UK sat Kidd-Gilchrist for portions of the second half against UALR. After the game, Calipari said the freshman had possibly strained a chest muscle in the victory over Louisville last weekend.

Calipari had expressed optimism that Kidd-Gilchrist would be able to play against South Carolina.

18 games

Calipari and Alabama Coach Anthony Grant indicated that they expect the SEC will move from 16 to 18 league games next season. The move will help accommodate the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M to the league.

Calipari expressed his opposition, saying more league games would make UK consider watering down the non-conference schedule. Calling Missouri and Texas A&M two top-25 programs, he voiced concern about "overloading the players or putting the program in jeopardy."

Hickey excels

Freshman point guard Anthony Hickey, the Hopkinsville native and Kentucky Mr. Basketball last season, has started every game for LSU. He leads the team in assists (55) and steals (35), while averaging 8.8 points and posting an assist-to-turnover ratio of 55-29.

"He's a fearless competitor," LSU Coach Trent Johnson said. "He's not afraid. I use that word cautiously. He's not afraid."Johnson noted that seniors Storm Warren, Malcolm White and Chris Bass, plus junior Justin Hamilton, give Hickey a security blanket of experience.

The LSU coach mentioned how Hickey must improve his shooting: 34.4 percent overall, 27.1 percent from three-point range and 56.7 percent at the foul line.

Noting the unforgiving nature of league play, Johnson said, "Everybody knows weaknesses and it gets exploited if you don't improve."

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