Kentucky-Baylor notes: Calipari admires Cats' steady play

jtipton@herald-leader.comMarch 24, 2012 

ATLANTA — If the NCAA Tournament South Regional championship game comes down to a battle of execution, Kentucky might be favored over Baylor.

Kentucky flashed its steadiness in the 102-90 victory over Indiana in Friday's semifinals. The Cats committed only six turnovers in that game, and have made more than 12 only once since Feb. 7.

"I trust these players," UK Coach John Calipari said Saturday. "Six turnovers. We scored 102 points. I trust them. I know they're going to make good decisions. The only time they don't, I leave them on the court too long."

Meanwhile, Baylor showed its inconsistent nature in its semifinal victory over Xavier. The Bears led by 18 mid-way through the first half. But twice inside the final 30 minutes, Xavier closed within three points before Baylor held on to win 75-70.

When asked if Baylor had to play better against Kentucky, forward Quincy Acy said, "Definitely, we have to be better for a full 40 minutes. It's going to be crucial for the front line to play well as well as our backcourt.

"They're a great team. They're well rounded, and so are we. We've got to get more consistency from everybody at the same time. And I think we'll be tough to beat."

Farewell performance?

Marquis Teague acknowledged that the UK team, as presently constructed, sees this NCAA Tournament as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"We know that," he said. "We're trying to finish off these last few games strong."

Calipari has noted that as many as seven UK players may be playing their final college seasons.

Not oblivious

After UK beat Indiana, Calipari noted that he wanted the Cats distracted by attending a movie. He didn't want the players watching other NCAA Tournament games.

"We do go to ESPN, of course," Terrence Jones said.

The Cats also get updates via texts.

"It makes the tournament smaller," Jones said of not getting immersed into the details.

When asked to name other teams in the Sweet 16 round, Jones noted North Carolina, Syracuse, Kansas, "us" and Baylor.

Of a potential Kentucky-Louisville game in the Final Four, Jones said, "Really packed." Then he added, "with blue."

Quincy Miller

Baylor freshman Quincy Miller seriously considered UK, and kept in recruiting contact with Calipari and assistant Orlando Antigua.

"I even asked for advice sometimes," he said. "How should I play?"

Mr. Clutch

Baylor point guard Pierre Jackson has been part of eight plays that resulted in go-ahead baskets, game-tying scores or winning shots.

"My will to win," he said in explaining his clutch play. "I really hate to lose."

Jackson led the College of Southern Idaho to the junior college national championship last season.

Coming to Atlanta, Jackson was Baylor's leading scorer (13.5 ppg) and a 41.9-percent three-point shooter.

Surprisingly, he shattered his right elbow as a freshman for Southern Idaho. Doctors inserted seven screws to hold the joint in place.

When asked if the screws cause a problem in airport security screening, Jackson said, "I just walk through airports. It doesn't beep."

Deceptive shooter

Brady Heslip, a 45.4-percent three-point shooter, acknowledged that his nondescript appearance (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) can deceive opponents. "For sure," he said.

Heslip, a native of Burlington, Ontario, admires another Canadian guard, Steve Nash. His father, Tom Heslip, was an all-Canadian player for the University of Guelph. Father taught son how to shoot.

Father must have taught him well. Heslip has made 34 of 36 free throws. His 94.4-percent accuracy would lead the nation if he had enough attempts to qualify for the NCAA rankings.

In the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, Heslip made 14 of 22 three-point shots. "He's lethal," Xavier Coach Steve Mack said before his team played Baylor on Friday.

'Fearless guys'

Heslip dismissed the notion of Baylor fearing UK.

"We have a bunch of fearless guys," he said. "Everybody's excited. It's going to be a battle, just a clash. I don't think we're fearing anything."

Baylor 'Blackout'

After wearing fluorescent green uniforms Friday night against Xavier, Baylor will wear specially made black uniforms called "Blackout" against UK.

Both the "Electricity" and "Blackout" uniforms are part of an Adidas promotion called "Adizero," Baylor spokesman Chris Yandle said.

Louisville and Cincinnati are also participating in the promotion. Adidas bills the uniforms as 30 percent lighter, plus more absorbent than regular uniforms, Yandle said.

"Our fans were not fans of them," Yandle said of the initial reaction to the "Electricity" uniforms. "Now we're 4-0 in them, people all of a sudden want the merchandise."

To complete the black-out effect, Baylor will wear black shoes and socks, Yandle said.

"The first time we wore them, people were laughing," Baylor's Perry Jones III said of the bright green uniforms. "Just to be honest. Laughing. Heckling."

Then Jones quipped, "It gives us a chance to make no-look passes to each other."

Etc.

■ About 400 UK fans watched the game against Indiana on the Kentucky Theatre's big screen, general manager Fred Mills said. The Kentucky will also show the Baylor game.

■ UK and Baylor have a common opponent. Each beat Mississippi State, UK winning 73-64 and Baylor 54-52.

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com

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