Kentucky-Notre Dame notes: Unique challenges await Cats in South Bend

jtipton@herald-leader.comNovember 28, 2012 

Kentucky head coach John Calipari shouted to Willie Cauley-Stein in the second half of the Long Island at Kentucky men's basketball game at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., on Friday Nov. 23, 2012. Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff

In assessing the challenge of playing at Notre Dame on Thursday, Kentucky Coach John Calipari noted:

■ The atmosphere. Notre Dame is staging a "blackout" in which fans will wear black. It will be the first game on an opponent's court for this latest freshman-oriented UK team.

"We don't know what we're going to get from our guys," Calipari said Wednesday.

When asked if the season opener against Maryland in the Barclays Center helped prepare UK for a road game, Calipari said, "It wasn't the same. (The Terps) probably had 60 percent (of the crowd). We still had 40 (percent)."

At Notre Dame?

"We may have 40 people in the building," Calipari quipped. "... This will be a new experience for them. I'm anxious to see how they respond."

■ Three-point shooting. Notre Dame made a season-high 12 three-pointers (in 22 attempts) in beating Chicago State on Monday.

"If they do that (Thursday), we'll be coming home with a 'L,'" Calipari said.

■ The Irish figure to play some zone against UK, he said.

On Tuesday, Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey emphasized the need to keep a body on UK's big men.

The only time the Irish faced a tall front line this early season, the result was a 79-70 overtime loss to St. Joseph's, he said.

Lobs to the basket are UK's post feeds, hence the need to keep a body on the big men, Brey said.

'Rock solid'

Notre Dame junior point guard Eric Atkins started 38 games going into this season. That experience might be a reason why he's had 17 assists and no turnovers the past two games, 26 assists and two turnovers in the past three and an assist-to-turnover ratio of 47-11 this season.

"So rock solid," Brey said of Atkins. "... He's just really become a quarterback, an extension of me out there, running our team and keeping it simple. So there's a steadiness there."

Asked the difference between his play this season and when he was a freshman, Atkins said, "My confidence. I think I'm a very confident player, now. Coach Brey did a great job giving me that confidence."

Atkins acknowledged bearing the brunt of criticism from Brey and older teammates in previous seasons.

"Ben Hansbrough screamed at me as much as Coach Brey would," he said. "I had to understand where he was coming from. It was his fifth year. He wanted to win every single game, and win by 20."

Harrowing experience

Ryan Harrow noted how he annually gets ill this time of year. That trend began when he was a high school senior and collapsed during a game, he said. He required hospitalization, which included four IVs.

Harrow said he fell ill this time a year ago when he sat out the 2011-12 season as a transfer from North Carolina State.

"I wasn't at practice for a week," he said. "Nobody (among fans and media) was worried about where I was at that time."

Harrow tried vainly to prevent a reoccurrence. "I even got a flu shot this year to try to help prevent it," he said.

Welcome back

Harrow thanked teammates for telling him that he was wanted and needed. "That's what makes me feel good," he said.

Bad timing

ESPN analyst Dick Vitale apparently said on the telecast of the Indiana-North Carolina game Tuesday night that Calipari had texted him saying Kentucky would be willing to play the Hoosiers.

"That was almost three weeks ago," Calipari said. "He texted me (saying), 'What about this?' I said, 'Yeah, we'll play them in the Barclays Center.'

"So I was in bed (Tuesday night). I was sleeping during the game."

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

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