Providence wary of Kentucky's 'attack mode'

jtipton@herald-leader.comNovember 30, 2013 

In terms of free-throw shooting, Sunday night's Kentucky-Providence game figures to be a battle of quantity and quality.

Kentucky averages a whopping 38.6 free throws per game. Providence makes 82.7 percent of its free throws.

Providence Coach Ed Cooley saw UK's frequent trips to the line as reflecting:

■ A good job of adapting to new officiating rules designed to lessen physical play and increase scoring.

■ A good use of quality talent.

Of UK shooting a free throw, on average, every 62.2 seconds, Cooley said, "That means they're in attack mode. When you have the level of athlete they have, they want to attack the basket. They want to get second shots. And they want to push the tempo in transition.

"So they have a lot of teams on their heels. And that's something we're going to have to deal with."

For UK Coach John Calipari, attack mode is business as usual. The more tightly called games play to a Kentucky modus operandi that calls for drives to the basket and post-up opportunities.

"We should be shooting 40 (or) 50 fouls a game," Calipari said. "We really should. And there will be games coming up we may shoot 60. If they keep calling (fouls), well, then shoot 60."

UK sophomore Alex Poythress acknowledged a conscious effort to put the onus on referees to make calls.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," he said. "They're going to call it, so we might as well put them in position to make the call."

Providence will look to limit Kentucky's offensive rebounds and transition opportunities.

"We want to make sure we're stingy," Cooley said, "and we're doing it without fouling and we're moving our feet.

"With the point of emphasis with the new rules, clearly they've taken advantage of that."

Cooley refused to say whether he favors the new officiating emphasis.

"It really doesn't matter what we as coaches think," he said. "It's what the NCAA is trying to do to have a more free-flowing game. I think it's something we all have to adjust to."

Then he added, "It's not something I'm accustomed to."

So far, Providence opponents have averaged only 17.8 free-throw attempts.

While Kentucky has improved its free-throw shooting (71.6-percent accuracy in the last four games), the Cats haven't been in Providence's class. The Friars ranked fourth nationally in accuracy according to NCAA statistics going into last week. Cooley noted the importance of having the right players at the line. But the five starters are making 85.5 percent of their free throws. The seven players averaging double-digit minutes have made 85.6 percent of their free throws.

Two players — Tyler Harris (94.4 percent) and Bryce Cotton (92.9) — lead the way.

"I'm always telling our team we're a good free-throw shooting team even if we're not," Cooley said. "You've got to put something positive into their thoughts as they get into the routine of shooting."

Statement game?

Providence (7-1) hasn't won an NCAA Tournament game since 1997. The Friars hope to make a statement against a high-profile opponent.

"Anytime you play a traditional name-brand basketball school like Kentucky and you're building a program like Providence," that's the case," Cooley said. "Everybody's excited to play the game. At the same time, we're not trying to make too big a deal out of it."

Statement game II?

Noting UK's habit of getting off to slow starts, Poythress said, "We just want to show how much we've gotten better. How we've made strides."

Road ready

The Cats apparently were eager to play away from Rupp Arena.

"Ready to travel," Poythress said with a smile. "Ready to see some different cities."

When asked what he remembered about visiting Brooklyn to start last season, Poythress said, "Not much. I remember it was cold.

"Other than that, I really haven't been to New York. That was my first time going to the north, period."

Etc.

■ Justin Kutcher and Bill Raftery will call the game for Fox Sports 1.

■ Raftery noted the important role point guard Kris Dunn plays for Providence. "If he makes plays, this is a confident group," Raftery said. Dunn has played in only four games this season. He sat out the Friars' game against Fairfield on Friday and is questionable for the UK game, Cooley said.


Sunday

When: 8:30 p.m.

Where: Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Records: Kentucky 6-1, Providence 7-1

Series: UK leads 1-0

Last meeting: UK won 79-78 on March 18, 1976, in the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden in New York.

TV: Fox Sports 1

Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1

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

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