In a game of H-O-R-S-E, Portland can shoot with Kentucky. If height matters, Portland can match Kentucky inch for inch.
But having to replace the all-conference point guard who led his team to upset victories over UCLA and Minnesota last season, Portland Coach Eric Reveno fretted about his team competing "in a game where controlling the ball and handling pressure could be critical."
Kentucky will be the more athletic team in Friday night's game, Reveno said. The Cats figure to pressure Portland. The Pilots are counting on junior Eric Waterford, a former backup, to handle the pressure. He missed six weeks last season because of a broken hand.
His backups are freshman Tim Douglas, who had a team-high seven turnovers in the first three games, and junior college transfer Derrick Rodgers, who did not have an assist.
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"One of the things important for us, period, and will be critical Friday is taking care of the basketball," Reveno said. "If we take care of the basketball and are able to get back and get the defense set, then we have a chance."
Portland had 43 turnovers in its first three games.
When asked how he thought Portland would fare if Kentucky forces a lot of turnovers, Reveno said, "I don't envision a scenario where we turn it over a ton and still do OK."
Less than three minutes into the opener against East Tennessee State, UK center Josh Harrellson picked up two fouls and went to the bench.
When asked how he could avoid early foul trouble, he said, "Just play smart.
"The last game I was so anxious to actually play, finally, I committed a couple of dumb fouls."
Harrellson conceded that Kentucky is a small team other than himself and transfer Eloy Vargas. "I think (opponents) will definitely come after me and Eloy and try to get us out early," he said.
Luke Sikma, the son of former NBA star Jack Sikma, plays power forward for Portland. Reveno noted the younger Sikma's knack for rebounding and ability to find open teammates with passes.
"He doesn't have the 'Sikma move,' " Reveno said of the quirky shot mechanics his father used. "I wish he shot it more. He's got the Sikma jump hook. He jab-steps with his foot, then shoots a jump hook."
The elder Sikma, now an assistant coach with the Houston Rockets, held the ball behind his head before shooting.
Let's play three
In exchange for the game in the Rose Garden, Portland agreed to play at Kentucky the next two seasons. This deal led Reveno, a graduate of Stanford, to recall a saying about climbing Mount Fuji he heard while playing professionally in Japan.
"A wise man does it once," he said. "A fool does it twice."
In the only other meeting, UK beat Portland 88-71 in the 1989-90 season. ... This is UK's first game in the state of Oregon. ... Carter Blackburn and Sean Farnham will call the game for ESPNU.