After injuries sidelined his best big man and leading scorer, Central Michigan Coach Ernie Zeigler became philosophical.
"In sports, you either are building or sustaining," he said. "Either way, you have to deal with the adversity that comes along and use that to build character and have a team come together."
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By that standard, Central Michigan (3-8) could present Kentucky with a tight-knit opponent full of high-character players.
Injuries to big man Marcos Spica and Chris Kellermann left Central Michigan struggling to re-invent itself.
Zeigler used such words as "re-assess" and "re-evaluate" to describe his task. "Trying to establish an identity and change the culture," he said. "Right now, we're a team just struggling to get some continuity."
Spica originally signed with UCLA, where Zeigler worked as an assistant. When he failed to meet UCLA's academic standards, he transferred to Central Michigan.
Spica, a native of Serbia, made the All-Mid-American Conference freshman team two years ago and seemed primed for a big season. But he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in pre-season practice and is lost for the season.
"A huge blow for us," Zeigler said. "He's arguably the best post player in our conference."
Kellermann, a 6-foot-8 forward with three-point shooting range, fractured his right foot two weeks ago. He was leading the Chippewas in scoring at 14.4 ppg.
Without Spica and Kellermann, Central Michigan relies even more on Zeigler's signature pressure defense.
"We have to be a very good defensive team," the Central Michigan coach said. "We have to control tempo and make teams uncomfortable in how they want to play in terms of pressuring the ball and forcing turnovers."
That sounds a lot like ... Kentucky. So nothing would please Zeigler more than a nothing-comes-easy game in Rupp Arena.
"Without question," he said.
Central Michigan has paid a price for Zeigler's emphasis on pressure defense. The Chippewas get called for a lot of fouls: second most in the nation last season and third most two seasons ago.
So far this season, opponents have made more free throws (253) than Central Michigan has shot (209). Detroit Mercy made 29 of 33 in winning 67-55 at Central Michigan last week to snap a 19-game road losing streak.
"It's a fine line," Zeigler said of the fouls and the pressure defense. "Sometimes we've been a little overzealous. And sometimes the officials anticipate a call when they see a high level of intensity."
Fans who like to see defensive intensity diluted by offensive skill and human interest could be drawn to Central Michigan.
Guard Robbie Harman came to Central Michigan as a baseball player (shortstop and outfielder). An All-State player in football, basketball and baseball at Traverse City (Mich.) High (former Chippewa hero Dan Majerle's alma mater), he walked on the basketball team.
After two seasons as a walk-on, Harman earned a scholarship. He led the MAC in three-point shooting last season and so far this season has made 30 of 91 shots from beyond the arc.
As Central Michigan seems to play the pressure defense UK wants, so Harman sounds like a player UK Coach Billy Gillispie would appreciate.
"Definitely one of our glue guys," Zeigler said of Harman. "He's the toughest guy on our team. ... He's just a scrappy, tough kid who loves to play basketball and play it the right way."
Time setfor Louisville game
The UK-Louisville game at Freedom Hall on Sunday, Jan. 4 will start at 4:30 p.m., CBS Sports confirmed.
The game time was determined after the NFL playoff schedule was released Sunday.
CBS will broadcast the Baltimore-Miami game at 1 p.m.