With four starters returning from a team that won 19 games last season, Rider Coach Tommy Dempsey does not expect his team to be fazed by Kentucky mystique or Rupp Arena.
"I have a tough-minded, tough-willed team," he said. "We won't back down from them. Our kids will go into the game with a mind-set that they can win."
Dempsey noted that many of his players are tough guys from Philadelphia and New Jersey. "Who are at least mentally up to the challenge," he said. "They won't be looking around. They'll be focused on the guys in the white jerseys and we'll try to go at them.
"Whether we're good enough, we'll find out. But I don't think our guys will back off an inch."
Dempsey noted how Rider plays with a chip on its shoulder. The team won 42 games the last two seasons and did not receive an NCAA Tournament nor NIT bid either year.
Rider had never received a vote in The Associated Press college basketball poll until appearing on seven ballots this week thanks to a Nov. 13 victory at Mississippi State.
"Nobody knows who we are," the coach said. "Nobody even knows where we are (Lawrenceville, N.J.) We're trying to get on the national radar."
A tough matchup
UK Coach John Calipari identified Ryan Thompson as a possible matchup problem. Thompson is a versatile 6-foot-5 player who handles the ball.
"I don't know if we'll put John (Wall) on him," Calipari said. "That may be one for Ramon (Harris) to play."
Calipari saluted Harris as UK's best perimeter defender at the moment. "If he makes a shot or two, he'll be playing 20 minutes a game," the UK coach said.
Thompson's older brother, Jason, played for Rider and now is with the Sacramento Kings.
"He's the most versatile player in our league," Dempsey said of Ryan Thompson, "and the pre-season player of the year in our league."
Thompson picked up two fouls in the first 3:11 at Virginia, which contributed to the 79-46 loss.
When asked why UK players did not talk more on defense, Calipari suggested that not everyone had bought into the system yet.
"Some of you want to battle me," he said of a coach-team conversation. "You're going to lose. I never lose."
Hood aping Gehrig?
Jon Hood had been nursing a wrist injury before playing for the first time Thursday. Perhaps to spur a speedy recovery, Calipari told the freshman of how Wally Pipp took a day off and got replaced by Lou Gehrig.
When asked if he knew who Pipp was, Hood told reporters, "The guy that nobody has heard about. Have you all heard about him?"
It was unclear if Calipari saw Hood as Pipp, whose desire to sit cost him his starting position, or as Gehrig, who went on to play 2,130 straight games.
"Since I was coming off the bench, I'd think Lou Gehrig," Hood said.
On to Mexico
All eight teams in the Cancun Challenge will play in Mexico next Tuesday and Wednesday.
The four teams that hosted two games this week will be in what tournament organizers call the "Riviera Division." Those teams are Kentucky, Stanford, Virginia and Cleveland State.
The four teams that played on the road will be in the "Mayan Division." Those teams are Rider, Sam Houston State, Oral Roberts and Florida A&M.