Much to John Calipari's chagrin, Kentucky played an effective 2-3 zone for much of the final six minutes of Monday night's 125-40 exhibition victory over Morehouse College.
"I hate to say this: We looked like a pretty good zone team," the UK coach said.
Kentucky's length makes a zone plausible. Calipari noted that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's 7-foot wingspan makes for an exceptionally long player on the front line of a zone.
So why did Calipari lament the possibility of UK being effective in a zone? Because teams are better perfecting one defense rather than using multiple approaches, he said. Calipari prefers man-to-man.
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Noting that Syracuse, Temple under John Cheney and Arizona State are identified with zone defense, Calipari said, "If they have to do man-to-man or press, they're not as good."
Not that Kentucky will abandon its zone.
"As a change-up defense, that could be something we look to," Calipari said. "I doubt it. But we might."
Calipari did not see as coincidental Kidd-Gilchrist's insertion into the starting lineup and UK's blazing start against Morehouse. That means either senior Darius Miller or sophomore Doron Lamb will come off the bench. Miller started the first half, Lamb the second.
"You all understand, it's not going to be Michael," said Calipari, who welcomed the Miller-Lamb competition.
Calipari suggested UK might decide game by game whether to start Miller or Lamb.
"It's a nice problem to have," he said.
Polson goes big
The combination of UK's zone and cartoonish lead led to Jarrod Polson playing along the backline of a 2-3 zone.
"I don't think I've ever played there," he said. "Even in high school."
Calipari saluted Polson's sober-minded judgment. The sophomore does not take shots even though the crowd implores him to launch.
"Jarrod Polson can play because he doesn't hurt you," the UK coach said. "... He's longer than you think. He's 6-3. He can go in and dunk the ball."
Polson suggested the crowd doesn't urge him to shoot quite as much as last season. "That's a good sign," he said. "I'm in there more when it counts."
Polson's status as fan favorite showed with 2:47 left in the first half. The crowd booed an inconsequential foul on Polson with the Cats ahead 67-9.
"That just shows how crazy the fans are," Polson said.
One of the biggest cheers came late in the game when walk-on Sam Malone dribbled down in transition, made a move and banked in a shot over Morehouse starting center Andrae Nelson.
When asked if he'll someday tell his children about his first basket for UK, Malone said, "I'm going to tell them I put it through my legs and dunked it."
UK second choice
The online gambling site Bodog lists North Carolina as the 7-2 favorite to win the 2012 national championship. UK was the second choice at 9-2.
Bodog made Ohio State the third choice at 15-2 followed by Duke at 10-1. UConn, Louisville and Syracuse were 12-1 choices.
After UK, the next-best odds for a SEC team are Florida and Vandy at 20-1 each.
Bodog made UNC's Harrison Barnes a 7-4 favorite to be Player of the Year. Jared Sullinger of Ohio State is the second choice at 5-2 with Jeremy Lamb of UConn at 5-2.
Long shots at 25-1 include Terrence Jones of UK and Tyler Zeller of UNC.
Morehouse Coach Grady Brewer invited his team's most famous fan, noted film director Spike Lee, to attend the game. Because of a previously scheduled engagement, Lee could not attend the game.
The Morehouse players felt Lee's absence, Brewer said.
"The kids know he's an alum," Brewer said. "They really want to play hard for him."
Lee's rooting interest in the New York Knicks is well documented. He brings passion when he attends a few Morehouse games each season.
"He's one of our biggest fans," Brewer said, "but he's also one of our biggest critics. ... He's very inspiring to the kids. They know they have to bring their 'A' game."
Besides cheering for his favorite teams, Lee "wants basketball played the right way," Brewer said.
After the rout, Brewer said, "I will hear from Spike. If it's what I want to hear, I don't know. But I will hear from Spike, trust me."