Kentucky hopes this early season's win-and-learn tour continues Tuesday night against Duke. It's a matchup of top-10 teams, but UK Coach John Calipari will be primarily watching one: No. 3 Kentucky.
"I don't have time, right now, to work on other teams," he said Monday. "... I have to figure out how to get our team better."
Freshman Archie Goodwin, the possible starting point guard with Ryan Harrow still fighting an undisclosed energy-sapping illness, must learn to contain impulses to create plays for himself that might be too, uh, adventuresome. Alex Poythress must let UK coaches define his game, which Calipari likened to a downsized Patrick Patterson.
At this early stage, UK will plug one hole and then address what future patching becomes necessary. Calipari duly noted Maryland's 28 offensive rebounds Friday and added rebounding drills in practice. Perhaps No. 8 Duke will give UK more to think about after the game in the Georgia Dome.
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Calipari spoke of a Catch-22 effect at this stage of development.
"One way to break habits is to do it over and over and over and over," Calipari said. "But you can't do 55 things a day over and over and over. If you shift to rebounding, something else has to give a little bit."
Calipari identified offensive efficiency as a potential problem area against Duke's signature over-playing defense.
"We didn't do anything offensively for two days, really," Calipari said. "That may hurt us now."
It can't be helpful if the starting point guard, Harrow, is sidelined. Calipari second-guessed himself for playing Harrow in Friday's 72-69 victory over Maryland, and said the transfer point guard should not play until he's 100 percent healthy.
Blood tests apparently failed to reveal Harrow's medical issue. "He doesn't have energy," Calipari said when asked to identify the problem. "We don't know."
If Harrow does not play, Goodwin may start at point guard. Goodwin acknowledged his limited experience. "I've played two-guard my whole life," he said before adding a moment later, "It shouldn't be too much of an adjustment. At the end of the day, I'm a basketball player."
With Harrow playing only 10 minutes against Maryland, the onus for guiding Kentucky down the stretch shifted to Goodwin. Calipari touted this as a good thing.
"We needed to see how Archie would do in that situation," the UK coach said. "We learned he got a little out of whack."
Calipari cited a charge and an ill-advised shot. All part of the learning process for Goodwin, whom the UK coach likened to Tyreke Evans (read: bold and effective penetration to the basket). Goodwin caught the eye of Duke senior big man Mason Plumlee.
"I was really impressed with the kid Goodwin," Plumlee said of the UK-Maryland game. "He really attacks the basket and gets to the line (9-11 free-throw shooting)."
Goodwin spoke of how he learned from the Maryland game. "All these guys can play, which I knew," he said.
Of course, rebounding presented itself in the Maryland game as a problem area. Calipari said he added several rebounding drills to Kentucky's practices. He made the aim sound like a back-to-basics fundamental.
"Being conscious of you follow the flight of the ball," he said. "Think sixth grade. It might be seventh grade."
As reporters chuckled, the UK coach took responsibility for the 54-38 beating the Cats took on the boards against Maryland. Calipari assumed Kentucky's size — a 7-footer, two 6-10 players and a sturdy Poythress (6-7, 239) — would make rebounding a given.
"No!" Calipari said. "If the guards take off (in transition) and they're wedging you under (the basket), and you're next to the cheerleaders, you're probably not going to get the ball. It's going to take time."
With the emphasis on self-improvement, the planning for Duke did not go into great depth, Calipari said. "I can't give my guys 30 (Duke) things to think about."
On the plus side, Kentucky learned that it could handle late-game situations against a determined opponent. With this UK team compared to the gritty, late-blooming Cats of 2010-11, that was a lesson Calipari enjoyed learning.
"They never got rattled," he said. "... I would tell you there's going to be a lot of games like that where it's in doubt with a minute and a half to go."
Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com