Missouri Coach Kim Anderson acknowledged after Thursday's foul-fest against Kentucky that his team wanted to play a physical style of basketball in its second meeting with the Cats.
It's nothing new to UK, and Coach John Calipari agreed after the Cats' 69-53 victory that physical play will continue to be the "M.O." of opponents.
Calipari said the reason is that these Cats are young, and he mentioned one freshman in particular.
"Karl Towns was so good in the first half and then just started fading away and didn't attack the glass the same way," Calipari said. "I don't know, but I thought in the first half, 'Wow.' If that's who he is ..."
Towns has averaged 5.3 points and 2.5 rebounds over the past four games as teams continue to throw bodies at him in the post.
He established his presence there in the opening minutes of Thursday's game, using good position in the paint to take the ball right at Missouri's defenders.
UK assistant coach John Robic agreed with Calipari on Friday, giving Towns high marks for his post play early in the game while wishing he could sustain that same presence throughout.
"(He) held his position much deeper into the paint," Robic said. "When he's aggressive like that and goes and catches the ball with two hands, catches it in tight, we like that.
"We just don't like when he fades away or settles for getting post position off the block. That doesn't do us any good, and our spacing is terrible. But he knows, and he's working at it."
Robic noted that Towns is still young and largely unaccustomed to banging around with similar-sized opponents.
To his point, Towns was such an inside-outside player in high school that he broke his school's single-season record for three-pointers as a freshman. He played more in the paint as his career progressed, but he never regularly matched up against the type of players he sees now.
"So I'm sure it's a new thing," Robic said, "playing against someone near or at the same size you are, not only in the games but in practice every day when you're going up against the bigger players on our team.
"It's only going to help him, and it's helped our entire team. Because practice has been competitive. It just hasn't translated to games."
Thursday's victory over Missouri marked the third straight game that UK has attempted fewer than 10 three-pointers. That happened only once in the Cats' first 17 games this season (seven vs. Providence back on Nov. 30).
In the seven games preceding this current run, UK made 61 of 138 three-pointers (44.2 percent).
The Cats are still shooting it well from long range over the last three contests — 9-for-22 (40.9 percent) — and Robic said Friday that the lack of threes as of late has not been by design.
"If they're open, we want to shoot them," he said.
Robic noted that Missouri played man-to-man defense against the Cats all night Thursday, leading to just seven three-point attempts.
Saturday's opponent, Alabama, played exclusively zone defense in its matchup with UK two weeks ago. The Cats attempted 17 threes in that game — making eight of them.
A similar defensive strategy by Alabama on Saturday could mean a return to the three-ball for Kentucky.
"We just have to go with how the game is flowing and take open shots from there," Robic said.
This will be UK's only Thursday-Saturday turnaround in conference play, a bother that was compounded by a 9 p.m., road game on the front end.
Robic said the team returned to Lexington at about 1:40 a.m., Friday and was to go through a light workout Friday evening to prepare for Alabama.
He declined to use the short window between games as an excuse should the Cats come out flat.
"These kids are used to playing AAU basketball — playing four or five times a day," Robic said. "That's the good thing about playing as many players as we're playing is that they should be somewhat OK physically."
Key player sidelined
Alabama junior guard Ricky Tarrant will miss Saturday's game due to a "lower leg injury," Coach Anthony Grant announced Friday.
Tarrant is the Tide's second-leading scorer (13.1 points per game) and is tied for the team lead with 29 three-pointers, though he's shooting just 29.9 percent from long range.
Dave Neal, Darrin Horn and sideline reporter Kaylee Hartung will call the game for the SEC Network.