Gold, frankincense, myrrh … the Kentucky-Louisville game?
UK junior forward Marcus Lee suggested that the UK-U of L rivalry fits into the Christmas message of sacrificial offerings.
“It’s more of a gift to the state of Kentucky … ,” Lee said of Saturday’s renewal of the rivalry. “We do it to give back, especially (this year) during Christmas time.”
Lee, who is from Antioch, Calif., said he needed time to fully appreciate the Kentucky-Louisville rivalry.
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“I have the total story (now) … ,” he said. “It starts growing on you.”
But, that doesn’t mean the game should move players to veer from the standard routines and rhythms associated with preparation for opponents.
“It’s still just another game … ,” Lee said. “If you do something totally different, it’ll throw you off.”
Newcomer Tai Wynyard apparently made a winning first impression with UK teammates.
“He’s become one of my favorites already,” Lee said.
When asked how Wynyard, who joined the UK team last week, so quickly ingratiated himself with teammates, Lee said, “His accent is pretty awesome.”
Of course, Wynyard is from New Zealand.
“He’s just easy to talk to,” Lee said. “He was able to blend in with the team immediately. … He acted like one of us immediately.”
As for how much Wynyard can help the team on the court, Lee was coy.
“That’s for you all to figure out,” he told reporters. “You guys always do the analysis.”
Lee then noted Wynyard’s size (6-foot-10, 255 pounds).
“I think he’ll be able to help tremendously,” Lee said. “Having another ‘big’ always helps.”
Chip on shoulder?
After the loss at UCLA, Kentucky rebounded with an emphatic victory over Eastern Kentucky. This bit of redemption moved Alex Poythress to say afterward, “If you want to call us soft, then come play us.”
Apparently, the loss to Ohio State last weekend returned the same metaphorical chip on UK’s shoulder.
When asked about the loss to Ohio State putting an onus back on Kentucky, Lee said, “Definitely something we’re going to have to prove. We’re not the biggest ‘bigs.’ But that’s something we have to continuously prove. That we’re not soft, and we’re able to battle.”
In lauding his team’s ability to apply defensive pressure, UK Coach John Calipari said, “We put pressure on the ball as well as any team in the country.”
Time and score
Calipari said this latest freshman-dependent UK team needs to better appreciate time-and-score situations. Turnovers, defensive lapses and poor shot selection can be costly.
“We just have to clean it up a little bit,” Calipari said. “Getting them to understand what are the important plays.”
Calipari cited “eight or nine possessions” in each half against Ohio State that made a difference. He then called “three of four” in each half critical.
Kentucky must improve its execution at what Calipari called “winning time.” At this time, the improvements must come in shot selection and defensive intensity, he said.
▪ As of Thursday, Louisville had a Ratings Percentage Index of No. 14. UK was No. 20. UCLA was No. 65 and Ohio State No. 81.
▪ Tom McCarthy, Bill Raftery and sideline reporter Dana Jacobson will call the game for CBS.