Kentucky plays its first true road game of the season Wednesday at LSU. UK Coach John Calipari is not a road worrier.
“My concern is how we play,” he said at a news conference Tuesday. “Not where we play.
“I would play on I-95. Put two hoops up. Shut the traffic down for a couple hours. Let’s play.”
Whether in LSU’s Maravich Assembly Center or on an interstate highway, what Calipari wants to see is UK players sharing the ball on offense. He also wants to see players communicating with each other on defense.
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Not sharing the ball nor talking to teammates reflects an insecure player, Calipari said.
“You’re not comfortable in how you’re playing,” Calipari said of such a player. “You’re kind of into you. . . .
“It’s funny. The guys not worried about offense, the ball finds them. Guys who are really concerned about offense, it just looks bad. You can just see. Why did he do that?”
As for playing on an opponent’s home court for the first time, the Kiddie Cats will have to get used to it. Four of the next five games are on the road: at LSU on Wednesday, at Tennessee on Saturday, at Vanderbilt on Jan. 13 and at South Carolina on Jan. 16. The home game in that stretch figures to be a challenge: UK plays No. 11 Texas A&M next Tuesday.
Quade Green sounded ready to accept these challenges. When asked how he would approach the road games in Kentucky’s immediate future, he said, “win every game. That’s what everybody’s mindset should be.”
The game at LSU’s 13,215-seat arena is not a sellout. As of Tuesday, there were about 10,000 tickets sold, LSU said. As is customary for the first SEC home game, LSU will stage a “gold out” in which it asked fans to wear gold-colored clothing.
Calipari acknowledged that these games will challenge Kentucky. “There are no easy games when you go on the road,” he said.
But Calipari suggested that modern players are not as susceptible to jittery play in games on the opponent’s court as their basketball ancestors. He said it was a “totally different era” because youth basketball puts players in many pressurized situations.
Tai Wynyard, one of the few Wildcats who had experienced an SEC road game, said neutral-site games against Kansas and UCLA could serve as a form of preparation.
But, he added, “till we get there and experience it, we’re not going to actually know.”
With a broad smile that led to short bursts of laughter, Wynyard recalled fans yelling “slurs” and other attempts at discouragement at UK players.
“I don’t know what these guys have against us,” Wynyard said of the thought that crossed his mind in these moments. “What did I do to them to have them talk to me like that.”
Wynyard’s advice? Try not to pay much attention.
“When you’re warming up, you’re in your own mind,” he said. “That’s what I try to tell the freshmen. Keep positive. Keep in your own head. Don’t let anything they’re saying get to you.”
Green said the UK team, which is composed almost exclusively of freshmen or lightly tested sophomores, could depend on Calipari to guide it through a road game.
“It’s what he’s been doing,” Green said. “Teaching all year.”
No. 17 Kentucky at LSU
When: 8:30 p.m.
TV: SEC Network
Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1
Records: Kentucky 11-2 (1-0 SEC), LSU 9-3 (0-0)
Series: Kentucky leads 88-23
Last meeting: Kentucky won 92-85 on Feb. 7, 2017, in Lexington.