UK Men's Basketball

It's a Heel of a challenge for Cats

After struggling with pace against Virginia Military Institute, Kentucky faces the uncomfortable proposition of light speed at North Carolina.

"They're faster than VMI," UK Coach Billy Gillispie said of the Tar Heels. "I didn't think VMI was fast from one end to the other. They shot it fast.

"As far as speed with athletes, it's not comparable."

Point guard Ty Lawson triggers North Carolina's transition game. He can dish to a group of finishers that include 1,000-point scorer Wayne Ellington and sharp-shooter Danny Green (37.3-percent accuracy on three-pointers last season).

Gillispie lauded Carolina's wedding of athletes and system.

"It's one thing to run," he said, "and another thing to run and make plays."

The UK coach suggested that North Carolina Coach Roy Williams deserved praise for recruiting athletes who excel in the up-tempo system.

"I don't know if anybody, maybe in the history of the game, has done a better job of consistently doing that," Gillispie said.

That dovetails uncomfortably into UK's need to improve its transition defense. And the Cats must reduce the 25 turnovers, which led to VMI's 38-22 edge in points off turnovers.

"The biggest problem is transition defense (which was) as bad as I've ever seen," Gillispie said. "We didn't communicate. We didn't help each other out."

Gillispie said that VMI's early shooting panicked the Cats.

"We didn't help each other enough," he said. "We got by ourselves defensively."

When asked to contemplate the same transition defensive lapses against North Carolina, Gillispie said, "It won't be pretty.

"But," he added, "we'll be better."

Points need help

Gillispie acknowledged that UK must nurse along its point guards.

"We understand we're going to have a tough time at that spot till we gain experience," he said. "We have to help them."

Starter Michael Porter and backup DeAndre Liggins combined for six assists and 12 turnovers against VMI.

"Michael was a little nervous," Gillispie said of Porter, who had all five of his turnovers in the first half. "I didn't really expect that because I didn't see it all year."

As for Liggins, a highly regarded freshman, Gillispie called him "an inexperienced player who is going to have times when he plays like an inexperienced player.

"For the most part, they made really good plays, especially DeAndre."

UK 'not quick'

Gillispie called for UK to play at a quicker clip this season. But he seemed to suggest that the Cats aren't ideally suited for speed.

"We're not a very quick team," he said.

When asked if VMI had superior quickness, Gillispie said, "VMI was quite a bit quicker than us."

VMI is good

Williams on VMI's victory over Kentucky: "VMI would have beaten us, also. It's an easy deal for me to say. We would not have beaten VMI if they come in here and played us like that. They were sensational."


UNC enjoys a big edge in experience. Even without Tyler Hansbrough's 107 career starts, the Tar Heels had a collective 248 starts going into this season. UK had 74. ... Hansbrough had not missed a game in his college career until this season's opener against Penn. ... Dan Shulman, Dick Vitale and sideline reporter Erin Andrews will work the game for ESPN.