UK Men's Basketball

Cats continue to learn in lopsided win over Coppin

The Coppin cruise is over, now time to cram.

Time to re-educate. That's the thing about being Kentucky and having a perpetually young team, no matter how talented. Year-to-year, you have to teach some things all over again. Crack open the books and start anew.

And in the first half of Kentucky's 91-61 romp over Coppin State at Rupp Arena, John Calipari presented a teachable moment.

He played a zone defense.

Not a lot of zone, mind you, and it was difficult to figure out exactly what sort of zone. A 2-3 zone perhaps; maybe a 3-2? And Cal didn't play a lot of zone in that first half. But the man who almost always sticks to man-to-man defense, did play zone.

Why, you ask.

It's Kentucky-Louisville week, that's why.

"What does a zone do?" Calipari asked the media afterward in his post-game news conference. "It slows the game down."

Only Cal said it this way: "It ... slows ... the ... game ... down."

Calipari said he doesn't like it when the game is slowed down. He doesn't like to watch that kind of basketball. He doesn't like to coach that kind of basketball. But sometimes you have to play that kind of basketball.

"We have a game coming up Friday," Calipari said. "Maybe we want the game to be slower, do what Drexel did."

Meaning: Do what Drexel did when it handed Louisville its only loss to date.

Friday, of course, Kentucky plays Louisville.

But then you knew that.

(Think Calipari was trying to throw in a little wrinkle for Rick Pitino to consider?)

Welcome to the week where both teams claim that it's just another game, then proceed as if it's anything but just another game.

Do Kentucky's freshmen know that?

Monday, Doron Lamb said he knew that Kentucky and Louisville "hate each other." Tuesday night, after scoring 17 points in the UK win, he sang a different tune, saying that the team hadn't talked much about the Cards.

After all, Big Blue's youth crew hasn't been around long enough to develop any sort of hate for the cross-state rival. Brandon Knight's from Florida. All he hates is rain. Terrence Jones is from Portland. All he hates are long plane rides. And pre-game. Lamb is from New York. All he hates is snow.

"I got out before the snow," the rookie from Brooklyn said.

The fans are into the hate things. The players are into the game itself. And the tune-ups for the game are done.

Monday night, Louisville made a ridiculous 17 of 23 three-pointers on the way to mauling Morgan State 104-74. Over its last two games, U of L has made 33 of 53 threes.

One night later, Kentucky made 74.1 percent of its second-half shots on the way to clocking Coppin.

The Cats led by 21 at the half, their largest intermission lead of the season. They were up by as many as 39 in the second half. They battered the visitors on the boards 43-22. The Cats were credited with 21 assists. Knight led the way with eight.

"They shared the ball more than I thought they would," said the legendary Coppin coach Fang Mitchell, who said of his own team, "We didn't show."

Here in the commonwealth, the real show is Friday. Noon tip, on CBS.

Calipari said he was treating the preparation like any other game, because all games are important. He said it was a road game against a ranked team, and those are always hard to win. He said he just didn't want the game to turn dirty.

He also said he just wanted his team to learn from whatever happened on Friday.

"Are we up for it? I don't know," Calipari said. "We're going to find out, though, because it will be a war. And it's on the road and it's a ranked opponent. And so it's the next challenge for us to find out what we're made of and what we are, and really learn from the game."

Let the education begin.

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