John Clay

John Clay: Calipari's comments, Pitino's prickliness mean its UK-U of L week

Kentucky guard Marquis Teague drove the lane for two of his 14 points in an 82-50 win over Samford on Tuesday. Teague has made progress in the past month despite a recent blip against Loyola.
Kentucky guard Marquis Teague drove the lane for two of his 14 points in an 82-50 win over Samford on Tuesday. Teague has made progress in the past month despite a recent blip against Loyola. Herald-Leader

As they say on the beverage commercial, here we go.

It's Kentucky-Louisville week, as if you didn't know.

Surely you could tell by Kentucky Coach John Calipari's surgical-strike comments about full-court pressing teams that grab and pull and bite, and his under-the-skin insinuations about teams that spend Christmas Day on the practice court.

Maybe John had a little too much holiday turkey.

Or maybe it hit you on Friday night when a temperamental Louisville coach Rick Pitino snapped at someone inquiring about his holiday schedule — "That's none of your business" — then stated on his post-game radio show that if his undefeated team didn't get better, and quick, it could take a pair of losses this week.

Maybe Rick wasn't finished with his holiday shopping.

That's the thing, this may be the week, but there's plenty of work before the game on Saturday.

In fact, both teams have other games to get to first. Both play on Wednesday night. Third-ranked Kentucky entertains the Fighting Pat Knights of Lamar in Rupp Arena. Fourth-ranked Louisville opens its Big East conference schedule against Georgetown at the Yum Center.

"We have to get really good execution defensively to get ready for Georgetown," Pitino said Thursday after his team had to rally from 13 points down in the first half to beat a 4-9 Western Kentucky 70-60. "We have to get the whole team playing better."

Not that Calipari's young Cats are a finished product.

"When we click and we come together and we're all playing aggressive and we're all bouncing and talking and all making easy plays, this stuff gets crazy," he said after Thursday's win over Loyola of Maryland. "We're not close to that right now."

A healthy, motivated Terrence Jones would be a step in that direction, no doubt. The sophomore has been a victim of bad play and bad luck, of late.

There was that mysterious listless performance at Indiana where Jones produced just four points in UK's lone loss. Any ideas of a fierce bounce-back were shelved four minutes into the Chattanooga game at Rupp when the sophomore dislocated the pinky on his shooting hand.

Calipari smartly kept Jones out of the Samford and Loyola games last week, but the guess here is the forward will be on the floor Wednesday night. He could use some confidence restoration before the Cards come calling.

His teammates just need a little polishing.

Point guard Marquis Teague may have taken a step back in his assist-to-turnover ratio (three assists/four turnovers) against Loyola, but the freshman has demonstrated floor-game progress over the past month.

Doron Lamb had posted five straight double-figure games before his nine-point effort last week.

Calipari is still harping on Darius Miller to grab more loose balls.

Anthony Davis is swatting everything in sight, but his post moves on offense are still under construction.

As for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, it's hard to find much fault with someone who plays so hard and gets so many things done.

"He's dragging us," said Calipari on Thursday.

It may have seemed like the time dragged before the earth revolved its way around back to this year's UK-U of L. Kentucky has won two in a row, including a 78-63 victory last season in the rivalry's Yum Center debut.

If the rankings hold, this would be the first time since 1993-94 — Kentucky was ranked No. 2; Louisville No. 7 — that the two teams were in the top 10 when they met.

It would be their first meeting in which both teams were ranked in the top five.

Here we go, indeed.

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