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December 29, 2012

Notes: Handling Cards' pressure is key for Cats

For two weeks, Kentucky has prepared for Louisville's defensive pressure.

For two weeks, the Wildcats have worked for 10-15 minutes, each and every practice, on breaking full-court pressure and taking care of the ball.

"Hopefully it will pay off in the game," guard Jarrod Polson said.

It will be vital to pulling off an upset of No. 4 Louisville on Saturday.

The Cardinals hold opponents to a nation-best 0.80 points per possession, largely fueled by a nation-best plus-8.6 turnover margin.

Much of that comes from UofL's 11.9 steals per game. The Cards' two starting guards, Peyton Siva and Russ Smith, account for 5.1 of those per game.

"They really like to get up and pressure you, full-court press, pretty much all game," Polson said.

The key to beating the pressure? Being strong with the ball. Being in the right spots with the right spacing. Ball movement.

"You can't just be muddled up, because they leave and trap," coach John Calipari said. "But they do a great job of trying to muck up the game."

If UK limits Louisville's defense, it will also limit its offense; the Cards score 35 percent of its points off turnovers, according to ESPN's Jay Bilas.

Polson said UK will be ready to stare down the pressure because of their own preparation and because they've faced opponents, such as Marshall, that play like Louisville.

So far this season, Kentucky has done a good job handling the ball, committing 12.27 turnovers per game.

That's in part due to point guard Ryan Harrow's play. The sophomore has committed just five turnovers on the year.

"Aside from Ryan, we're all better (at taking care of the ball)," Calipari said, "but Ryan puts people in the right spots and he's really gotten better and better. This will be a great challenge for him because this is going to be a physical, body-on-body game. This is exactly what he needs."

Cats back from break
The rivalry game is Kentucky's first since returning from a three-day Christmas break, but Calipari doesn't expect to see rust.

"I think all the guys went back and worked out at least one or two of the days (over break)," Calipari said. "It's not going to be like you're at practice, but you're going to do some conditioning or shooting or something."

The Cats kept their basketball edge, but they also enjoyed the brief respite.

Shooting guard Archie Goodwin said his family conversations mostly steered away from the season "because they know I hear about it so much from every other person in the world."

Hood still recovering
Forward Jon Hood missed Kentucky's last game against Marshall with an upper respiratory infection.

He hadn't returned to the team as of Friday.

"We've kept him away from the team because I don't want anybody else catching it," Calipari said. "We've got a couple other guys who have got some colds now, so we've just tried to tell him to stay away until you're healthy and where nothing is contagious."

Calipari says he has 'no interest' in other jobs
There's a new coaching vacancy in the NBA after the Brooklyn Nets fired Avery Johnson this week, but it won't be Calipari filling the spot, he announced on his website.

He noted his numerous connections to the franchise and said the Nets have "become one of the premier organizations in the NBA."

"With that being said, I've got a great job at the University of Kentucky and I have no interest in any other job," Calipari said. "I love my job."

Calipari said he normally doesn't respond to rumors but wanted to prematurely stamp out any talk of him leaving for the Nets because "these are friends of mine" in the organization.

His relationship with them will, however, take his current team back to their building again. He announced Kentucky will play a game in the Barclays Center "for the next two years." The Wildcats played there for the first time in the season opener against Maryland.


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