Cleveland St.-Kentucky Preview
Kentucky has so many offensive weapons at its disposal that sometimes it's difficult for opponents to figure out who to focus on.
The deep and balanced Wildcats take on Cleveland State in the Keightley Classic on Monday night at Rupp Arena.
Third-ranked Kentucky (4-1) has had a different leading scorer in each of the past three games, and four Wildcats are averaging at least 11.0 points, led by Julius Randle with 20.8.
Eight Kentucky players are averaging at least 5.6.
''We have a lot people who score, so if it's somebody's night we just try to give him the ball as much as we can," said freshman forward James Young, who had a team-high 26 points in a 105-76 victory over Texas-Arlington on Tuesday.
The Wildcats (4-1) may be an offensive powerhouse, but coach John Calipari wants his young roster to focus more on the other end of the floor. Kentucky starts five freshmen.
"We're trying to get them to play through a whole possession, stay in a stance," Calipari said. "Someone said, 'Wow, you guys got beat on the dribble.' Yeah, if you're standing straight up and down, it's pretty easy to get beat on the dribble. So we did a lot of things of keeping them in a stance. But again, when I watched the tape there's just not the effort."
The Wildcats do rank among the nation's leaders in rebounding at 49.0 per game. Against Texas-Arlington, Randle and Willie Cauley-Stein each had 10 boards, and Kentucky forced 16 turnovers which led to 24 points.
Still, the Mavericks shot 42.1 percent from 3-point range and their speed on the perimeter seemed to cause problems for Kentucky's backcourt.
Calipari thought his inexperienced team might have played down to its perceived level of competition.
"If a team's effort level is far beyond yours, it will smash a talented group. Just will," he said. "A less talented team that just fights like crazy will beat the talented team. So, my job right now is to get these guys to understand how hard they've got to play, what it's got to look like, and we're just not there."
Center Dakari Johnson, who had eight points and eight rebounds in 13 minutes, said the players are listening to Calipari.
"We're just trying to get better on the things we need to work on that we saw in the past games," Johnson said. "And that's just playing defense and getting stops."
Cleveland State (3-2) used a balanced attack to knock off Robert Morris 87-74 on Saturday. Only seven Vikings players scored but six reached double figures, led by Bryn Forbes with 18 points.
The Vikings fell behind 11-2 but scored 54 points in the second half to pull away.
Forbes leads Cleveland State with 19.6 points per game.
In the schools' only meeting, Kentucky defeated Cleveland State 73-49 on Nov. 24, 2009. Kentucky is 15-4 all-time against the Horizon League.