NCAA BK

Wed, Jan 8, 2014 - 8:00 PM ET
Game Preview
 

Mississippi St.-Kentucky Preview

Share This Story

   
 

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP)

Kentucky coach John Calipari made sure his young Wildcats spent a lot of time together over Christmas break improving weaknesses on offense and defense, while becoming more cohesive.

Calipari's hope is that the No. 14 Wildcats (10-3) are so tired of seeing him and each other in practice that they take out their aggression on Mississippi State (10-3) in Wednesday night's Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.

"I'm ready to see some new faces on the court," Kentucky freshman guard Andrew Harrison said Tuesday. "I wouldn't say I'm sick of (practice) and it's not over, but it's going to be fun to get out there and play against some new competition."

Kentucky hasn't played since beating No. 12 Louisville 73-66 on Dec. 28. The Wildcats now want to apply what they learned about passing, setting picks and defensive stances to the most important part of the season against a conference determined to humble their talented roster.

First up are the Bulldogs, who have won five of six and have matched last year's win total.

"It was really good for us as a team on the court and off the court to learn about each other spend more time together," Harrison's twin brother, Aaron, said. "I'm excited to get league play started. (The) SEC is great basketball, so I'm ready just to get everything going."

Calipari has consistently said that one of his biggest challenges with this highly praised freshmen class has been breaking bad habits from high school, particularly with their mental and physical approach to defense.

An ongoing process on offense is getting them to pass first instead of shoot when they have the ball and figuring how to create shots as they look for passes.

"It flips (the script) on them how they've always played," Calipari said. "The way they've played, and this is every high school player, is `I am going to score this ball and if I can't score it, I'm going to throw it to you. But before I do, I'm going to take one more look to see if I can score this thing.'

"The other way is, `I have it, I'm a passer and when I don't have it, I'm down ready to score now.' ... They're making strides. It's just getting them to think different."

To that end the coach used team bonding off the court with the goal of team building on it.

The Wildcats' extended break included regular team meals and outings around practice twice a day. Calipari has seen players grow closer and communicate more little by little, glimpses of which appeared down the stretch against Louisville.

Despite playing most of the second half without leading scorer Julius Randle (leg cramps), Kentucky stayed together and held off the Cardinals for their first win over a Top 25 team in four tries. Calipari has been trying to get the Wildcats to remember everything they did to seal that game and carry it over to SEC play.

"The Louisville game definitely opened our eyes that everyone has to play hard, play together and buy in to win," Aaron Harrison said. "That really helped our team confidence and all around."

Kentucky's next step is enhancing its self-esteem against MSU, which hasn't played the strongest schedule but is ahead of last season's pace under second-year coach Rick Ray.

Among the Bulldogs' victories is a 66-53 defeat of Florida Gulf Coast, which is nothing like last year's surprise team that reached the NCAA tournament round of 16 yet was significant for an MSU squad with just eight scholarship players. Five players scored in double figures in that game with sophomore guard Craig Sword (14.3 points per game, 57 percent field goal shooting) leading the way.

The Bulldogs are coming off Thursday's 77-63 victory over Maryland Eastern Shore, highlighted by a career-best 16 rebounds from sophomore forward Gavin Ware (11.2 points, 8.9 rebounds).

Ray believes his team will have to work harder on the boards against Kentucky's taller lineup, saying, "you can get a stop, but it's not a stop unless you get the rebound."

Sword went even further, adding, "we're just going to have to buckle down and play defense. We've got to compete on every possession."

Tagged: Louisville, Kentucky, Mississippi State

Related Stories

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by



NCAA BK Videos

Georgetown, Syracuse to renew CBK rivalry Posted: Jun 10, 2014
Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson III on the renewal of the rivalry betw...

Cuonzo Martin new head coach at Cal Posted: Apr 16, 2014
Cuonzo Martin is introduced as Cal's new head coach.

UConn tops Notre Dame in women's final Posted: Apr 09, 2014
Hear from Geno Auriemma and his players after their National Championship victor...

More Than Sports on MSN

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Nike Florida Gators #1 Replica Elite Basketball Jersey - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Florida_Gators/browse/featuredproduct/885881/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_885000/ff_885881_xl.jpg&w=100 74.95 Nike Florida Gators #1 Replica Elite Basketball Jersey - Black
    Nike Georgetown Hoyas #22 Hyper Elite Road Performance Jersey - Navy Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Georgetown_Hoyas/browse/featuredproduct/1030243/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1030000/ff_1030243_xl.jpg&w=100 119.95 Nike Georgetown Hoyas #22 Hyper Elite Road Performance Jersey - Navy Blue
    Nike Duke Blue Devils #5 Tourney Takeover Replica T-Shirt - Duke Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Duke_Blue_Devils/browse/featuredproduct/1032710/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1032000/ff_1032710_xl.jpg&w=100 27.95 Nike Duke Blue Devils #5 Tourney Takeover Replica T-Shirt - Duke Blue
    Nike Oregon Ducks X-Ray Ball T-Shirt - Green http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Oregon_Ducks/browse/featuredproduct/1052002/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1052000/ff_1052002_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Oregon Ducks X-Ray Ball T-Shirt - Green
    Nike Ohio State Buckeyes Road Warrior Tri-blend T-Shirt - Scarlet http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Ohio_State_Buckeyes/browse/featuredproduct/1052645/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1052000/ff_1052645_xl.jpg&w=100 29.95 Nike Ohio State Buckeyes Road Warrior Tri-blend T-Shirt - Scarlet
    Indiana Hoosiers 2013 NCAA Men\'s Basketball Road to March Madness T-Shirt - Crimson http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Indiana_Hoosiers/browse/featuredproduct/1124528/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1124000/ff_1124528_xl.jpg&w=100 19.95 Indiana Hoosiers 2013 NCAA Men\'s Basketball Road to March Madness T-Shirt - Cri..
    adidas Louisville Cardinals 2013 March Madness #10 Premier Swingman Jersey - Red http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Louisville_Cardinals/browse/featuredproduct/1127200/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1127000/ff_1127200_xl.jpg&w=100 89.95 adidas Louisville Cardinals 2013 March Madness #10 Premier Swingman Jersey - Red
    adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2013 March Madness #45 Premier Swingman Jersey - White http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Notre_Dame_Fighting_Irish/browse/featuredproduct/1127218/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1127000/ff_1127218_xl.jpg&w=100 89.95 adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2013 March Madness #45 Premier Swingman Jersey ..
    Nike Gonzaga Bulldogs March Madness Bracketville T-Shirt - Navy Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Gonzaga_Bulldogs/browse/featuredproduct/1155821/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1155000/ff_1155821_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Gonzaga Bulldogs March Madness Bracketville T-Shirt - Navy Blue
    Top of the World Miami Hurricanes 2013 NCAA ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament Champions Adjustable Hat – Green http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Miami_Hurricanes/browse/featuredproduct/1177723/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1177000/ff_1177723_xl.jpg&w=100 25.95 Top of the World Miami Hurricanes 2013 NCAA ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament Cham..