December 31, 2011

Notebook: Breaking Louisville's press could turn game

If Louisville breaks out its trademark press, there are still questions about how Kentucky will handle it.

On the one hand, freshman point guard Marquis Teague has proven steady of late, but has struggled at times this season. Perhaps no time did he struggle more than in a high-profile rivalry game against a press.

"Hopefully (he'll handle Louisville) better than he handled Indiana the beginning of the game," Kentucky head coach John Calipari said.

Teague had four assists and three turnovers while going 0-5 from the field in the first half against Indiana. He bounced back in the second half to go 6-6 from the field in the second half while committing no turnovers.

As in the Indiana game, Teague will be matched up with a veteran point guard in Louisville's Peyton Siva. But Teague said he's expecting a far more physical game this time around. He said Kentucky is focusing on passing through the press rather than dribbling to break the pressure.

Breaking Louisville's press could change the complexion of the game. If the Wildcats can force Louisville into halfcourt sets defensively, it will take away some easy scoring chances they're normally afforded thanks to their attacking defense.

"They're good at making the point guards turn the ball over," Teague said. "It causes a lot of turnovers that leads to a lot of buckets for them."

If the Wildcats can break the press, though, plenty of scoring opportunities should present themselves. That would likely leave a mismatch under the basket and an easy assist opportunity for whoever can get the ball up the court.

"I think we need to work on breaking their press," Teague said. "After we break their press we'll be able to score."

Calipari wasn't as confident. He still sees some questions to be answered.

"I imagine at some point in the game they'll start pressing, face guard deny," Calipari said. "We'll have to see how we do."

Miller's stroke returns

Senior swingman Darius Miller may have broken out of his shooting slump just in time.

Miller is shooting 31.3 percent from 3-point range on the year, but went 4-6 from long distance in Kentucky's 86-64 win over Lamar on Wednesday. That was his second-best performance of the season from 3-point range, trailing only a 4-5 performance against Portland on Nov. 26.

"I never really lost confidence in my shooting," Miller said. "I've just been putting in some time, getting everything right."

He's still shooting the lowest 3-point percentage of his career, but thinks he's moving in the right direction.

Miller said previously he thought he was hurrying his shot after trying to adjust his jumper to a quicker release. He went too far with it, though, and had to relax a little more. So he went back to work and put some extra shots up after practice in an effort to make things right.

"It paid off," he said.

He's also been more assertive on offense recently, scoring in double figures in each of Kentucky's last four games. That's the kind of confidence Calipari likes to see from one of his most experienced players, particularly in big games.

"He was pretty aggressive against these guys a year ago," Calipari said. "Matter of fact, it was probably the difference in the game the way he played."

Behanan's big shot

Louisville freshman Chane Behanan has turned heads this season with his play and his bold statements. He predicted the Cardinals would go undefeated this season earlier this month - before they lost to Georgetown on Wednesday, 71-68.

He'll get the chance on Saturday to play against one of his friends from high school when he meets Kentucky's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Kidd-Gilchrist said he didn't know Behanan well, but they became acquainted while attending some of the same camps while in high school.

And if the two find themselves matched up on Saturday?

" I'm fine with that," Kidd-Gilchrist said. "I'm going to play my game, he's going to play his game."

Calipari recruited Behanan, a Bowling Green native, as well as Kidd-Gilchrist. He saw similarities in the two in high school. Kidd Gilchrist is 13.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists and just over one block and one steal a game. Behanan is averaging 8.7 points and 8 rebounds for the Cardinals.

"I thought (Behanan) was a skilled, strong, physical player that could play inside and out," Calipari said. "The kind of guy that in the way we play, you're a 3-4 and you're not going to play under the goal, but you can play there if we need you there - Michael Gilchrist - but you're going to play on the perimeter."

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