Each and every game, CoachCal.com will talk with assistant coach John Robic about Kentucky’s plan of attack. Coach Robic is responsible for scouting the opposition. Without giving away too much of the game plan, Robic will tell us his keys to the game, an important matchup and who Kentucky has to watch for on the opposing team.
Robic: They’re a good team, obviously. I think that their older players have stepped up. Gorgui Dieng has gotten a lot better and is really improved. He’s night and day from last year. He’s more of a force. Kyle Kuric is playing at a high level. He’s their veteran and he’s a heck of a player for a walk-on. Both Smiths (Russ and Chris) are playing really well. And then Chane Behanan gives them a physical force that they were lacking last year. Kuric played the four last year and Jared Swopshire was hurt. They’re still going through some injuries this year with Wayne Blackshear out and Stephan Van Treese out. They’d be really, really good if everyone was healthy, but Rick Pitino is doing a good job.
CoachCal.com extras: Facts are facts, and Louisville is 12-1 and ranked No. 4 in the country. Say what you want about how the Cardinals have won, but they’ve beaten Vanderbilt and Memphis, two very good teams, without key players. What Louisville has yet to prove is what it can do on the road. The Cards’ lone road game of the year was a 69-53 victory at Butler. Louisville features a mix of experience and youth. Pitino starts two seniors, a junior, a sophomore and a freshman.
What: No. 3/3 UK (12-1) vs. No .4/4 Louisville (12-1)
When: Saturday, noon
Where: Rupp Arena (23,000)
Game notes: UK | Louisville
Pregame feature: Just another game? Cal and the Cats say so
Video interviews: Calipari, Davis and Miller
Head coach: Rick Pitino (257-97 at Louisville)
Conference: Big East
Player to watch: Peyton Siva (9.5 points, 6.4 assists, 2.8 rebounds)
Series history: UK leads 28-14
Last meeting: UK won 78-63 last season
1. Get the ball inbounds against the press
2. Get the ball up the court against the press
3. Be strong with the ball and limit turnovers
Robic: Louisville runs the same type of pressure as they usually do. Maybe it’s not as much press as some people are accustomed to, but at times they’ll give a flurry of it for three, four, five, six minutes and then back it off. But even when they’re not in a full-out press, they’re still pressuring the ball full court. They’ve been playing a lot more zone, but still they do a good job of pressuring within the zone, even in the half court. Rick’s used a zone more and more lately. I would say it’s probably their base defense this year. It’s not a traditional 2-3 zone. It’s probably more along the lines of Syracuse’s zones where they’ll pressure the ball, they can go through with some cutters, the big guys come up high and the wing men can play high. We have to do a good job of trying to get the ball to the middle, trying to get the ball to the baselines and trying to get the ball to the corners. We’ve got to be strong ball.
CoachCal.com extras: Regardless of what defense Louisville tries to fire at Kentucky, Pitino’s style is still predicated on forcing turnovers. U of L is among the nation’s leaders in steals with 9.6 per game and is forcing the other team into an average of 17.4 turnovers a contest. Freshman Marquis Teague, who has rebounded from his early season struggles, has turned the ball over 14 times in the last three games. UK just missed out on shooting 50 percent or better for the eighth time this season last game (49.1 percent).
1. Take away Siva and/or Kuric
2. Limit second-chance opportunities
Robic: I think they’re going to run. They ran with Memphis and they came out and said they were going to run with Memphis. I don’t think that there is any big difference between us and that team as far as style of play and running. I would expect them to go up and down. We can’t give Kuric open shots in the left corner. That’s where he lives. We have to defend (Peyton) Siva off ball screens and then we have to eliminate second-chance points because they’re going to go after the glass.
CoachCal.com extras: One of the Cardinals’ staples since Pitino has been the coach is their ability to knock down the 3-pointer. Surprisingly, U of L has actually given up more treys this year (81) than it has made (79). The Cards are shooting 32.1 percent from beyond the arc this season, ranked 241st in the country, but Kuric has nailed 25 3-pointers. Meanwhile, UK, which had given up a combined 28 3-pointers in a three-game stretch against North Carolina, Indiana and Chattanooga, has limited its last three opponents to 10 of 43 (23.2 percent) from behind the arc.
Players to watch for – Guard Peyton Siva and forward Kyle Kuric
Robic: I would say that there are probably two key players for them that we’ve got to key in on and that’s Peyton Siva and Kuric. We have to focus on Siva because he has the ball in his hands so much. We try to simplify things when we play people. We usually have about five or six things we think they’re going to run the most, but four out of the six we have for them is with the ball in his hands and he’s using a ball screen. The other two are having Kuric in the left corner shooting open shots. We’ll either put Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb or Michael Gilchrist to start on (Siva) and then rotate the other two.
CoachCal.com extras: Siva, who John Calipari called an “NBA player” and “difference maker” for Louisville, has a penchant for hitting big shots. He’s averaging 9.5 points on the season and a team-high 6.4 assists. Kuric leads the Cards in scoring with a 13.5 average.
Key matchup – UK’s ball handlers vs. U of L’s pressure
Robic: What they’re going to have to do is be really effective in their press and be really effective in trying to turn us over. If we can handle the press and handle the pressure and make them defend and get good shots, that’s exactly what we want to do. They feed off deflections and steals. They’re active. Whether you chart it or are big on it, they have to score off their defense. That’s why most teams will press you is to get the game going up and down and to score easy baskets.
CoachCal.com extras: Six Cardinals have double-digit steals on the season, including three with 22 or more. Russ Smith leads the way with 29. For perspective, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist leads Kentucky with 19 swipes.
X-factor – Big-game/rivalry pressure
Robic: Cal has always treated every game like it’s any other game. He really has. A lot of people can say that, but he really does it. You can’t put too much on it. The game is only bigger than itself when you get to the national finals or the national semifinals at the end of the year; then they’re big games. If you don’t treat it like it’s just another game, you can put too much pressure on kids, so we don’t change one thing we do the entire time.
Team stats and rankings
(national rankings in parentheses)
|Scoring offense||82.5 (11)||72.8 (97)|
|Scoring defense||59.1 (N/A)||58.0 (N/A)|
|FG percentage||49.8 (10)||43.9 (161)|
|FG defense percentage||35.2 (N/A)||37.1 (N/A)|
|3-point percentage||37.6 (66)||32.1 (241)|
|3-point percentage defense||31.4 (N/A)||35.5 (N/A)|
|FT percentage||70.5 (107)||68.1 (176)|
|Rebound margin||+6.9 (N/A)||+5.9 (N/A)|
|Steals per game||7.2 (125)||9.6 (11)|
|Blocks per game||9.4 (1)||4.9 (53)|
|Assists per game||14.7 (66)||14.4 (87)|
|Turnover margin||+2.8(N/A)||+3.3 (N/A)|
|Points per game||Doron Lamb (15.8)||Kyle Kuric (13.5)|
|Rebounds per game||Anthony Davis (10.2)||Gorgui Dieng (10.0)|
|Field-goal percentage||Anthony Davis (62.6)||Gorgui Dieng (56.4)|
|3-point percentage||Doron Lamb (49.1)||Chris Smith (39.6)|
|Free-throw percentage||Kyle Wiltjer (85.7)||Peyton Siva (81.8)|
|Assists per game||Marquis Teague (4.5)||Peyton Siva (6.4)|
|Blocks per game||Anthony Davis (4.5)||Gorgui Dieng (2.8)|
|Steals per game||Marquis Teague (1.5)||Russ Smith (2.4)|
94 feet: Ranking UK’s top three victories over Louisville