Smith: Cats must control the tempo

December 17, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - For Kentucky to beat Louisville, coach Tubby Smith says his Wildcats must play the way they can, not the way the Cardinals want them to play.

"They have a tendency with their style of play to make you take bad shots," said Smith Thursday. "You can't get rattled and lose your poise, but that's easier said than done."

Smith said handling Louisville's pressure defense will be one big key for his team when the rivals play Saturday in Louisville's Freedom Hall.

"They do a great job of taking away the passing lanes. If you are not patient, you will rush shots," Smith said. "We have to stick to the game plan. We can't try to match 3-pointers with them. The number one most important thing is for us to control tempo and keep the crowd out of the game."


Kentucky assistant coach says it's difficult to simulate No. 13 Louisville's pressure defense in practice.

"They try to put you in situations you are not ready for," Hobbs said. "Against Louisville, you can't avoid the traps. You have to be able to get out of them, find the open guy and attack the basket. You can't control the pressure. What you can control is what you do against that pressure."

Junior point guard Patrick Sparks, who considered going to Louisville when he left Western before he came to Kentucky, knows he'll have to help control the tempo Saturday.

"They can make the game erratic and crazy," Sparks said. "They like to make you make mistakes. We've got to play our game. I'm not saying we don't like to run, but we have to play smart, too."

The Cardinals have won two straight games - 81-63 in Freedom Hall in 2002 after Kentucky took a 20-9 lead and 65-56 last year in Rupp Arena after Kentucky built a 24-10 lead to start the game.

Cards have edge in experience

While No. 9 Kentucky appears to have an edge in depth, the Cardinals have a definite advantage in experience. Only four Wildcats - Chuck Hayes, Kelenna Azubuike, Brandon Stockton and Lukasz Obrzut - have played in a game against Louisville and Stockton and Obrzut are not in UK's main playing rotation this season.

"They have an impressive array of players," Hobbs said. "They have played in a lot of big games, especially at guard. They have plenty of weapons. They can stretch a defense. They can run. They are athletic."

Smith says Louisville's top six players are as good as any in the country. The Cards could also get Otis George, who has been out with a stress fracture, back in action Saturday.

"The team that wins will want it more and play harder and tougher," Azubuike said. "It's not about depth. It's about who plays the hardest and most aggressive."

That shouldn't be a problem for seniors Chuck Hayes of Kentucky and Ellis Myles of Louisville. Both play bigger than their size inside. Hayes averages 11.9 points and 9.9 rebounds per game and Myles 11.4 points and 9.6 rebounds.

"Myles is a guy that can really hurt you," Myles said. "He bangs and is a blue-collar worker. He gets in the trenches and doesn't mind mixing it up. He's a tough kid. He's very similar to Chuck."

"With Myles and Chuck is not about their size. It's about mental and physical toughness," Hobbs said. "They bring it every day. Just because Myles is not tall doesn't mean he's not a handful to handle."

Smith said he could use centers Randolph Morris and Shagari Alleyne to guard Myles as well as Hayes.

Louisville senior guard Taquan Dean averages 17 points per game and junior forward Francisco Garcia 16.1 points and 3.9 assists per game.

"Garcia can play almost anywhere," Hobbs said. "He's tall and skilled."

Cats' perimeter defense will be tested

Smith says the Cards have a bevy of 3-point shooters that will test his team's perimeter defense.

"We have not played against a team with as many good shooters," Hobbs said.

Kentucky hopes the Cards have not played against a team with an inside game like the Cats. Hayes, Morris and Alleyne combined for 35 points in last week's win over Indiana.

"We've just got to find a way to get the ball into our post players," Smith said.

The Cats lost 91-78 at North Carolina in their first road test against a ranked team.

"North Carolina taught us some lessons. Now we have to show how much we learned," Kentucky sophomore Bobby Perry said.

Smith said he learned one thing himself in the win over Indiana. He became so animated on the sideline that he almost fell.

"I''ve got to be myself. Part of my coaching is getting involved in the game," Smith said. "I am getting to the age where I can't be spinning and dancing like that."

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