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Wildcats set to face LSU in first ‘true’ road encounter of the season

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Kentucky guard Quade Green goes up for a shot in a win over Georgia last Sunday at Rupp Arena. The Wildcats take on LSU Wednesday night in Baton Rouge. (Quinn Foster I UK Athletics)

By Keith Taylor
Kentucky Today

Kentucky has yet to play a true road game this season. That will change when the Wildcats take on LSU Wednesday night in Baton Rouge.

The Wildcats (11-2, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) are 1-2 in neutral court games this season, the latest an 83-75 loss to UCLA in the CBS Sports Classic on Dec. 23 in New Orleans. Kentucky coach John Calipari liked the way his team has performed in the two setbacks and won’t be concerned with the atmosphere against the Tigers (9-3, 0-0) in their conference opener.

“I’m not so worried about that (playing the first true road game),” he said. “I’m worried about if we will talk more on defense because if we don’t talk more, then we can’t get better and we’re going to be stuck where we are. Can we create shots for each other versus can I get my own shot? I’m more concerned about that kind of stuff than playing on the road, and that’s why I take them away from here – we go on the road and stay a couple of days. Obviously, our last road game wasn’t real good and did not perform. I’m more concerned about us like I am normally – just how do we get better?”

Calipari said the biggest issue is transitioning his team from selfish mode to an unselfish unit but added his team is starting to get into more of a rhythm.

“Mostly, you have guys – and this is understandable – they’re concerned about how they’re playing, personally,” he said. “That’s the first step to being a heck of a team player. You have to be comfortable in your own skin, you have to be comfortable with how you’re playing, and when you don’t talk and don’t share, then you’re really not comfortable with how you’re playing. So, you’re kind of into you, and I’m trying to get them to come in here, worry about great preparation and then just play for each other. It’s funny, guys that don’t worry about offense, the ball finds them.”

Despite a 90-61 blowout win over rival Louisville, followed by a 66-61 triumph over Georgia on New Year’s Eve, Kentucky dropped one spot to No. 17 in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll. Despite the drop in the rankings following two straight victories, Calipari said the Wildcats need to use the lack of respect as “fuel.”

“I’ve done this so long,” Calipari said. “I’ve seen us overrated at times and I’ve seen us underrated at times. Fans will get into it. I just want them (the players) to know you’re not getting the respect, but that means you’re going to have to earn it. You haven’t gotten it yet.”

The players were bothered by the latest rankings but understand what it will take to generate more recognition as the season progresses.

“It bothers (us), but we can’t do nothing about it,” freshman guard Quade Green said. “That’s people’s opinions. We just have to fight harder now. Give us motivation.”

Teammate Tai Wynyard jokingly said the Wildcats will have to “blow people out by 50” to climb back into the Top 10.

“That’s kind of what we have to do here, but (we just have to) keep playing our game and just keep winning,” he said with a smile. “That’s what we gotta do.”

The Wildcats will also have to make a solid showing on the road during the next two weeks as four of Kentucky’s next five games are on the road, starting with Wednesday’s game in Baton Rouge. The goal, Green said, is to “win every game.”

“That’s what everybody’s mindset should be,” he said.

AAU reunion: Green played on the AAU circuit against LSU freshman Tremont Waters, who leads the team in scoring, averaging 17.1 points per game. Green said Waters is a “jump shooter” who likes “getting to the rack a little bit” and “shooting the ball.”

“(He’s) like Shabazz Napier a little bit,” Green said. “He’s shifty, can use both hands, can shoot. He gets to the rim but he doesn’t like it too much. He likes to pull up. He’s got different stuff that we have to stop … that’s the main person we have to stop.”

Gametracker: Kentucky at LSU, Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. TV/Radio: SEC Network, 98.1 FM, WBUL, Lexington.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.

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