By LARRY VAUGHT
Coming off a win at Auburn and having a marquee game with Kansas on Saturday could leave tonight’s matchup with Mississippi State as a trap game for Kentucky — except for one obvious reason.
“You would say that if they weren’t ranked in the top 25 and as good and as talented and as experienced as any team in our league,” Kentucky assistant coach Tony Barbee said Monday. “If those three factors weren’t there, yeah, maybe you could say trap game. Not with this Mississippi State team.
“They’re as good as any team in our league. Their depth. Their experience. They’ve got size. They’ve got guard play. They’re not deficient in any one area. So, for that reason, no, not a trap game at all. These guys got our full attention.”
Barbee says State is more deliberate than Auburn and won’t take as many shots even though the Bulldogs still frequently shoot 3-pointers.
“More deliberate. Take advantage of their big guys. They’ve got great size and depth in the interior, but their guards get a lot done too. It seems like (Lamar) Peters has been their forever. The Weatherspoon brothers (Quinndary and Nick) have been there forever,” Barbee said.
“It just seems like those guys have been there forever, and so they play with their pace, they don’t get rushed and they get the shots that they want to get every time down. We’re going to have to be as good as we were defensively at Auburn at home tomorrow.”
One of State’s top players is forward Aric Holman of Owensboro, a player who has Barbee’s attention.
“He’s added weight to his body. He’s strong. He’s confident in what he’s doing, and he’s shooting the ball as good as anybody in our league, guard or big or in between. I think in league play right now he’s over 50 percent from the 3 and taking a lot of them. I think he’s making three per game in their last five games – making three, not taking three. He’s making three 3s per game,” Barbee said.
“I like what I see out of him. He’s gotten better over these years and that’s what happens when you stay some place for three or four years. You’re going to become better.”
Holman will provide a challenge for UK’s interior defense.
“Especially the way we like our bigs protecting the rim, it becomes a challenge because now they’re going to be stretched beyond the three, especially in that position,” Barbee said. “We’ve got to be a little more disciplined defensively in the half-court for a more extended period of time.
“I think, watching Auburn, they’re going to take a shot within the first eight seconds of the shot clock the majority of the time. Mississippi State is the opposite. They’re going to take a shot in the last eight seconds of the shot clock the majority of the time. So, we’re going to have to be more disciplined. We’re going to have to communicate for a longer period of time. That’s more of a challenge with so many young guys that we play.”