By LARRY VAUGHT
LSU has not won at Rupp Arena since Feb., 2009, the season before John Calipari’s arrival.
The Kentucky coach hopes that streak continues Tuesday night when his No. 5 Wildcats entertain No. 19 LSU in a matchup of two teams with 9-1 Southeastern Conference records.
“Let me tell you what will be interesting in this game: This will be a team that will go at you at certain guys and try to beat people on the dribble,” Calipari said Monday. “This is going to be a challenge. They’ll pick and choose. They do a lot of that. A lot of times they are doing that trying to get you to collapse a little bit, shoot the ball off the backboard so you can rebound it, dunk it, tip it in.
“This is a challenge of the game. This is going to be a hard one. Believe me, a hard game. A hard game for us to win. I don’t care if it is in Rupp Arena or I-95. This is a hard game to win because of how they play. But, if we can give them a full 40, then it should be a good game.”
One concern for Calipari is 6-10 freshman Naz Reid, who was complimentary of Calipari at last year’s McDonald’s All-American Game when he said winning is what you think about with UK and Calipari. Reid was SEC Freshman of the Week after averaging 21 points and 10 rebounds per game in wins over Mississippi and Auburn. He had 29 points and nine rebounds in the overtime win over LSU and had 13 points, 11 rebounds against Auburn.
“He’s big. He’s big. He’ll shoot 3s. Plays a little bit like a guard. He’s really good,” Calipari said.
However, the UK coach has more worries than Reid.
“They’re whole team – look, this team, their guard play, their toughness, their size. They’ve got two bigs that come off the bench and are their leading offensive rebounders. So what happens when those two come in they shoot it and those two just fly and go get it. They’ve got wings that a couple are scorers and a couple are high-flyers. I mean, this is a good team,” Calipari said.
“This is a top-10 team. In the last five games they’ve been down 10 points four times and they came back and won three of those. They were down 10 points, 14 points with 2:20 to go and came back and won. They were down 16, 18 to Arkansas and lost on a shot that didn’t go in. They win different ways. They beat Auburn on out-of-bounds plays. Can you imagine? They scored like five or six times on out-of-bounds plays. That’s unusual, but that’s what they did. That’s how they – that was the difference in that game.”
Being able to come back from double-digit deficits tells Calipari one definite thing about LSU.
“They’re not afraid,” the UK coach said. “Neither are we. We play the same. We’ve been down. We’ve been down 12-2, 16-4, I mean, looking at each other. If I remember Georgia it was dunk, dunk, dunk, dunk. What in the world? I mean, so we’re both kind of the same. That’s why it should be an exciting game.”