By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky has what coach John Calipari calls a “tough opponent” when it hosts Missouri Saturday afternoon to open Southeastern Conference play.
“Coach (Cuonzo) Martin has got these guys playing. They’re defending. Made 16 3’s last game. Tough road, Calipari said. “Even the tough losses were against good teams. I mean, they played in those games too. They got behind in a couple games and had to rush back, but they’re playing physical.
“They’re collapsing on defense. They’ll block shots. You’re not getting, like, open, clear looks. That’s not how they play. They’re running good stuff. They’re moving the ball. Their multiple pick-and-roll actions.
“Coach Martin is good now. He’s as good as they get. They play to his personality, which is grit, ‘Let’s go, we’re bringing it. We’re not afraid. Let’s do this.’ It’ll be a really hard game for us to win.”
Kentucky assistant coach Tony Barbee says the Cats have to understand the game will be physical, something that has been an issue at time for some players this year.
“They’re going to be hard-nosed. Obviously, you’ve got the veteran with (Jeremiah) Tilmon back in the middle, who’s as big and as physical presence as there is not just in our conference but in the country,” Barbee said. “They’ve got really good guard play. They played a really, really hard schedule, so it’s going to be a challenge.
“They’ve got a really good team all around. They will sometimes play you three and four guards at a time, which is a difficult matchup if we’re trying to play traditional with our bigs. Mark Smith is one of the best shooters in the country. All of their guards attack well off of the dribble.
“It’s going to be a hard matchup. We’ve been watching a lot of tape. We’ve been working on a lot of things in practice to try and get ready for Missouri because we know the challenge that they bring.”