Boston U.-Kentucky Preview
Despite John Calipari's emphatic claims to the contrary, Kentucky is again the nation's No. 1 team.
The Wildcats' next goal appears to be convincing their coach that they deserve their new top ranking when they face Boston University on Tuesday night.
North Carolina's upset by Northern Iowa on Saturday vaulted Kentucky (4-0) atop the poll, the spot it held all of last season. The Wildcats certainly appeared deserving of the honor in a 74-63 win over then-No. 5 Duke on Nov. 17, though Calipari was less impressed after Friday's 78-63 victory over visiting Wright State.
Kentucky shot 53.2 percent and maintained a double-digit lead for much of the game, but Calipari focused instead on his team's 12 turnovers and 2-for-10 performance from 3-point range during his postgame news conference.
"You tell me that looked like the (then) No. 2 ranked team in the country," he said. "There's got to be 20 teams better than us right now."
Free-throw shooting, a problem area for Kentucky in previous years, also drew Calipari's ire. Tyler Ulis, Jamal Murray and Alex Poythress were a combined 24 of 26 but the rest of the roster was 2 of 11.
The Wildcats were able to overcome an 11-of-18 showing at the line against Duke behind an inspired defensive effort, intensity that Calipari believed was lacking against Wright State.
''We took a big step back," he said. "Guys didn't listen. We're doing certain things and they just kind of broke it off and did their own thing. In a league game, we lose."
Focus again could be an issue considering Boston University (2-2) hasn't beaten a ranked team since 1959 and lost by 24 in its visit to Rupp Arena last November. The Terriers were competitive for a good portion of that 89-65 defeat, though, trailing by nine with under 8 1-2 minutes left before Kentucky went on a 12-1 run to pull away.
Cedric Hankerson had 24 points to help keep the Terriers in it, but the junior guard is still recovering from a torn ACL sustained in the spring. Sixth man Eric Fanning also has yet to play this season due to a suspension for violating team rules.
Hankerson led BU with 15.9 points per game and Fanning was second at 12.3.
Returning starters Cheddi Mosely and John Papale have increased their production to help offset those absences. Papale has gone 19 of 37 on 3s and is averaging 17.8 points, while Mosely had 21 in Saturday's 78-66 victory at South Florida.
Ulis recorded a career-high 21 points and five assists against Wright State to follow up an 18-point, six-assist, turnover-free effort in the Duke game. The sophomore point guard has taken on a larger role on yet another freshman-laden team that's starting three highly touted first-year players in Murray (14.0 ppg), forward Skal Labissiere (13.8) and guard Isaiah Briscoe (12.7).
Kentucky and BU have had two common opponents as participants in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Classic. Both own wins over Albany and the Terriers lost 90-76 Thursday at NJIT, which was defeated 87-57 at Kentucky in the Nov. 14 opener.