Late wakeup call: Wildcats slept in to prep for Bearcats
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Kentucky coach John Calipari believes in letting his undefeated Wildcats decompress after victories so he made sure players slept in a little longer after a late-night rout of Hampton.
Calipari wanted to ensure the Wildcats (35-0) were rested as they began prepping for Saturday's game against Cincinnati with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line.
The Bearcats advanced with a 66-65 overtime victory over Purdue in a game that pushed Kentucky's tipoff back 40 minutes. After the delay, Kentucky started sluggish en route to a 79-56 win against the Pirates. The game ended around 12:30 Friday morning, leading Calipari to cancel the wakeup call.
''We didn't get back to our rooms until 2 o'clock,'' Calipari said Friday, sounding somewhat groggy himself. ''I don't understand why it was this late, but when you're behind on an overtime game, that's the kind of stuff that happens with long timeouts.
''But they performed. I watched the tape. We were up by 35. It's hard to play when you're up by 35. . But we did what we were supposed to do.''
The slow start and then seemingly putting their games on cruise-control down the stretch didn't hurt the Wildcats against Hampton, but it can't happen against Cincinnati (23-10).
The Bearcats like to bang opponents and will use an effective zone defense. Throw in the fact that the Bearcats aren't wowed by Kentucky's talented roster, tradition or quest to become the school's first unbeaten national champion, and the Wildcats are expecting a physical game.
''We just know that they're going to play extremely hard and try to bully us,'' Kentucky junior 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein said.
Of course Kentucky presents problems of its own.
''Obviously, you can't give them transition,'' Cincinnati associate head coach Larry Davis said. ''If you turn the ball over against them, they are great at finishing because they've got eight or nine guys that are pro prospects and they're going to finish it on you if you turn it over. . How we handle that will determine what the game's like.''
Some things to look for when top-ranked Kentucky faces No. 8 seed Cincinnati on Saturday:
ELLIS RETURNS: Cincinnati played most of the second half without 6-foot-10 junior forward Octavius Ellis, who was ejected for throwing a high elbow against Purdue center A.J. Hammonds. Davis chalked it up as a byproduct of an extremely physical game and the coach said Ellis will continue to play his same aggressive game. Still, he wants him to be smarter about it with Cincinnati needing all hands on deck against the Wildcats. ''He will try to watch his elbow and not get it up in somebody's face,'' Davis said, ''because if that happens and they (the officials) view it that way, just like if they view a Kentucky player doing the same thing, they'll probably eject him.''
FASTER STARTS: Kentucky trailed once and was tied once against Hampton before taking control after 10 minutes. The Wildcats know that won't do against the Bearcats or anyone else at this stage. ''We're not going to come out like that again,'' guard Tyler Ulis said. ''We came out really flat last game. We know what we have to do, we know we can't play like that in order to win national titles.''
BEARCATS' DEFENSE: Kentucky's nine-man rotation provides a lot of scoring options and the Wildcats will likely need them against Cincinnati's sixth-ranked scoring defense that was allowing 55.3 points per game entering the tournament. The Bearcats have held 32 of 33 opponents under 70 points including Purdue, which scored 65 on Thursday and shot 36 percent.
REBOUNDING: Purdue controlled the boards on both ends in out-rebounding Cincinnati 51-38 and now the Bearcats must try to beat a longer, deeper Kentucky squad coming off a 20-rebound edge against Hampton. ''I think if we control the rebounds, we're going to have a chance,'' Bearcats forward Shaq Thomas said.