UK Basketball: Arkansas coach says his team will attack, not slow down Wildcats
Kentucky Freshmen Anthony Davis, left, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist embrace after the Wildcats' victory Saturday at Tennessee. Arkansas coach Mike Anderson, whose team faces the second-ranked Wildcats tonight, says Kidd-Gilchrist has a ¿non-stop motor¿ that few players possess. (Victoria Graff)
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson, a former assistant under Nolan Richardson with the Razorbacks, says that won’t be the case for tonight’s game at Rupp Arena.
“We are going to attack. That’s how we play. We play up tempo, attack basketball. They play the same way in terms of getting up and down the floor,” said Anderson, who is in his first year as Arkansas’ head coach after a successful stint at Missouri. “I think for the fans (who are there) and hopefully the fans watching (on ESPN), it should be a great game where two teams are just going to go at each other. Defensively getting at each other.
“They do a great job defensively. We at times have played well defensively. We just have to work on the finishing part, and that is rebounding the basketball. We won’t go away from what we do. Again, hopefully we just want to have a chance. We just have to put the ball in the hole in terms of shooting the basketball to give ourselves a chance.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari likes the style Anderson is implementing and says his team has to be ready for “more of a hectic, frenetic, trap, push-it-up-and-down, run-motion” game than the slower pace Tennessee used Saturday against the Cats.
“They are playing the way Mike coaches. He sets the stage,” Calipari said Monday. “Mike’s team takes on his personality.
“They are better than everybody gives them credit for and the style of play unleashes guys and now against us every team we play walks away saying that’s the best they played all year, so I am used to it and my team is used to it. It’s just knowing that if we don’t play well, Arkansas will beat us. We have to play. Their guys can shoot it. Three guards where they put it on the floor, if you can’t stay in front of them of people now, they are getting to the rim. They are doing a good job. I like their team.”
Arkansas (13-4, 2-1 SEC) has five players averaging between 9.4 and 19.5 points per game and is scoring 76.9 points per game. The Razorbacks are allowing 65.5 points per outing. They have 158 steals and 108 blocked shots in 17 games. Kentucky (17-1, 3-0) is scoring 79.3 points per game and allowing 58.9. Kentucky leads the nation in blocked shots with 164 and has 125 steals in 18 games.
“I think one of things is you have to just give yourself a chance to make it happen. You have to be within striking distance. You have to hang around,” Anderson said. “They pose a lot of problems for a lot of people. It’s not coincidental they are one of the top teams in the country. They are very talented, and they play well at home.
“It’s one of those deals where we probably are going to have to play one of our best games of the year to have a chance in terms of shooting the basketball, keeping them off the boards and keeping them off the free throw line. That’s where they make up for a lot. They get to the free throw line a lot more than most opponents and they are making them.”
Kentucky has been to the foul line 440 times and made 315, a 71.6 percent mark. Opponents are 198 for 287 at the foul line.
The Wildcats have also not lost a home game in Calipari’s three seasons at Kentucky, something Anderson says he knows presents another problem for his team.
“It will be a great challenge for our young basketball team. Kentucky is one of the better teams in the country. They have got great balance, the leading shot-blocker in the nation (in Anthony Davis), and the (Michael Kidd-)Gilchrist kid is playing great basketball, and (point guard Marquis) Teague is a guy that gets there team into what they need to be into,” Anderson said. “It is a great challenge for our young basketball team, and we will find out a little bit more about our team.”
He’s already found about plenty about Kidd-Gilchrist, who is averaging 13.4 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. He has 36 assists, 23 steals and 22 blocked shots. He’s hitting 49.4 percent from the field and 74.2 percent at the foul line.
“I just think he plays with a lot of passion. His versatility I think is very important,” Anderson said. “He is a tremendous competitor. He makes big plays, and it seems like he plays better in the big games. Whether it be rebounding, scoring or assists, even blocking shots, he is just very active for their basketball team. Kind of a blue-collar guy that does his job well.”
Anderson is also not ready to write off foward Terrence Jones, who has overcame his slump to average 14 points in UK’s three SEC games while shooting 60 percent from the field.
“He was the preseason player of the year coming in, and obviously he had a setback getting hurt (in December). You just know his potential is very unlimited,” Anderson said. “A guy that is a tremendous power forward and can go inside and has the versatility to come out on the perimeter.
“They have three guys (Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist, Jones) that are leading rebounders in the SEC, so that poses a big challenge for our basketball team because that is one of the areas we are not as strong as because we don’t have that size. I am sure that plays to the advantage of Kentucky.”
Anderson hopes to use Arkansas’ quickness to help offset Kentucky’s size, and he’s also counting on the continued progress of the Razorbacks’ own collection of standout freshmen. That includes leading scorer B.J. Young, who scored 19 points in a win over LSU on Saturday, as well as 6-foot-10 Hunter Mickelson, who had seven blocks against LSU.