Since he played for Rick Pitino at Kentucky, Sean Woods is a big believer in pressure basketball and that’s what he’ll have Morehead State doing against No. 8 Kentucky on Wednesday.
“I haven’t seen them really be pressured yet, so we will see how they handle ours,” said Woods. “I am just a coach that doesn’t like people to be comfortable. I do not like people to run their sets. I am going to put you in a situation where you better have better basketball players and be deep and able to take the pressure for 40 minutes or I will have a chance.
That philosophy didn’t work well at Maryland Nov. 12 when the Terps, who opened the season with a loss to UK, beat Morehead 67-45. Woods said his team turned the ball over too much that game.
“I think defensively we will be okay with the pressure we will apply (on UK). I¿think our size will come into play. They may be taller, but they are not stronger or wider than us,” Woods said.
The coach said his team had to be physical to compete against UK (2-1).
“We are not jumping as high. I¿think we can run just as fast. We have to use our strength. We have some older, tougher guys. We are going to see what happens,” Woods said. “We are going to throw everything but the kitchen sink at them.
“If they are the team everybody thinks they are, they will have success against us. If they are still trying to figure it out, then this will be another test for Cal (John Calipari) as far as us being more physical to get them ready for the SEC. We are going to do whatever we can (to win).”
Woods’ fast pace didn’t work when he brought Mississippi Valley State to play at Rupp Arena, but he says that team did not have the depth to match a much more talented Kentucky. Now he has more depth.
“One thing about my teams, we are going to give everything we have,” Woods said. “The only way to beat us is to have more players. I am deeper and more talented (than at Mississippi Valley State). We are going to play our style and come at you. If they are playing young and turning the ball over against our pressure, then we have a chance.
“Our guys are willing and ready to seize the moment. They felt like they could have played much better against Maryland. Now our confidence is better and I think we will pay much better against Kentucky than we played against Maryland. What the outcome will be, I don’t know yet.”
Morehead State forced 29 turnovers in an 88-74 win over Lafayette, the same team UK beat 101-49 two days earlier, but also had 20 turnovers of it own.
“We have to do a better job of after we turn people over of not turning the ball back over,” Woods said. “We did a good job creating chaos, but we have to do a better job capitalizing after turning them over.”
Woods said Kentucky “is getting better and better by the day” and that coach John Calipari’s team do not continue to make the same mistakes over and over.
The Cats have been without sophomore point guard the last two games and there has been no update on his status for Wednesday other than information released Friday that he was “day to day” before he missed that game with an unknown illness.
Woods thinks not having Harrow has changed UK’s mentality.
“I think now they become instead of one of the top teams to beat, they are now one of the biggest underdogs in the country. They are like a wounded dog. That’s even more scary because you do not know where they will hit you,” Woods, a former point guard, said.
He has been impressed with UK freshman Archie Goodwin, who has primarily played the point with Harrow out.
“He is relentless. He is not scared to make mistakes,” Woods said. “I would rather try to calm a guy down than speed him up. Cal has that luxury. I think as the season goes on he will become one of the most dynamic players in the country.”
Kentucky freshman forward Alex Poythress is the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week after averaging 21 points and 6.5 rebounds in games against Duke and Lafayette. He had 20 points against Duke and 22 against Lafayette to become the first UK¿freshman since Brandon Knight to have consecutive 20-point efforts.
Former UK¿All-American Kyle Macy compared him to former Wildcat Jamal Mashburn on Fox Sports South last week. Woods thought that might have been a bit brash.
“Jamal Mashburn. Wow. I don’t know about that one,” Woods said. “Jamal was pretty daggone good and could do more things than Poythress can. I think Poythress is more of a banger trying to be skilled. I don’t see him shooting 3’s a lot in his career. Jamal could shoot 3’s.
“I think he is very, very good. Don’t get me wrong. But a Jamal Mashburn, that’s going too far. Jamal Mashburn might be the most talented player ever to wear the Big Blue all around.”