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November 22, 2012

Cats take on LIU after short layoff for Thanksgiving

While students are away, the Wildcats have to play.

With games the nights before and after Thanksgiving, there was no time for coach John Calipari to give his players any days off, but he planned to make sure the team felt at home on Thursday.

"We're going to have Thanksgiving at my house tomorrow…," Calipari said after Wednesday's win against Morehead State. "Usually I give them a day and a half off over Thanksgiving. The way our schedule fell it's not what's happening so we will just have to deal with it."

After the team has its Thanksgiving meal, the Wildcats will do a quick walk-through preparing for Friday's game against LIU-Brooklyn. Then they will step away from basketball, likely to go see the movie "Linoln," Calipari said.

With a team sprinkled with freshman, a lot of players will be spending their first Thanksgiving away from their family.

"It's going to be tough. Every Thanksgiving I spend time with my family," freshman Alex Poythress said. "It's going to be my first Thanksgiving without someone from my family, but my mom and my sister are coming down Friday, so I can eat some food Friday."

But fellow freshman Nerlens Noel sees Thursday as an opportunity to bond and get closer to his basketball family.

"It's going to be different but this is like family here, it's just like spending it with my brothers and coaches," Noel said. "It would be different, but you're spending it with people you care about."

Even though they can't spend time with their real families, the Cats will gladly take a day off from practice, especially coming off a physical game against Morehead State.

In UK's 81-70 win over the Eagles, the Cats were fouled 32 times, leaving UK battle-tested but also bruised.

"I'll make sure I take care of my body and get in the cold tub," Noel said. "Do what I need to do (to get ready for Friday)."

And while the Cats won't have much time to get their bodies 100 percent before Friday, they don't mind playing sore. In fact, after struggling with overmatched Morehead State, UK will be ready to get back on the court after taking a day off.

"We want to try and regroup and try to pick it up Friday," Poythress said.

UK takes on an 0-3 LIU Brooklyn team, whose three losses came to the three teams UK has beaten this year, Maryland, Lafayette and Morehead State. It's the final game for both teams in the Barclays Center Classic.

And while UK will be the favorite Friday, the Cats learned they can't take any team lightly after a scare from Morehead State.

"We definitely have to come prepared for the physicality," Noel said.

LIU-BROOKLYN AT KENTUCKY| WEDNESDAY | 7 P.M. | FS SOUTH/UK IMG
No. 8 KENTUCKY (3-1)
Coach: John Calipari (105-15 in fourth season at UK; 508-153 in 21st season overall)
Last game: Beat Morehead State 81-70
Roster | Stats
LIU-BROOKLYN (0-3)
Coach: Jack Perri (0-3 in first season at LIU; 20-12 in second season overall)
Last game: Lost to Maryland 91-74
Roster | Stats
Pos. Name Yr. Ht./Wt. PPG RPG
G Julius Mays Sr. 6-2/192 7.5 2.3
G Archie Goodwin Fr. 6-5/198 18.3 4.3
F Nerlens Noel Fr. 6-10/208 11.0 8.8
F Alex Poytress Fr. 6-7/239 17.5 7.0
F Kyle Wiltjer So. 6-10/239 14.0 4.3
Pos. Name Yr. Ht./Wt. PPG RPG
G Jason Brickman Jr. 6-0/165 15.0 2.0
G C.J. Garner Sr. 5-10/160 11.0 4.3
G Brandon Thompson Sr. 6-2/185 7.3 3.0
F Julian Boyd Sr. 6-7/240 23.3 7.3
F Jamal Olasewere Sr. 6-7/215 18.0 7.0
Game/Series Information
Game Information
Site: Rupp Arena (23,000), Lexington, Ky.
TV: Fox Sports South/UK IMG Network (Dave Baker play-by-play, Kyle Macy analyst, Tom Werme sideline); DirecTV 646; DISH 422
Radio: UK IMG Sports Network (Tom Leach play-by-play, Mike Pratt analyst); Sirius 137, XM 201).
Internet: Audio | Video
Favorite: TBA

Series Information
Series record: Kentucky leads 2-1
At Lexington: First meeting
Coaches' records: Calipari 0-0 vs. LIU; Perry 0-0 vs. UK

Last meeting: Kentucky 66, LIU 62, March 17, 1947 (Madison Square Garden, New York City; NIT quarterfinal)
Wallace "Wah Wah" Jones scored 20 points and Ralph Beard added 16 to help the Wildcats hold off a furious rally by Long Island. The Cats led 49-30 with 5:30 to play, but the Blackbirds - even without benefit of a three-point shot - chipped away by turning UK turnovers into baskets. Dick Houlb led LIU with 21 points. The Blackbirds' lone win against Kentucky came on Jan. 4, 1938, when LIU - playing at home - romped Adolph Rupp's Cats 52-34.

Keys to the Game
1. Turkey Hangover: Kentucky's biggest challenge will be against itself. How will the Wildcats respond to a quick turnaround - they beat Morehead State on Wednesday - the day after a holiday? That's rarely an issue for a veteran team, but Kentucky is so young that every experience is a new one. The Cats' first task is, simply enough, to move past a closer-than-expected win against Morehead, put a day off behind them and focus on the game at hand. That's easier said than done, though the Blackbirds shouldn't pose much of an upset threat.

2. New Surroundings: LIU-Brooklyn has played at Maryland this season (the Blackbirds lost 91-74), but playing at Kentucky will be a step up in competition - one that LIU's players never have experienced. LIU hasn't faced a Top 10 opponent in the regular season since 1997, when it opened the season at No. 6 Purdue and lost 115-95. That said, the Blackbirds - despite this season's slow start - are accustomed to winning. LIU is one of 21 Division I teams with 25 or more wins in both of the past two seasons.

3. Offensive Engineer: Despite its winless start, LIU has some gaudy statistics, thanks to some relatively high-scoring games. The man managing that offense is point guard Jason Brickman, who's averaging 15 points and 8.7 assists. Brickman had 14 points and 10 assists against Maryland, his sixth career double-double. Brickman's assist average ranks second in Division I, behind Louisville's Peyton Siva.



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