Readying For Rupp

Arkansas (13-4, 2-1) has a daunting task ahead of it Tuesday night as it tries to end the 45-game home winning streak of No. 2 Kentucky (17-1, 3-0) in an 8 p.m. game televised nationally from Rupp Arena by ESPN.

Current Arkansas and then-Missouri head coach Mike Anderson spoiled current Kentucky head coach John Calipari's last game as the bench boss at Memphis in 2009.

He now hopes to hand Calipari his first home loss as head coach of the Wildcats after 45 straight wins – 44 of which have come inside Rupp Arena.

Anderson is under no illusion that is something that will come easy for Arkansas (13-4, 2-1) when it visits No. 2 Kentucky (17-1, 3-0) Tuesday night for an 8 p.m. game inside Rupp that will be televised by ESPN.

"First of all, me and John, we ain't playing," Anderson said. "The teams are playing. Every team is different. Circumstances are different. We were in the Conference USA together (when I was) at UAB. They tried to hold serve at home and we tried to hold serve at our place. Obviously, last time the teams played we played great. We played tremendously against his team (in the 200x NCAA Tournament) to get to the Elite Eight."

Anderson was asked on the SEC Teleconference how does he gets his team to believe it can win in a place few have.

"I think one of the things is that you have just got to give yourself a chance to make it happen," Anderson said. "You have just got to be in striking distance. You just have to hang around.

"They pose a lot of problems for a lot of people," Anderson continued. "It's not coincidental that they are one of the top teams in the country. They have great talent and they play well at home. It is one of those deals where we are probably 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 of the free throw line.

"That is where they make up for a lot of things and beat a lot of teams," Anderson added. "They get to the free throw line a lot more than other teams and they are making them."

Calipari knows his team is going to see the same up-tempo, pressing style Tuesday night as he did back when Anderson and Missouri downed Kentucky 102-91 in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 on March 26, 2009.

"They're better than everybody gives them credit for, and the style of play unleashes guys," Calipari said. "Now, against us, every team we play walks away saying that's the best we've played all year. So I'm used to it and my team's used to it.

"It's just knowing if we don't play well, Arkansas will beat us," Calipari added. "We've got to play. They're guys, they can shoot. They're three guards, where if you put it on the floor and you can't stay in front of people, now, they're getting to the rim. So they're doing a good job. I like their team."

Kentucky downed Tennessee 65-62 on Saturday to give it a sweep of two road games last week with the other being a 68-53 win at Auburn after blowing it open late.

"They're playing the way Mike coaches," Calipari said. "He's setting the stage. It's like I said with (Tennessee head coach) Cuonzo (Martin). What was impressive for me at Tennessee is they're taking on his personality. They're playing, They're grinding, They're going to be a physical halfcourt team that gives you one shot and rebounds. Toughness, aggressive.

"Mike's teams are going to play different, and they take on his personality," Calipari added. "Both of the guys have done it in short order, which is hard. It's really, really difficult."

Kentucky has several NBA prospects led by 6-10 freshman center Anthony Davis (13.1, 10.2), who leads the country with 82 blocks and is projected by some as the top pick in the 2012 draft if he chooses to leave school.

Davis, who is just one block off of the Kentucky single-season record, was just named the SEC's Freshman of the Week on Monday.

He joins 6-8, 232-pound freshman small forward Michael Kidd-Gilcrest (13.4, 7.7), 6-9, 252-pound Terrence Jones (11.7, 6.1), 6-2 freshman point guard Marcus Teague (10.7, 2.4) and 6-8, 235-pound senior Darius Miller (9.8) in the starting line-up.

"Kentucky is one of the better teams in the country," Anderson said. "They are playing very balanced, have the leading shot blocker in the nation and the Gilcrest kid is playing great basketball for them. Teague is a guy that really kind of gets their team into what they need to get into in."

Kidd-Gilcrest has been lauded as the best player for the Wildcats this season.

"He just plays the game with a lot of passion, (grabs) loose balls, rebounds," Anderson said. "His versatility is very important for his basketball team. He is a tremendous competitor and he makes big plays and seems like he plays better in the big games. So whether it be rebounding, scoring or assisting, even blocking shots – he is just very active for their basketball team. He is kind of blue collar guy that does his job well."

Jones has not been as productive as many thought he would be, but has had to battle through injury.

"He was the preseason player of the year coming in and obviously he had a setback with getting hurt," Anderson said. "But you just know that his potential is very unlimited. He is a guy that can go as a tremendous power forward, can go inside but also has the versatility that he can come out and do things on the perimeter."

Arkansas has not fared well on the boards, a place that Kentucky has flourished.

"They have got three guys that some of the leading rebounders in the SEC so that poses a big challenge for our basketball team because that is an area that we have not been as strong at because we don't have that size," Anderson said. "I am sure that plays to the advantage of Kentucky."

Arkansas will send out a starting line-up of sophomore guards Mardracus Wade (11.0) and Rickey Scott (9.8), junior Julysess Nobles (9.4), freshman forward DeVonta Abron (5.9, 5.2) and 6-9, 235-pound senior Michael Sanchez (4.6).

"We have the awesome task of going into Rupp Arena and playing against a team that's playing really good basketball," Anderson said. "They fought off Tennessee on the road which we know playing on the road it's difficult to win. You have got to do a lot of great things in order to do that.

"Certainly going into Rupp Arena we have got to play one of our better games, almost a perfect game to have a chance to win there," Anderson said. "They are undefeated at home. And it seems like everyone is holding serve at home. But we get a chance to do it on the national limelight so to speak - Super Tuesday - so it's a challenge we are looking forward to. "

Anderson was asked if he was going to try and slow down the game as most foes of the Wildcats try.

"We are going to attack," Anderson said. "That is how we play. We play up-tempo, attack basketball. They play the same way in terms of getting up and down the floor. I think for the fans in attendance and the fans that are watching it should be a great game where two different teams go at each other, both defensively getting at each other.

"They do a great job defensively and we at times have played well defensively," Anderson said. "We just have to work on the finishing part of it, which is rebounding the basketball. We won't go away from what we do. Again we just want to hopefully have a chance. We want to put the ball in the hole, shoot the basketball to give ourselves a chance."



Photos by Marc F. Henning



Mardracus Wade tries to drive past Kentucky's Doran Lamb last season in Arkansas' 77-76 overtime win at Bud Walton Arena.





Mike Anderson calls for a play Saturday night in his team's 69-60 win over LSU.

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Kentucky head coach John Calipari expresses his displeasure during last season's 77-76 overtime loss at Arkansas..


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