BLOOMINGTON-Mike Davis says he knows what sort of effort it's going to take Saturday for the Hoosiers to knock off No. 15 Kentucky for the first time since 1999.
"We'll have to play our best game to beat them," said Davis.
That's coming from a coach who has yet to knock off the Wildcats in his first five attempts at the helm of the IU program. Indiana has lost those five contests by an average of 17.6 points, including a 15-point loss a year ago in Louisville and a 39-point drubbing in 2003, the last time the two teams met at the RCA Dome.
The RCA Dome will be the setting once again Saturday, as No. 16 Indiana (4-2) takes on a 6-2 Kentucky team that has won 10 of the last 11 meetings between the two storied programs. Tip-off is 3:45 p.m. EST, and the game will be televised by CBS.
Davis certainly knows his team's effort earlier this week won't be good enough against a Kentucky team that is anchored by a deep and balanced backcourt. On Tuesday, Indiana squandered an 11-point second-half lead and dropped a 72-67 decision to unranked Indiana State in Terre Haute.
"We just didn't play with a whole lot of intensity," said Davis. "We played like we could win the game at any time. We watched the film, and there wasn't the passion and energy that we needed to win games like that."
Among the issues Tuesday was 22 turnovers. Seven of those came from senior center Marco Killingsworth, while point guards Lewis Monroe and Earl Calloway had four apiece.
"We had 22 (turnovers) against a team that doesn't pressure you," said Davis.
Many of Killingsworth's turnovers were a result of trying to score against the Sycamores' double and triple teams instead of kicking the ball back out to the wing for open looks from the perimeter. The result was not only the slew of turnovers, but more contested shots than Indiana has taken in any other game this season, according to Davis.
The statistics bore that out. After shooting 49 percent or better in each of its first five games, Indiana shot a season-worst 44.4 percent against Indiana State, including 33.3 percent from behind the 3-point arc.
Davis wants his team to get back to where it was during the first couple of games to the season, when it was shooting a high percentage and moving the ball until someone had an open shot.
"It didn't matter who scored the points the first couple of games, and we need to get back to that," said Davis.
While Davis wants to see balance, he also says the key cog remains Killingsworth. The 6-8, 268-pound senior is averaging a team-best 19.7 points and 8.3 rebounds, but he's struggled in each of his past two games. After being limited to 14 points by Eastern Michigan, Killingsworth had a season-low 10 in the loss to Indiana State.
"We go as he goes," said Davis of Killingsworth. "He's important because he can really take control of the game and force teams to play him with two or three guys. Sometimes (Indiana State) had five guys in the paint. He's a very good basketball player, who needs to carry us inside."
Kentucky will counter Killingsworth with a trio of 7-footers. Seven-foot, 270-pound Lukasz Obrzut will likely start, while 7-3 Shagari Alleyne and 7-2, 240-pound freshman Jared Carter will come off the bench. Alleyne gave D.J. White all kinds of fits a year ago, limiting the eventual Big Ten Freshman of the Year to eight points on 3-of-9 shooting, while Alleyne contributed 10 points, five rebounds and four blocks to Kentucky's cause.
That might be a lot of height and a lot of bodies for UK to throw at Killingsworth, but Davis still likes his big man's odds Saturday.
"I don't think anyone can guard (Killingsworth) one-on-one, I really don't…you have to bring someone to contain him," said Davis. "No matter how big you are, one-one-one, it's in his favor."
A big game from Killingsworth – either in point production or in attracting double teams and then kicking the ball out to open shooters – would go a long way in earning Davis his first win over a Kentucky team that appears as vulnerable as it's been since Davis took over the Indiana program in 2000. Despite that fact, the Hoosiers' sixth-year coach isn't putting as much emphasis on this weekend's match-up as others are, at least not publicly.
"We're not going to base (our season) on whether we beat Kentucky or not, if our season is complete," said Davis. "What we're trying to do is get better every game.
"We just want to play for a championship. That's our goal…it's where you are in March, and that's what we're trying to focus on."
Hoosiers Need Best Effort Against Kentucky
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