With his old Kentucky No. 11 jersey hanging high above him in the Rupp Arena rafters Wednesday night, Sean Woods will employ the same type of frantic style that helped put it there when his Morehead State Eagles take on the No. 8 Wildcats.
Morehead State (3-1) is coming off an 88-74 win over Lafayette in which the Eagles forced 29 turnovers, including 19 steals, as part of the familiar full-court pressure defense that Woods learned under Rick Pitino.
Woods' squad is deep – nine players average double-digit minutes – and could be a decent test for a young Kentucky squad that doesn't feature a long bench and has not faced this type of style through its first three games.
"We're not prepared," UK coach John Calipari said during Tuesday's press conference at the Craft Center. "They'll scramble, and if the game is allowed to be physical, they will turn us over a bunch. But it's what we need."
The UK staff has not spent much time working on the press offense, Calipari said.
"We're still trying to get them to play hard," he added. "We're trying to get them to play a full possession. We started working on situations yesterday, and that was just very average, what we did. We have to continue from this point on, working on some specialty things, but we still have the basics we have to get better at.
"If you do everything that we have to improve on every day, we'll have a nine-hour practice. So we are where we are now."
Complicating matters for Wednesday's 7 p.m. ET tipoff at Rupp is the uncertain status of sophomore point guard Ryan Harrow, who has missed the last two games with what UK officials describe as an unknown ailment. Harrow was set to return to practice on Tuesday, but Calipari said he's missed so much time – and lost 7 pounds – that he's unsure what to expect. He went on to describe Harrow's position in the rotation as "the bottom of the totem pole."
That means former walk-on Jarrod Polson may once again be called upon to provide depth at the point with Archie Goodwin and Julius Mays also splitting some time running the offense. Mays is coming off a 10-assist, no-turnover performance in UK's 101-49 win of Lafayette.
"The past week we have been going over press at least 15 minutes a day," Polson said. "We even had six guys out there playing defense. I'm just trying to get in game-like situations during practice, because we know that they are probably going to press tomorrow. We have gotten a lot more comfortable with the press break and we kind of know what we want to do with it now."
Mays described the matchup as another opportunity to improve. "We're still looking at every game as a learning game. We're trying to get better at something new each game." He added that the UK staff has been preaching about getting more scoring opportunities in transition, something that should be abundant against the Morehead State if the Wildcats handle the pressure.
"We need to be pressed and played physical and let's see what we're about," Calipari said. "If we'll be strong with the ball, if we're going to come to jump stops, if we'll come back and meet passes, if we'll make the extra pass… we'll find out.
"This is all learning. We could have 30 turnovers and (Morehead State) beat our brains out – could happen. We're a young team. We don't even know how we're going to respond to stuff."
Cats' poise to be tested
AllWildcats Top Stories
On Campus: September 30Practice is starting around the country for many schools, and several are using it as a huge recruiting weekend. Kansas has the biggest group of visitors coming in, but also…
Scout HoopsYesterday at 6:03 AM
Four Downs: Cats Who Must Play Big at BamaIn this edition of All Wildcats' "Four Downs," we take a look at four Kentucky players who need to come up big in Saturday's game at Alabama if the Cats want to turn in a…
AllWildcatsThursday at 7:52 PM
VIDEO: Stoops on Final Prep for No. 1 BamaKentucky head coach Mark Stoops met with the media for the final time on Thursday before the Wildcats head to Tuscaloosa for this week's game against No. 1 Alabama.
AllWildcatsThursday at 2:58 PM
Calipari Restructures StaffKentucky head coach John Calipari announced Friday that he is restructuring his basketball coaching staff for the upcoming season.
AllWildcatsYesterday at 12:49 PM