Calipari on MSU matchup: 'We win or we learn'

The Kentucky coaching staff has instilled the idea of taking the season one game at a time to its young team. The next one is a big one.

The Kentucky coaching staff has instilled the idea of taking the season one game at a time to its young team. The next one is a big one.

Fresh off a 93-63 shellacking of in-state foe Northern Kentucky, the No. 1 Wildcats (2-0) head to Chicago for a made-for-TV matchup against No. 2 Michigan State in the first game of a Champions Classic doubleheader that also includes No. 4 Duke versus No. 5 Kansas.

It will mark the earliest matchup between top-ranked teams in the history of the Associated Press poll and only the seventh game of its kind in UK's storied basketball history, but Calipari is not feeding into the hype.

"For us, it's just a bar of where we are right now," the UK coach said. "I'm not buying it. We play the same game. At the end of the day, it's going to be a war."

With three games and five days to open the season, Kentucky will have just one day of preparation before it takes the floor against one of the more experienced teams in all of college basketball in Michigan State, but freshman forward Julius Randle suggests that there is no reason to worry.

"I think if we do what we do – and we are good at doing what we do – it will be hard for teams to stop us," Randle said. "We'll focus on other teams and what they do, but if we focus on our game I think we'll be fine."

But don't take his comments lightly. Randle is expecting a battle when the ball is rolled out and the lights beam down at the United Center on Tuesday.

"Tuesday is going to be a war, and I know we're willing to fight," Randle said. "Coach doesn't think we're ready, but we'll be all right. He's just trying to challenge us and make us stronger as a unit, but we believe we are ready."

The 6-foot-9 power forward has put together one of the more remarkable freshman debuts in recent memory through his first two games in a Kentucky uniform. With 45 points and 30 rebounds so far, Randle is the first freshman to open with two consecutive 20-point, 10-rebound games since Michael Beasley did it at Kansas State in 2007.

Just two games into his college career Randle is already considered to be one of the biggest matchup nightmares in the nation. The Michigan State contest will be no different as there are many intriguing heavyweight battles across the board for both teams.

Sophomore center Willie Cauley-Stein, who will be faced with the challenge of going up against higly acclaimed big man Adreian Payne, said he looks forward to the individual challenge.

"It tests you as an individual, for one. They've got guys that want to go at you because of who you are, and the hype you get. So you've got to prove to them that the hype is real," Cauley-Stein said. "It just tests you as a player."

Calipari says there is no pressure on UK, either way. "We win or we learn is what this game is about."

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