Calipari welcomes zone D vs. these Cats

Since John Calipari arrived at Kentucky in 2009, a strong zone defense has often been considered an Achilles' heel for the Wildcats. It's not looking like that will be the case this season.

Since John Calipari arrived at Kentucky in 2009, a strong zone defense has often been considered an Achilles' heel for the Wildcats.

Third-ranked Kentucky (7-1) will likely be facing one Friday night against No. 20 Baylor (7-1) but the UK boss is singing a different tune this year when the Cats see zone.

He's almost inviting it.

"Their zone is very effective," Calipari said of the Bears. "My feeling is they will play us 95 percent zone, and they play it different ways. They are like us in that they are so long that you are not getting the looks that you think you will get.

"The good news is, just about every team has played a zone, and the one thing I want to tell you is there is a cohesiveness to playing this game. Against man to man, we don't seem to be as cohesive as we do against zone."

Kentucky was zoned often by Providence in its previous game on Sunday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. The result was the Cats' best shooting night of the season (64 percent) and, in an unusual twist against that type of defense, very little reliance on the 3-point shot (6 of 8) en route to an impressive 79-65 win.

Why did UK execute so well?

"You have to pass it against zone," Calipari said. "You can't just try to make a play. You have to pass the ball, pass the ball, move it inside, kick it out, drive it, and all of a sudden we become a cohesive team.

"I really don't care that people play a zone. That's fine. It makes us come together." Baylor, however, will present more length and overall athleticism than Providence or any other UK opponent to date has. The Bears feature an athletic 7-footer in Isaiah Austin, a player similar to the Cats' Willie Cauley-Stein. They also feature long forwards like the 6-9 Cory Jefferson, 6-6 Royce O'Neale and 6-8 Rico Gathers, the latter who also brings 270 pounds of muscle to the table.

"The games that I have seen," Calipari said, "they are really long, they are really athletic, they are a talented team."

Baylor is only the second ranked team that UK has faced this season, but that's about to change in a hurry. The Cats are in the midst of a challenging portion of the schedule that includes successive games against Providence, Baylor, Boise State, North Carolina, Belmont and Louisville (with a combined record of 34-6) before opening SEC play.

"I am excited," Calipari said. "Look, we need to play another ranked team to find out where we are at this point. It's not about winning or losing, you want to win every game. It's about let's just keep learning where we need to go with this team."

Jeff Drummond has covered University of Kentucky sports for newspapers, magazines and online publications since 1988 and for FOX Sports since 2012. A Richmond, Ky., native, he currently resides in Lexington.

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