No. 10 Kentucky working out kinks, hosts North Dakota
Tenth-ranked Kentucky returns to action Wednesday against North Dakota with coach John Calipari trying to move his basketball team forward by taking a huge step backward.
"We went too far and tried to do too much and didn't really get established in what we wanted to be," Calipari said Tuesday. "All the stuff that makes us who we are, we didn't do any of it. But I"ve gone back to some old school. We've gone back and just said, 'Let's get this stuff down.' So hopefully when you watch us you will see a little different team and you will say, 'OK, I get it'."
Kentucky is 1-1 with a 71-59 victory Friday over Southern Illinois that followed an embarrassing 118-84 blowout loss to Duke in the Nov. 6 season opener.
"I've done this more than once where I've gone too fast and moved it too far until you get smacked and then you realize, 'Uh oh, we don't even really know how to get open'," Calipari said. "They should. Well, they don't. Still a lot of teaching stuff and that's OK. That's normal here. That's not their fault.
"Anytime I think these kids know something then more than likely I'm making a mistake, and that's just about every team I've coached here," Calipari said. "If I think, 'They know that,' then I've made mistake."
Calipari will test that theory against the Fighting Hawks, who are 2-0 after a 63-60 victory at Milwaukee on Saturday.
Five players average double figures scoring, topped by senior guard Cortez Seales and freshman forward Elijah Hazekamp at 14 points apiece. North Dakota is shooting 48 percent from the field, including 40.4 from 3-point range.
"We're playing a good team again," Calipari cautioned. "I watched the tape. They space the court great. They've got a great, tough penetrator. They've got a great shooter. So this is a lot like a Southern Illinois.
"Now, you say North Dakota -- the name North Dakota -- forget about the name. They're a terrific basketball team. They just won on the road. Beat Milwaukee."
Kentucky is led in scoring by freshman Keldon Johnson at 19 points per game. Grad transfer Reid Travis checks in at 14.0 and freshman Immanuel Quickley is at 10.5. Sophomore Nick Richards averages 10.5 rebounds after grabbing a career-best 19 boards against Southern Illinois.
"We're going to prepare no different for Kentucky," North Dakota coach Brian Jones said. "But I want to make sure these guys embrace the moment."
Jones said he reached out to North Dakota football coach Bubba Schweigert, who took his team to Washington, losing 45-3 in September.
"I take some things form Bubba when they went out to Washington. You have to be able to find small victories," Jones said. "Regardless of what the scoreboard says at the end, what are some things we can hang our hat on over the next 40 minutes? We have to find out what those things are and then really strive to do that and do it to the best of our ability."
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