|No. 14 Kentucky may encounter tough Waters at LSU|
Kentucky hits the road for the first time in SEC play Wednesday when the No. 17 Wildcats face LSU in Baton Rouge, La.
Since he starts five freshmen, it's not surprising that Kentucky coach John Calipari has some concerns. But it might not be what one would think.
First conference road trip? No.
"This is a totally different era of where they go play, who they play, the events they play in, the show games they play in," Calipari said with a nod to the AAU travel circuit. "It's the first game on somebody's home court, but we've been away from home, had to travel, and they've performed. I'm not so worried about that."
Kentucky's continued improvement on this modest two-game win streak? Yes.
"I'm worried about if we will talk more on defense because if we don't talk more, then we can't get better and we're going to be stuck where we are," Calipari said. "Can we create shots for each other versus can I get my own shot? Are we sharing more? Are we playing desperate? Are we grinding it out at the end? Are we attacking to make plays for each other? I'm more concerned about that kind of stuff than playing on the road.
"My concern is how we're playing, not where we're playing. I would I-95. Put two hoops up, shut the traffic down for a couple hours, let's play. Doesn't matter to me."
Calipari does, however, like the idea of getting his team away from 24,000-seat Rupp Arena, site of a 90-61 rout of Louisville on Dec. 29 and a 66-61 SEC opening victory over Georgia on Dec. 31.
"This can lull you to sleep when you're 24,000. You lead the nation in attendance," Calipari said. "Our fans were great at the Georgia game and the Louisville game. I mean, kind of lull you to sleep, so we've had some road games. I imagine LSU fans are gonna be there and it's gonna be a hostile environment. It'll be a great learning experience."
LSU, under first-year coach Will Wade, is 9-3, including 7-1 at the Maravich Assembly Center. The Tigers capped a 3-0 start to their season with a win over Michigan in the Maui Invitational before losses to Notre Dame and Marquette followed. LSU also won at Memphis, but lost to Stephen F. Austin at home.
Over its last four games, LSU is averaging 10.2 made 3-pointers per game, including 13 its last time out at Memphis, while scoring an average of 84.7 points.
"They're playing wide open. They're playing fast. They're scoring probably about 90 a game," Calipari said. "And I say they play fast, they don't play as fast as you think. They'll throw it ahead, but if they don't get it there, they're more, 'Alright, let's get this in some sort of pick-and-roll and get them out of position.' He's done a good job."
Freshman guard Tremont Waters leads LSU at 17.1 points per game and paces the SEC in assists (6.4) and steals (2.6).
"Dangerous if you watch him," Calipari said. "Great with the ball, finds people, has a green light to shoot to the NBA line so he'll go back there and shoot NBA 3s. Gets to the rim. When he's getting to the rim, he'll find you. He's tough, he's good. He's a handful."
Kentucky (11-2) has five players averaging in double figures -- all freshmen. Hamidou Diallo is tops at 14.9 followed by Kevin Knox, 14.5; Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, 11.6; Quade Green, 10.8; and PJ Washington, 10.0.