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LOUISVILLE â€“ No more chandeliers, no more cracks in the floor, no more hotel basketball in Cancun, Mexico. The Cats (6-0) still arenâ€™t home in Lexington, but theyâ€™re back in the Bluegrass in front of their loving fans.
The Cats held an open practice on Sunday on rival Louisvilleâ€™s home court in Freedom Hall. The middle of the court still had the Cardinals logo and the Louisville banners hung from the ceilings, but UK fans were cheering on their Cats an hour before practice even began.
â€œIt was great,â€ senior guard Ramon Harris said. â€œIt was definitely great to be able to put a smile on a kidâ€™s face just by signing a piece of paper or signing a t-shirt.â€
UK will play UNC Asheville (0-5) on Monday night in their annual game in Freedom Hall. The Cats are off to their best start since 2004 and had some fun with the Big Blue Nation before their seventh game of the season.
UK head coach John Calipari told the crowd before practice he wouldnâ€™t be against the idea of having more than one game at Freedom Hall in the future. Calipari said the Cats have only sold about 13,000 or 14,000 tickets for the UNC Asheville game so far though, and for the Cats to have more than one game in one season at the arena, they would have to know theyâ€™re getting sellouts.
â€œIn Rupp we know weâ€™re going to have 24,000 and thereâ€™s a lot of money involved in this,â€ Calipari said. â€œSo if you come here and you donâ€™t (have a sellout) thereâ€™s no way. And the powers that be are going to say, â€˜No, weâ€™re not doing it,â€™ and you know what, I donâ€™t blame them.â€
A few of the players wanted to have a little fun on their rivalâ€™s courtâ€™s expense. After being asked by a fan to stomp on the Cardinals logo at the center of the court, junior forward Patrick Patterson ran over and did just that. After Patterson, fellow junior forward Josh Harrellson and freshman forward DeMarcus Cousins got on each sideline and ran to the center to stomp on the logo together. They said it was just out of fun, but Patterson said heâ€™s not worried about the repercussions.
â€œIf it does (serve as bulletin board material for Louisville) it does,â€ Patterson said. â€œThatâ€™s entirely on them.â€
After signing autographs for about 30 minutes, the Cats went through shooting drills with breaks in between from four kids in the stands who shot against some of the players. UK then broke into two teams of five with freshman forward Daniel Orton and sophomore guard DeAndre Liggins not making the trip due to class on Monday. The Blue team, consisting of DeMarcus Cousins, Mark Krebs, Darnell Dodson, Perry Stevenson and Harris, dominated the contest, winning all four 3-point challenges.
UKâ€™s game on Monday with the Bulldogs is against a team that was beaten by Tennessee by 75 points on Nov. 17. UK will also face a tough stretch of games following their match against the Bulldogs on Monday night. Theyâ€™ll go up against No. 11 North Carolina and No. 13 Connecticut in that span. Still, freshman guard John Wall said theyâ€™re not worried about the Bulldogsâ€™ struggles thus far this season or the games in the future, but instead are just trying to improve.
â€œWeâ€™re going out there and playing just like itâ€™s any other game,â€ Wall said. â€œWeâ€™re not looking at what the scoreâ€™s going to be, weâ€™re just going out there and playing and working on our defense, our offense and just trying to get everything down pat from this week in practice.â€