UK prepared for physical matchup with Crimson Tide

UK guard Andrew Harrison and Ole Mis guard Jarvis Summers scramble for the ball during UK vs. Ole Miss at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., on Tuesday, January 6, 2016. Photo by Emily Wuetcher

By Kyle Arensdorf

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UK basketball goes on the road for the third time this season to take on a veteran Alabama team that’s not far behind the Cats in the SEC standings.

Despite the Cats’ perfect record through 16 games, their short three-game conference schedule has seen its share of lumps.

Both Ole Miss and Texas A&M took UK to overtime, and the Cats’ only decisive win came against a Missouri team whose record is tied for second-worst in the SEC.

In fact, all three of the Cats’ conference matchups have come against three of the four worst teams in the SEC, according to the standings.

But Alabama is fifth in the SEC and holds a 10-0 record at home this season.

“This game is going to be different now because these guys are really physical,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “They disrupt your offense. You have to be strong with the ball. They will trap our post. (We’ve) got to play off of that.”

One positive for UK is the resurgence of the two-platoon system that was an integral part of the successive blowouts early in the season.

Sophomore guard Aaron Harrison said Calipari told the team that in order get their energy back they would return to two five-man rotations.

“It was working for our energy and us playing as a team so I think that’s what (Calipari) is looking for,” Harrison said.

The 6-foot-6 sophomore also commented on what the difference between the last game and the first two close games for the team.

“I think it’s an attitude,” he said. “You all just have to come together and be able to know you’re going to win the game and have the confidence in each other to have each other make plays.”

One player making significant advances in his play during this turbulent time for the Cats is sophomore center Dakari Johnson.

His individual stats don’t necessarily jump off of the page, but his presence in the lane forces defenses to sag back to defend him, allowing outside shooters to flourish.

“During the game of basketball you’re going to have slumps every once in a while,” Johnson said. “So I just tried to do my best to come out with energy and just pick it up.”

UK is riding high off of its dominant win, but Calipari has strived to make his team very aware of what kind of a threat Alabama is to them.

“They’ve lost four games,” Calipari said Friday. “And the games they have lost – Wichita State, Iowa State, Xavier and South Carolina – all on the road. They could have won all of them. So we know how good they are.”