UK ready to be road tested



Everybody’s Super Bowl.

That’s head coach John Calipari’s common refrain on what it’s like for UK on the road in the SEC. More intensity, more physicality, more talent, more passion.

That won’t be any different this year. If anything, the Super Bowl-ness will increase. UK is currently No. 2 in the national rankings and the heavy favorite to win the league.

“It’ll be crazy,” Calipari said of playing on the road. “Believe me.”

If you don’t believe him, believe Twany Beckham. He’s seen it from the other side. Beckham played at Mississippi State before transferring to UK this year. He’s seen the difference between home games against UK and home games against — well, anyone else.

“When Kentucky came in, it was the biggest game of our season,” Beckham said. “They sold it out, they did things for the fans. It was crazy.”

The road presents an extra challenge for UK, which hasn’t lost at Rupp Arena in Calipari’s three years but has lost eight conference games on the road since then — including six last season.

UK didn’t get a breakthrough on the road until the back end of the schedule last year, but the losses proved a useful lesson. The Cats had to face realities about their shortcomings as the postseason approached.

The same has already proved true this year. UK is 15-1. That one loss was in its only road game, at Indiana.

“I think that was a great game to prepare us for road games,” Marquis Teague said. “That’s how it’s going to be for us everywhere.”

If UK picks up more road losses in the coming months, it doesn’t signal panic time. As Calipari pointed out, UK may have lost six times on the road last year, but also made the Final Four.

So UK may take some lumps — although probably not that many.

“We’ve got more experience, we’ve probably got more talent,” Calipari said of this year’s team. “So we’re farther along than we were a year ago.”

Both of his statements ring true. Last year, UK had minimal experience. Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins hadn’t been significant contributors the year before.

This season, Miller, Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb have been through a conference slate.

“When stuff hits the fan, those guys know how to calm the waters. It speeds up young kids,” Calipari said. “Hopefully we have enough veterans out there to go with the young guys we have.”

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