UK downplays significance of rivalry game


Freshman guard Eric Bledsoe moves down the court in the second half of the UK men’s basketball game against Louisville at Rupp Arena on Saturday, Jan. 2, 2010. The Cats won 71-62 over the Cardinals. Photo by Adam Wolffbrandt

Ticket scalpers are the happiest people in Lexington, head coach John Calipari said, because of Saturday’s game against Louisville.

“They’re ecstatic,” Calipari said. “People would pay what to see this game?”

At the bottom of the spectrum are the players, the very same ones the scalpers are happy about, at least going by how much stock they put into the rivalry game.

“It’s another game to us,” Anthony Davis said.

“I’m just treating it like a regular game, really,” Doron Lamb said.

Both of those players said they haven’t watched a Louisville game yet this year. Not on TV, not on film.

Of course, they’ve heard about the importance of the game.

“I get a lot of tweets, like, ‘Beat Louisville, they suck,'” Davis said. “So it’s definitely a big deal for them [the fans].”

Much of the neglect for the rivalry stems from necessity. Darius Miller, a Kentucky native, said he has watched a few Cardinals games. He thought about going to Louisville when he was in high school. So how does he not get caught up in the frenzy?

“It’s not that hard,” Miller said. “I feel like I have to in order to be ready for the game.”

That’s the approach for UK.

And if it prevents a situation like the Xavier-Cincinnati brawl from occurring, that’s even better.

“Our team does not feel any hatred or animosity toward their players,” Calipari said. “We do not talk that way, we do not play that way.”

Even if the rivalry component is discarded, that still leaves UK facing a one-loss team currently ranked No. 4 in the nation. It will be the highest combined rank between the two teams in series history.

UK will be tested by Louisville’s defense — the Cardinals rank No. 7 in’s adjusted defensive efficiency, and will throw full-court presses and half-court zones at UK, elements the Cats are relatively unfamiliar with — and by Louisville’s physicality.

“They’re not afraid to get after you,” Calipari said. “They’re playing to be the aggressor.”

Even if UK truly doesn’t buy into the raised stakes of this game, its meeting an opponent that will be raised competition.

“This is all good,” Calipari said. “It’s a great experience for us in another kind of crazy environment.”

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