UK-UofL, Part 1: Sure to be physcial (with video)

The game involves two teams from Kentucky, but the Chicago background of DeAndre Liggins has prepared him for the physicality involved in the rivalry game.

“(Where) I grew up, when a guy catches the ball, we hit them,” Liggins said. “That’s the kind of basketball we played in Chicago, on the streets. They punch you.”

The nature of the game has a tendency to bring out all sorts of things. Trash talking, grabs, holds, tough fouls. Last year the list even included elbows.

However, UK isn’t expecting a repeat of last year’s version, which got out of hand early.

“The passion and the emotion of a tough-nosed contest is one thing,” head coach John Calipari said. “But when it moves beyond that, when there’s a nastiness to it, whether that’s in the stands, toward the coaches, toward each other, it’s not good for what we do.”

Calipari has been warning the freshmen against letting their emotions, artificially heightened by playing Louisville, getting out of control. He pointed towards last year’s confrontations between Eric Bledsoe and Reginald Delk, and the scuffle on the floor between DeMarcus Cousins and Jared Swopshire, as examples of what he doesn’t want to see.

“This should be one of those vicious, clean, everybody’s playing to win (type of games),” Calipari said. “When it’s over, everyone that leaves the arena or their TV says, now that’s basketball.”

Compounding the potential problem is the youth of UK, who won’t truly know what it feels like until they physically step out on the floor. He has warned his players to be ready to play through “grabs and holds and pushes and shoves.”

“You gotta know, they’re playing, this is not for funsies,” Calipari said. “Like, ‘Why is he going so hard?’ Because he wants to win. That’s the kind of thing the first three or four timeouts, there will be stuff said that I’ll be busting out laughing.”

Still, UK doesn’t have a lot of experience in dealing with rivalry games. Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins saw limited action last year, and Harrellson “didn’t sniff the game,” according to Calipari. The rest of the team is encountering everything — the hype, the buildup, the initial rush of adrenaline — for the first time.

“We’re going in blind,” Calipari said.

UK expects Louisville to play off that knowledge and try to entice UK into foul trouble — or worse. Technicals and ejections would be even more crippling to UK.

“I think we’re a young team again, and they’ll try to do the same thing again,” senior Josh Harrellson said. “Trash talk, see if they can get us out of our game, but we’re ready for it.”

Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said in a press conference streamed online that last year’s overly physical play was a result of UK’s youth, which got caught up in the hype the fans and media were feeding. But if that’s the case, the same problem would persist, since UK is predominantly playing freshmen.

“I told Russ Smith not to bully any of their guards,” Pitino said.



Josh Harrellson talks about the nature of the rivalry and how players perceive it compared to fans:

John Calipari on all things rivalry games:

DeAndre Liggins on Chicago basketball preparing him for physicality of game:

Darius Miller on the nature of the rivalry game growing up in Kentucky: