College hoops: Wildcats limp into Chapel Hill
LEXINGTON, Ky. ó Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie was surprised when a reporter told him that North Carolina senior Tyler Hansbrough won’t play tonight when the Wildcats take on the top-ranked Tar Heels.
To Gillispie, it didn’t really matter.
“Then they’re down to four or five pro players instead of six or seven,” Gillispie said.
The Wildcats (0-1) head to Chapel Hill trying to bounce back from a stunning 111-103 loss to Virginia Military Institute.
The Keydets’ run-and-gun style caught the Wildcats flat-footed. The bad news is the Tar Heels (1-0) may be even faster.
“Their speed is tremendous,” Gillispie said. “I don’t think anyone has done as great of a job of really emphasizing and really instilling their will upon you as far as their transition offense.”
Kentucky struggled on both ends of the floor against VMI, which controlled the tempo and exploited Kentucky’s inexperience at point guard.
Guards Michael Porter and DeAndre Liggins combined for 12 of Kentucky’s 25 turnovers and had trouble covering VMI’s shooters as the Keydets hit 14 3-pointers. The Wildcats know they have to put the game out of their mind quickly.
“We can’t go into North Carolina still thinking about that game,” forward Ramon Harris said. “We have to go in there and be prepared to win.”
Keeping up with the Tar Heels will be an issue for Kentucky.
Gillispie said the Wildcats will have to try and slow things down whenever possible. That means getting the ball inside to forward Patrick Patterson, who had just eight points against VMI.
“Every time we get the opportunity to pass the ball to Pat, we need to,” Gillispie said. “And we don’t need to get in the habit of missing him too often. We need to get it to him when he’s open.”
Aside from Hansbrough, North Carolina will be without senior guard Marcus Ginyard. Gillispie praised their replacements, freshmen Tyler Zeller and Ed Davis, who helped lead the Tar Heels over Penn on Saturday.
Even without the two seniors, the coach isn’t expecting North Carolina to miss a beat.
“I don’t think anyone’s ever caught Carolina at a good time,” Gillispie said. “There’s a reason they’re No. 1 in every poll and a unanimous choice. They have not one good player; they have a ton.”
Kentucky will look to avoid opening the season 0-2 for the first time in eight years and try to snap a four-game losing streak to the Tar Heels.