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January 16, 2012Mike Anderson came from the school of "40 Minutes of Hell." The Arkansas basketball coach cut his teeth as an assistant to Nolan Richardson in the Razorbacks' revved-up, running heyday in the 1990s.
So when the Hogs visit No. 2 Kentucky on Tuesday, don't expect Anderson to take his foot off the gas. His Razorbacks run. They intend to sprint right into Rupp Arena.
"We're going to attack," Anderson said. "That's how we play. We play up-tempo, attack basketball."
That's the way Kentucky wants to play, too.
So maybe it won't be the Wildcat-Razorback rivalry in the 1990s, when both teams were among the nation's highest-octane teams - and perennial national title contenders. But Tuesday's 9 p.m. tilt could spark some memories of those fast-paced games of old.
And that would be just fine with Kentucky.
"This is going to be exciting," UK point guard Marquis Teague said. "We're looking forward to these type of games, playing up and down, being able to use our speed and athleticism."
It's a relative rarity for the Wildcats (17-1, 3-0 Southeastern Conference), who have seen most opponents try to grind their way to upset wins. The blueprint for trying to beat Big Blue has been to play physically, to limit the Cats' possessions and keep the score low.
But John Calipari described Arkansas' approach as "hectic, frenetic, trap, push it up-and-down," and Anderson said the Razorbacks "won't go away from what we do" against Kentucky's speed and athleticism.
Arkansas wants to play fast. Anderson's best teams at UAB and Missouri played at a breakneck pace, and the Razorbacks (13-4, 2-1) will look to push. They rank third in the SEC in scoring offense at 76.9 points per game, and the Hogs have the depth to keep up the pace.
Nine Razorbacks average at least 16 minutes per game, and Arkansas' leading scorer, BJ Young, comes off the bench. UK has six players averaging at least 25.9 minutes per game, and seven players play virtually every significant minute for the Wildcats.
"We've played Nolan's teams and Mike's teams when I was playing six and seven guys," Calipari said. "Guys rather go up and down than get in a stance for 25 seconds each time down anyway."
Calipari has lamented that he's playing some players too many minutes - Teague, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Davis average more than 30 per game - but Teague shrugged off the suggestion that logging major minutes against the Hogs could be a detriment.
"I think we'll be fine," Teague said. "We're in real good shape. We're used to playing a lot of minutes in every other game. We did it against Louisville and North Carolina and other great teams. So we'll be fine."
But Arkansas will try to speed up Teague and the Cats. And not just into a fast-breaking track meet. The Razorbacks' goal will be to make Kentucky move more quickly than it's comfortable in bringing the ball up the court and even in half-court sets, using pressure defense in an effort to get the Cats making quick decisions.
"When they speed you up, they're getting into you (defensively)," Calipari said. "They don't press like normal teams where if you complete a pass they run down. They come running at you. Then they try to rotate and another guy runs at you. It will be different for our guys."
But it'll be welcome.
"If that's their game and they think that's what's best for their team, that's what they should go for," forward Terrence Jones said. "I know that's how we like to play, so that's what I feel is a strength for our team."
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