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November 30, 2012

With Notre Dame loss still fresh, Cats face Baylor

The Wildcats need a push.

After being bullied at Notre Dame Thursday night, Kentucky wants to get back to its winning ways, but that might not be an easy task Saturday when Baylor comes to Rupp Arena.

UK head coach John Calipari expects the Bears to push back.

"They have big guys," Calipari said. "Their guard play (Pierre Jackson), he's tremendous. They run pick-and-rolls, get up and down the court, isolations."

Both teams will head into Saturday's matchup coming off a loss. The Irish beat Kentucky 64-50 on Thursday, and College of Charleston upset Baylor last Saturday, though the Bears played without sharpshooter Brady Heslip, sat out the game due to an emergency appendectomy.

He's listed as a game time decision for Saturday, but Calipari expects him to play.

"The shooter who was out last game, which is probably why they got beat, I imagine he'll be back," Calipari said. "He can really shoot. If he gets it off it's in."

Heslip averages 11.6 points per game, and nearly three three-point field goals.

The Cats and Bears played each other for a trip to the Final Four last season, with UK beating Baylor 82-70 in Atlanta.

Shutting down Heslip - the junior only attempted two threes and was held to three points - was key to UK's win.

Heslip and Jackson are the team's only two returning starters.

"They're a little different (than last year)," Calipari said. "They're a good team."

But the Cats won't have much time to prepare for this season's Baylor team. The Cats will only have 39 hours from the end of the Notre Dame game until tipoff against Baylor.

Calipari said the team would film and go through a walk through, and that will be the extent of UK's Baylor prep.

"I wish we had nine days, but we don't," Calipari said. "We have one afternoon."

The Cats will need to be wary of Baylor's scoring attack and expect a fast-paced, high-scoring affair. The Bears are averaging 79.2 points per game, compared to UK's 79.3. And like UK, Baylor has a plethora of players that can put up big numbers in any given game.

Four Bears have had games scoring at least 16 points. And Jackson and Heslip have had 31- and 29-point games respectively.

Calipari said Baylor could, "go for 100."

No. 8 KENTUCKY (4-2)
Coach: John Calipari (106-16 in fourth season at UK; 509-154 in 21st season overall)
Last game: Lost to Notre Dame 64-50
Roster | Stats
No. 24 BAYLOR (4-2)
Coach: Scott Drew (161-126 in 10th season at Baylor; 181-137 in 11th season overall)
Last game: Lost to College of Charleston 63-59
Roster | Stats
Pos. Name Yr. Ht./Wt. PPG RPG
G Julius Mays Sr. 6-2/192 10.2 1.8
G Archie Goodwin Fr. 6-5/198 16.3 5.5
F Nerlens Noel Fr. 6-10/208 12.0 8.3
F Alex Poytress Fr. 6-7/239 15.8 6.5
F Kyle Wiltjer So. 6-10/239 11.5 4.3
Pos. Name Yr. Ht./Wt. PPG RPG
G Pierre Jackson Sr. 5-10/180 20.3 3.2
G Brady Heslip Jr. 6-2/180 11.6 1.8
G A.J. Walton Sr. 6-1/184 5.3 4.6
C Isaiah Austin Fr. 7-1/220 14.2 8.2
F Cory Jefferson Jr. 6-9/210 14.3 9.0
Game/Series Information
Game Information
Site: Rupp Arena (23,000), Lexington.
TV: CBS (Jim Nantz play-by play, Clark Kellogg analyst).
Radio: UK IMG Sports Network (Tom Leach play-by-play, Mike Pratt analyst); Sirius 128, XM 192).
Internet: Audio
Favorite: Kentucky by 7.5

Series Information
Series record: Kentucky leads 7-0
At Lexington: Kentucky leads 4-0
Coaches' records: Calipari 1-0 vs. Baylor; Drew 0-1 vs. UK

Last meeting: Kentucky 82, Baylor 70, March 25, 2012 (Georgia Dome, NCAA East Regional Final)
Baylor got off to a fast start in its quest to reach the Final Four, but top-seeded Kentucky was not to be denied. The Wildcats played a dominating stretch in the first half, led the Bears 42-22 at halftime and rolled to an easy win, the only scare coming when Anthony Davis hit the floor with an apparent knee injury Davis was fine, and Kentucky - which got 19 points from Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and 18 points and 11 rebounds from Davis - marched on to the Final Four and ultimately the NCAA title.

Keys to the Game
1. Turnaround Time: Kentucky took its worst loss of the season - the second-worst of John Calipari's UK coaching career - on Thursday, losing 64-50 at Notre Dame. Now, Calipari's young Wildcats have to move on in a hurry. Baylor has the athletic talent it'll take to beat Kentucky, and the Bears have had a week to prepare. If they jump out to an early lead, it'll be key to see how the Cats react. Will there be a Notre Dame hangover, or can Kentucky find a way to tough out a win?

2. Pierre Appears: Baylor boasts a savvy verteran point guard in Pierre Jackson, who's comfortable running the offense - he averages 6.7 assists per game - or looking for his own shot. Jackson averages 20.3 points per game and has scored in double digits 14 straight times dating back to last season. Jackson isn't a big guard, but he's quick enough to give defensive fits to any of Kentucky's guards. The Wildcats still are seeking the perimeter defensive stopper that DeAndre Liggins and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist provided the past two seasons.

3. Man in the Middle: Here's a rarity: Kentucky might not have the best freshman on the floor. Baylor center Isaiah Austin averages 14.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, and the former McDonald's All-American is just part of Kentucky's frontcourt defensive challenge. Austin and Cory Jefferson average a combined 17.2 rebounds per game, and Baylor averages 12.8 offensive rebounds per game. That's been a sore spot for the Wildcats this season.

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