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New era begins for Big Blue fans

By: Sherelle Roberts Email
By: Sherelle Roberts Email

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - John Calipari surveyed the assembled media
and decided it was time to take an informal poll.
"How many of you thought we'd score 115 tonight," Calipari
said after the fourth-ranked Wildcats beat Campbellsville 74-38 in
an exhibition on Monday night.
Calipari knew better.
The new Kentucky coach stressed it was going to take time for
the Wildcats to adjust to his dribble-drive offense, and there were
plenty of growing pains to go around. Kentucky turned it over 23
times and shot just 50 percent from the field despite having a
distinct size advantage over the Tigers, an NAIA school from
southern Kentucky.
"There were some good, some bad, some ugly, some nice-looking
stuff today," Calipari said. "It's the first one out of the
gate."
Darnell Dodson scored 19 points and Perry Stevenson and DeMarcus
Cousins added 11 each for the Wildcats, who played without star
guard John Wall. The freshman watched from the bench in a gray
sweat suit as part of an NCAA suspension for accepting illegal
benefits from his former AAU coach. Wall is scheduled to make his
debut on Friday when the Wildcats host Clarion.
Eric Bledsoe started in Wall's place and had nine points, four
assists and four turnovers in 29 energetic minutes. There were
flashes of brilliance - including his emphatic block on a
Campbellsville lay-up attempt - and patches of confusion. It's to
be expected.
"We've got a ways to go and I knew this," Calipari said.
"You're talking about a change of culture, a whole new way of
playing, a new style, a way to figure out playing."
Shawn Savage and Joe Robinson led the Tigers with nine points
each. Campbellsville struggled early, shooting 12 percent from the
field in the first half as Kentucky built a 36-11 lead.
On paper it looked like defensive dominance. Calipari didn't
necessarily see it that way.
"If they had 58 possessions, we guarded about 10 of them just
the way we want to do it," Calipari said. "The problem is the
other 48. They missed a lot of open shots. When we watch the tape,
we'll see we didn't communicate. We missed on some switches. But
there were other times I looked and said 'That's exactly how I want
my team to play."'
Even without Wall, Calipari seemed to favor his newcomers.
Bledsoe was joined in the lineup by fellow freshman DeMarcus
Cousins and Dodson, a junior-college transfer. Freshman forwards
Daniel Orton and Jon Hood saw significant time off the bench.
Outside of Patrick Patterson and Darius Miller, the only
holdovers from the Billy Gillispie era to see significant time were
Stevenson and Ramon Harris. Sophomore guard DeAndre Liggins was the
only Kentucky player not to see the floor, something Calipari
attributed to problems in practice. Calipari said he expects to do
something similar with other players on Friday when Kentucky hosts
Clarion to see how they deal with adversity.
There was little to come by in Calipari's debut, and for all the
mistakes and lulls, the feeling of excitement surrounding the
resurgent program was palpable.
"The best thing I saw all night, I'm walking out and I look up
in the rafters and they're packed," he said. "Then I looked at
the clock with six minutes remaining and we've got 53 points and
I'm like 'Oh my goodness."'

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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