By LARRY VAUGHT
After beating North Carolina and with Louisville next on the schedule, Kentucky coach John Calipari knows the cheer is back for Kentucky basketball fans.
However, the coach tried to make sure that UK fans didn’t overreact to one win just like he warned not to overreact when UK started the season with the 34-point loss to Duke.
“#BBN, I’ve got to tell you now after yesterday’s game: Don’t go crazy! Don’t lose your mind over one game. As I’ve said all along, it’s a process. We win or we learn. Nothing has changed no matter the results (although I should mention that Seton Hall won at Maryland yesterday!),” Calipari posted on Twitter Sunday. “Yesterday we played harder than we’ve played all year and we played unselfish. We had a lot of guys play well. That’s why we won.”
Calipari even shared a text on Twitter that he sent to players encouraging them to continue to play hard.
“If one or two guys play lackadaisical, this team cannot win,” Calipari added on Twitter. “This is a team that’s going to have to fight every possession for 40 minutes. If we do that, we’re going to have a fun year.”
Kentucky certainly will play a team Saturday that has played with intensity. First-year Louisville coach Chris Mack was not happy with his team’s intensity the first 15 minutes of its last game with Robert Morris but the Cardinals then turned it on and pulled away.
“Coach Mack always has us play hard. I have not played for a coach who has been so intense and always wants you to give maximum effort all the time,” Louisville’s Jordan Nwora, who had 19 points and 13 rebounds — his fourth double-double — against Robert Morris. “I really believe his system puts the team in the best position to win. He’s really been doing a good job at that.”
Yes he has and Mack has Louisville playing better than many thought it might this season. That intensity he demands has resulted in his team making more free throws than opponents have attempted in seven of 12 games this season.
“Putting other teams in foul trouble is important for us and helps us win games,” Nwora said.
Saturday will also be Kentucky’s first true road game of the season. The Cardinals are 81-5 in non-conference games at the Yum Center over the last nine seasons.
Kentucky won 90-61 in Rupp Arena last year but the Cardinals won 73-70 in the Yum Center two years ago in Rick Pitino’s final season. But Calipari is 2-2 in games at the Yum Center against Louisville during his time at Kentucky and is 9-2 overall against the Cardinals.
“Obviously I have seen them on TV and watched a few of their games,” Nwora said. “Obviously they are a very good team. We just have to bring our A game.”
Nwora says the Cardinals go into every game believing they can win — no one can fault that — and expects to be fully prepared to face No. 16 UK Saturday. He also has had a message to Louisville’s new players about what the game will be like.
“It’s really just a nasty rivalry. To put it in one word, nasty,” Nwora, who has scored in double figures in 11 of 12 games this season and has seven games with 19 or more points, said. “Last year we all know what happened (with the 29-point loss at Rupp Arena). Just happy for another game coming up (with Kentucky).”