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November 5, 2012
It's tough for UK players and fans to not look ahead to the season opener Friday. Some have even turned their attention to rival Duke next week.
But coach John Calipari is making sure the Wildcats focus on their next game, even if it is an exhibition.
The Cats shouldn't be on upset alert when they take on Transylvania Monday night, but the Pioneers did play UK tight early in last season's matchup. Kentucky ended up cruising in the second half for a 97-53 win.
"I watched the tape: 17-17, 19-17, 21-19," Calipari said, recalling the close scores early. "Then we got a little gap before half and you're up 12 or whatever it was. Kind of wore them down in the second half."
Last season the Pioneers walked to Rupp Arena from their campus, less than a mile away. Transylvania returns most of its team from last season, and Calipari expects the Pioneers to push the Cats.
"If I'm (Transylvania head coach) Brian Lane, I show them last year's tape, first half," Calipari said. "I say, 'Let's just play like that for 40 minutes. We've got the same guys back. They're a brand new team. Play like you did for 20 minutes and we're going to give them a game.'
"They can and they will. It should be a good game."
UK freshman Nerlens Noel admitted he didn't know much about Transylvania but did know they are close in proximity to UK and will have some fans at Rupp Arena.
Calipari also warned his team that Transylvania would hit shots.
"(Calipari) said they are a good shooting team," Noel said. "But he hasn't talked too much about them."
And although UK will have a huge advantage in talent, the Cats can always improve.
Specifically, closing out on the Pioneer shooters.
"Every time we play an opposing team they probably going to shoot the best they ever had in their life," Noel said. "We just have to make sure we get a hand out and really guard the perimeter."
On Sunday, Calipari said his team could take some lessons from the Crimson Tide's 21-17 win at LSU on Saturday night, a game that kept Alabama in the driver's seat to reach the BCS National Championship Game.
Alabama won with a touchdown drive in the final minute after struggling offensively for most of the second half.
"If one guy made a mistake on that last series, they lost the game," Calipari said. "There was a responsibility for every player on the team to do their job. And then the defense had to do their job."
Calipari drew a parallel to his own team's intense workouts, saying they're intended to prepare the Wildcats for tough situations down the road.
"That's why (Alabama is) No. 1 in the country," Calipari said. "The best thing that happened to Alabama is they went down (against) a team late in the game. Now let's see what we're made of. That's why you train like this. You sweat now so you don't bleed later."
The new Barclays Center, which will host the game, is ready to go and has hosted the Brooklyn Nets' season opener.
And because Kentucky will stay in Brooklyn, Calipari doesn't anticipate transportation issues for the team.
Fans staying in Manhattan could have a different experience, though, if New York's subway system isn't fully operational.
"If you're staying in the city and you're trying to get (to Brooklyn) without public transportation, I've done it before," Calipari said. "Torture. It'll take you two hours, three hours. With public transportation, it'll take you 15 minutes, 10 minutes."