CRAWFORD | At least on paper, No. 6 Texas gives UK an opponent i - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | At least on paper, No. 6 Texas gives UK an opponent its own size

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — At least on paper, the No. 6-ranked University of Texas basketball team visiting Rupp Arena at 7 p.m. Friday might be the most similar to the University of Kentucky team of any opponent the top-ranked Wildcats will face the rest of the season.

Both are among the nation's leaders in effective field-goal percentage defense (UK is No. 1, UT is 3). They are the nation's leaders in effective two-point percentage defense (UK 1, UT 2). They are among the nation's leaders in blocked shot percentage (UK 1, UT 3).

Kentucky's bench plays a remarkable 49 percent of the team's minutes. The Wildcats won't likely play another team during the regular season that plays its bench for as high a percentage as Texas, whose bench plays 37.9 percent of its team's minutes.

Texas has not allowed more than 57 points in a game all season. UK held No. 5-ranked Kansas to 12 points in the second half, and has held three opponents below 40 points total.

RELATED: Crawford on the Eight Stages of Playing Kentucky

Texas also is one of the tallest teams UK will play the rest of the season — only Vanderbilt (20) and Louisville (35) have a more highly ranked effective height than the Longhorns (52).

All of which is to say, at least on paper on Dec. 4, the teams look comparable.

But there's more to the game than paper. UK pummeled No. 5-ranked Kansas by 32 points, and will be a 12-point favorite over Texas, which lost starting point guard Isaiah Taylor, its leading scorer at 15 points per game, to a broken wrist in late November.

UK coach John Calipari is hoping his team is challenged. He said it needs to face some adversity.

“Nothing would be better for us than having a team like Texas come in here and hit us right in the mouth,” Calipari said. “We need to know when a team comes in and scores their first 8, 10 times down the floor, making tough shots, and we're missing open shots, how do we respond? Are we still tough? Are we still having fun? Are we still playing together? Those kind of things are out in front of us yet.”

UK ranks second in the nation in defensive efficiency and third in offensive. It's still very early in the season, but only five teams in the past 13 years have finished the season in the top five of both categories; two of those won a national championship, and another reached the Final Four.

Calipari, however, says his team's offense still has a ways to go.

“Offensively we're at about 50 to 60 percent capacity right now,” he said. “We're just not there. Defensively I would guess we're 70 to 80 percent there, but we're still not where we could be in either area. Offensively we're behind where we are defensively.”

He said he wants to see better cutting and passing, better overall execution and more fast breaks. He said he explained to the team that if its offensive improves, it will allow its defense to become even better.

“I'm trying to explain to them that if you play better offense, then it makes your defense even better because it puts pressure on the other team to make baskets against a really good defense,” Calipari said. “If you can go down and really execute 10 straight times down the floor and they're trying to hold the ball to get a shot in the late shot clock, then you just put a lot of pressure on that team. You have to play good offense. If you want to be a world-class team, then you're not going to just do it on one end.”

Texas is led by Jonathan Holmes, a 6-8 senior who averages 12.7 points per game. It is getting 12.1 per game from 6-11 freshman Myles Turner, who comes off the bench. They are the only double-digit scorers for the Longhorns, who get at least eight points a game from three other players. Texas scored a big road win at Connecticut this past Sunday, and coach Rick Barnes said he's hoping that road experience might help Friday night.

“We've got size,” Barnes said. “I can't imagine. They're big. We're big. We're a big team. They're probably, without Isaiah, they're probably bigger in the backcourt than us, but across the front line, I mean, it's probably pretty even across the board there. But we're going to need our guys. In a game like this, you got to be playing at a very high level. But like I said, we look at this game, we're not going to make it bigger than it is. We're in December and it's a challenge against – we're playing the best team in college basketball right now. We're in a great league. We've already played in a pretty tough environment. And yeah, would we love to have Isaiah right now? Absolutely. But we don't, and they're not going to cancel the game because of that. So we got to come play and see what we can do."

FAST BREAK FIVE:

1). Texas has not beaten an AP No. 1-ranked team in its history. The Longhorns are 0-7 against teams ranked No. 1.

2). UK and Texas are meeting for only the second time. In the first meeting, UK beat the Longhorns 86-61 in Maui in 1993. In that meeting, UK was ranked No. 5 in the nation and Texas was unranked.

3). The teams have one common opponent. UK beat Texas-Arlington 92-44. Texas beat the same team on Sunday 63-53.

4). UK has won 25 of its past 27 games as the AP top-ranked team.

5). UK's Dakari Johnson ranks No. 10 in Ken Pomeroy's statistical player of the year listing. He has been UK's leading scorer off the bench this season, along with freshman Devin Booker. Both average 10.3 points per game.

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