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Calipari’s Wildcats not looking ahead to Duke going into final exhibition game

By Keith Taylor
Kentucky Today

Before second-ranked Kentucky can start thinking about its season opener against No. 4 Duke set for Tuesday, the Wildcats will play one more exhibition game before the season becomes official.

Freshman Keldon Johnson said the Wildcats haven’t started looking ahead to the Blue Devils just yet.

“We’re taking it one game at a time,” he said. “We’ll cross that road when we get there.”

The Wildcats opened the two-game preseason schedule with a 94-66 win over Transylvania last weekend and will host Indiana University of Pennsylvania at 7 p.m. Friday night.

Since the exhibition opener, the Wildcats have “tweaked some little things on offense” but focused primarily on getting better on defense.

“We’ve just got to sit down and keep them in front of us,” Johnson said.

Keldon Johnson goes up for a dunk in Kentucky’s exhibition win over Transylvania last weekend. Kentucky takes on Indiana University of Pennsylvania Friday night at 7 p.m. (Kentucky Today/Tammie Brown)

Kentucky veteran forward Nick Richards said the team’s defensive performance against Transy was “decent.”

“We gave up too many straight line drives to the rim,” he said. “We need to work on that a little bit more. We let them get too many second-chance points. Really they should have never gotten any second-chance points. Just gotta work on those things gotta get better at it and we’re working on it in practice every day.”

Johnson came off the bench and scored 13 points in Kentucky’s easy victory over the Pioneers. Kentucky coach John Calipari started veterans Quade Green, PJ Washington, Nick Richards, Reid Travis, and freshman Immanuel Quickley last week. Johnson said he doesn’t mind coming off the bench.

“It doesn’t really matter. I trust Coach Cal and what he’s doing,” Johnson said. “If he doesn’t decide to start me, then I just come in and do what I’m supposed to do. If he does, same thing: I just come in and take care of business.”

Kentucky assistant coach Joel Justus said the Wildcats just want to want to “get better.”

“(We’re) looking for improvement both individually as well as collectively,” Justus said. “I think you want to see guys take steps towards becoming their best version. Our goal – Coach Cal’s goal – is to achieve that by the end of the year. This is just another step in that direction, another time to test each guy, like I said, individually and also collectively.”

The Wildcats also will be looking to improve their overall shooting from the perimeter.

“I think we just had some times that we were getting used to playing in Rupp,” Justus said. “I think you’re playing at a different time, you’re playing at a different kind of situation and I think all of those times you’re going to have some butterflies. I think you’re going to have some anxiety. I think you’re going to have some excitement. We got that out of our system.

“We had some shots go in and out. I don’t think that we really had any bad shots in terms of bad misses. Maybe they were early in the clock. I think this time of the year when you have young guys, you have new guys that that is going to happen. Just like with our defensive issues, we address them and you move on.”

GAMETRACKER: Indiana University of Pennsylvania at Kentucky, 7 p.m., Friday. TV/Radio: SEC Network, UK Radio Network

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.

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