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Keith Taylor: Calipari says fourth-ranked Wildcats are still searching for an identity

Kentucky is searching for an identity. So is Ohio State.

Both teams will look to move closer toward creating their own distinction when they meet for the first time in nearly five years Saturday in the CBS Sports Classic in Brooklyn.

 Kentucky guard Isaiah Briscoe and the Wildcats are still searching for an identity (Bill Thiry Photo)

Kentucky guard Isaiah Briscoe and the Wildcats are still searching for an identity (Bill Thiry Photo)

Although the fourth-ranked Wildcats are off to a 9-1 start, Kentucky coach John Calipari isn’t satisfied with the team’s overall progression, especially in the post.

“We’re still trying to find out who we are,” Calipari said Thursday. “We have some players struggling. We’re a little bit beat up now and then. We’re just trying to get some traction of where we’re going with this thing. There are times I see it and there are other times I just shake my head. That’s what happens when you have the most inexperienced team in the country coming back and you’re trying to still play at a high level.”

The Buckeyes (5-5) lost four of their first seven games, including home setbacks to Texas-Arlington and Louisiana Tech, but have won three of their past four games, including a 67-54 victory over Northern Illinois earlier this week.

“They’re talented, they’re just like us trying to figure themselves out, trying to figure themselves out defensively, how they’re going to play,” Calipari said. “(They’re) trying to put in an offense that they think works for them. We’re going through the same thing.”

The trip to the Big Apple will be a return home for Isaiah Briscoe, who played at Roselle Catholic in nearby New Jersey. In his first season with the Wildcats, Briscoe is averaging 12.4 points per game and Calipari is pleased with the way his freshman guard is progressing.

“Everybody that’s watched – from New York – that’s watched Isaiah cannot believe that he’s playing the way he’s playing,” Calipari said. “One of the best defensive rebounding guards in the country. He’s in an attack mode, north and south, he’s not east and west anymore.”

Newcomer Tai Wynyard joined the team earlier this week and it’s not known whether the 6-foot-9 forward will play for the Wildcats this season or even make an impact. Wynyard graduated from his high school in Auckland, New Zealand and enrolled into school a semester early, making him immediately eligible to practice and compete with the team.

“He took a red-eye (flight) in,” Calipari said. “He’s going through all the medical stuff that he needs to go through before he can practice. I don’t think he’ll practice today. I think he’ll have a chance maybe that he can practice tomorrow before we travel (to Brooklyn). If he’s cleared to play, who knows? I may stick him in the game. Who knows what I’ll do with him. It’s good to have him here. I’m excited for him. Don’t know where he is (conditioning-wise). I don’t know anything right now other than he’s pretty big.”

Even though the Wildcats haven’t been a dominant force through their first 10 games, Ohio State coach Thad Matta said Calipari’s current squad is reminiscent of his first six teams at Kentucky and believes the Wildcats will eventually turn the proverbial corner.

“Somehow, someway, I know he’s had some bumps here or there, but come at the right time he always has them playing at the highest level, there’s no question about that,” Matta said.

Game tracker: Kentucky vs. Ohio State, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. TV/Radio: CBS (Channel 27), 98.1 FM WBUL.

Keith Taylor is a columnist and senior sports writer who covers University of Kentucky athletics for KyForward.com

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