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Jeff Eisenberg

Know thy enemy: Opposing coaches size up Kentucky vs Cornell

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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The Dagger asked an assistant coach whose team faced Kentucky and one whose team faced Cornell to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their former opponent. The coaches were granted anonymity to assure honesty.

An opposing coach on Kentucky:

What's most impressive about Kentucky is that for a group of guys who came in with as much hype as they did, those guys have handled that with ease. They have matured and gotten better. You don't see that a lot with high-level guys who get their (butts) kissed all the time ... A lot of people say that the way to beat Kentucky is to make them shoot jumpers, but they've got guys capable of making shots. I think the No. 1 key to having success against them is rebounding. They kick people's (butts) on the glass. They get a lot of second-chance points. I also think transition defense is key because they're excellent in transition. They're probably the most efficient team scoring in transition as I've ever seen ... (DeMarcus Cousins) had the reputation for being a hot head coming in, but for the most part he's kept his cool. He could have gone off in the Tennessee game in the SEC tournament or in the second round against Wake Forest, but for the most part he's been able to control that. That's a testament to him growing up ... The one thing Kentucky doesn't do as well as it could is defend the 3-pointer, and Cornell is a very good shooting team. When you have that working for you, you can be pretty tough to stop from scoring.

An opposing coach on Cornell:

They really challenged themselves with the schedule they had. Being able to go to Kansas and hang with them all the way through, that just really helped fuel their confidence and got them to another level ... As you put together your game-plan, the key is really (7-foot center) Jeff Foote. His size and skill level really takes them to another level. If you don't have a really good low-post defender who can push him out and make him work for his points, you're in trouble. If you start doubling down, he can really pick you apart. If you start rotating against Cornell, you end up just chasing them and they're going to end up with an open shot ... Wittman is a guy you really can't leave. They do a great job of running him through screens and taking advantage of lapses where he gets even a split second of freedom. He's so quick to his shot that if he gets to his release point, he's shooting over the top ... I think Kentucky with their athleticism has to use their quickness and pressure Cornell, try to make them a little uncomfortable and not let them run their stuff. If you don't force them out, they're going to be successful ... The more offensive success Cornell has without turning the ball over, that will give them a chance to keep Kentucky in a half-court game. Cornell is a much better defensive team than people give them credit for, but it's still important that they shoot a high percentage and slow Kentucky down.

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