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No. 10 Kentucky tries to go through motions vs. VMI

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- No. 10 Kentucky looks to add to its win total heading into Thanksgiving week as the Wildcats host Virginia Military Institute on Sunday at Rupp Arena.

Kentucky (2-1) has defeated Southern Illinois and North Dakota since a season-opening 118-84 loss to Duke in the Champions Classic in Indianapolis. VMI (3-1) owns wins over Washington College, Goucher and USC Upstate but lost 94-55 at Pittsburgh on Nov. 9.

For Kentucky, it's not so much the opponent as a new test. VMI runs a motion offense similar to Princeton that few teams play these days.

"A tough challenge because of that style of offense that they play," Kentucky assistant coach Tony Barbee said Friday. "It's a pseudo Princeton-style offense with all of the back cuts and the curl cuts and the dribble handoffs and the constant motion. And then anytime you play that style of basketball with a five man who can stretch the floor like they have, it makes it hard because one of your bigs is getting pulled away from the paint. So, it's a challenge.

"It's a game that we're going to have to be disciplined defensively because of all the motion, all the movement, all the back cutting," Barbee said. "They have the ability to shoot the 3 and space the floor even from their center so it's going to be a challenging game from that standpoint."

Barbee, however, says the Keydets present another problem.

"It's not just their offense; it's their defense too," he said. "That matchup zone that they play is also something you don't see every day. It's not something you work against in practice. So, in a short turnaround we're going to have to figure out how we're going to attack it and be good at it so we're not out there thinking. We're just reacting."

VMI averages 80 points and is shooting 43.5 percent from the field, including 36.4 percent from 3-point range. The Keydets have 64 assists versus 51 turnovers.

Kentucky checks in at 83.7 points per game, shooting 47.4 percent, but only 31.8 from 3-point range. The Wildcats are upside down with 43 assists and 47 turnovers.

"Obviously it's a process with any team," Barbee said. "You're not going to play a perfect game offensively or defensively, but we want to get as close as possible to playing a complete game on both ends of the floor. The game before, Southern Illinois, was probably 10 to 15 minutes of a complete game defensively.

Last game, when we looked and graded the tape, it was probably close to 25 minutes. So it's a work and progress, but it's getting a lot better."

Kentucky has five players averaging in double figures -- Keldon Johnson, 16.7; Reid Travis, 13.0; PJ Washington, 12.0; Immanuel Quickley 11.0; and Tyler Herro, 10.7.

Likewise, VMI has five players with double digit scoring averages. Tops is last season's Southern Conference Freshman of the Year, Bubba Parham, who averages 18.0 points. Next comes Greg Parham (12.0), Jack Stephens and Sarju Patel (11.0 each) and Garrett Gilkeson (10.3).

Updated November 17, 2018

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