No. 1 Kentucky and No. 5 North Carolina expect to play a blistering tempo when the two meet Saturday at Rupp Arena.
By COLIN FLY
AP Sports Writer
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - North Carolina coach Roy Williams has a suggestion on how No. 1 Kentucky could cut costs associated with running Rupp Arena this Saturday: Unplug the shot clocks.
"I really believe they could save some power in Rupp Arena and not even have the shot clock this weekend," the coach said. "Kentucky wants to run. We want to run."
Both the Wildcats (7-0) and the fifth-ranked Tar Heels (6-1) look to push the pace when they meet after two entertaining games last season that saw Kentucky lose in Chapel Hill by two points before beating the Tar Heels in the NCAA tournament to advance to the Final Four.
Since then, Kentucky had added another top-ranked recruiting class in freshmen Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague to go along with Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones. North Carolina returns a group of veterans including Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Kendall Marshall.
"I like being on top," Lamb said. "I like everybody trying to come get us, everybody trying to beat us and trying to do everything else to beat us."
It appeared this game would be on a No. 1 vs. No. 2 collision course in the early season and for the first time ever at Rupp before North Carolina fell to UNLV last week and the Wildcats moved into the top spot. That won't dampen the atmosphere.
"I think the key to the game is just to execute. Rupp is going to be crazy," said Henson, the Tar Heels' defensive stopper. "It's executing under pressure and not losing your mind in a sense."
There certainly will be a heavy NBA presence watching, though the number of general managers and assistant general managers scheduled to attend has dropped precipitously from a high of 30 after the NBA lockout ended. Still, about two dozen NBA personnel will watch what could include 10 future players compete against each other.
"There is going to be a lot of great players, creating a lot of great competition," Jones said. "It is going to be a great way to test ourselves."
Kentucky responded to its ascent to No. 1 with an 81-59 rout of St. John's on Thursday after Anthony Davis scored 15 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and blocked eight shots.
The Wildcats have been simply overwhelming opponents with their athleticism, thanks to the 6-foot-10 Davis and the scoring of Jones. The Wildcats have beaten their first seven opponents by an average of 28.8 points and have yet to win by less than 10 while starting three freshmen and two sophomores.
And they're ready for the Tar Heels.
"It's at Rupp, so it's not like we're going to North Carolina like last year with the crowd against us," Jones said. The freshmen "should be more comfortable just because it's at home and it's where they play."
It's also a place where coach John Calipari has not lost since taking over in 2009 with 37 straight wins as part of the longest streak by the program in the facility's 35-year history. The homecourt advantage is something that's not lost on North Carolina.
"It's going to be a tough game," Henson said. "Coach Cal hasn't lost at Kentucky yet I don't believe, so it's going to be hard."
It'll be even harder without freshman P.J. Hairston.
Hairston is questionable with a wrist injury and took to Twitter on Thursday to say he would not be available against the Wildcats. That drew the ire of Williams, who said he told trainer Chris Hirth to put extra tape on Hairston's ankles for extra running in practice.
"If you pin me down, I'd say I guess he won't play, but I don't know," Williams said.
The Tar Heels have had a shaky stretch after losing to UNLV and needing a rally in a 60-57 victory over Wisconsin's methodical style. Knocking off Kentucky would certainly put North Carolina back on the right track, but Williams said he didn't let last year's loss in the regional finals necessarily serve as motivation for his team.
"I'm more motivated right now about the UNLV loss than I am about the Kentucky loss last year because this is this year's team," the coach said. "If that motivated them over the summer, I told them to let your pain be fuel for you. ... but if that helped give them some fuel to work harder over the summer, I think that's fine."
Williams said he wants Marshall to score more while Zeller needs to play a bigger role in the offense after he averaged 24 points, 10 rebounds and 4½ blocks against the Wildcats last year.
Of course, Davis wasn't down low then. Against the Red Storm, he came within one block of tying the school's single-game record and exited the game with nearly 5 minutes left.
"We alter a lot of shots even when we don't block them," Wildcats guard Darius Miller said. "It always helps when (Davis is) there, he's always back there to help - him and Terrence - and they do a great job of helping so it makes our job a lot easier."
Calipari said both teams would learn about themselves after playing Saturday. He also said he'd look forward to rematch regardless of the outcome.
"You're talking two teams that are going to go at each other that have a history," Calipari said. "We played twice last year and we split. If we play twice this coming year again, I hope it's very, very late in the season."
AP Sports Writer Aaron Beard in Chapel Hill, N.C. contributed to this report.