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Kentucky-Wichita State: A look at the matchups

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, March 22, 2014, at 7:28 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, March 23, 2014, at 5:24 p.m.

PASSING THE FRED TEST

His teammates expect it. They saw it last season in the NCAA Tournament. They saw it this season.

Teams, especially high-profile teams, aren’t convinced Wichita State guard Fred VanVleet can handle pressure defense. Ohio State tried it in last season’s NCAA Tournament, bodying up VanVleet and trying to rattle him. His teammates won’t be surprised if Kentucky shows a similar lack of respect for VanVleet, who will be the smallest player on the court by several inches.

His teammates aren’t worried. In fact, they are eager to answer the question.

“Everyone’s been trying to come at him all year,” WSU center Chadrack Lufile said. “What do you think’s going to happen? He’s going to come out there and do what he does.”

Guard Nick Wiggins isn’t worried.

“Teams getting up in Fred — hey, I haven’t seen him get sped up in two years,” Wiggins said. “If Kentucky tries that, that’s on them. He has a very good quick step that is underrated.”

HARRISON OUTLOOK UNCERTAIN

Kentucky point guard Andrew Harrison injured his right arm in Friday’s win over Kansas State. Before Saturday’s practice, he said he expects to play.

“It is in some pain,” he said. “I have just been icing it.”

Kentucky coach John Calipari told Harrison to do what he could in practice.

“I think he’s going to be all right,” Calipari said. “We just have to prepare, but he looks good.”

Harrison, a 6-foot-6 freshman, averages 10.7 points and 3.8 assists. He played 35 minutes against Kansas State and scored seven points with five assists and six turnovers.

WHAT SOUND DOES A TURNAROUND MAKE?

Wichita State coaches enter any tournament believing that their offense gets stronger as the tournament goes on. That theory gets tested again on Sunday.

“Having so many sets and quicks, as we do, it’s going to be hard for any team to prepare for,” WSU guard Ron Baker said. “When you’ve got to turn around and scout a team in two nights, it’s very tough to go over everything we’re capable of throwing at you.”

A Missouri Valley Conference team gets two months to look at WSU’s plays. In a tournament, the Shockers expect to confuse defenses more often.

“If you execute our system in a game, you might steal a couple points here and there,” Baker said. “In a game like this, that can be important coming down the stretch.”

The problem against the Wildcats, however, is that their size allows them to make mistakes and recover. Kentucky leads the SEC in blocked shots at 6.3.

TIME ON THE LINE

The Wildcats shoot 44.9 percent from the field and 32.4 percent from three-point range.

Those are mediocre numbers, especially for a team with such size. The Wildcats average 75.3 points, second in the SEC, in part because they shoot so many foul shots.

Kentucky is 710 of 1,041 (68.2 percent) from the line this season. No other SEC team shot more than 918 free throws and eight didn’t shoot more than 800.

NEW KIND OF CATS

Wichita State and Kentucky meet for the first time.

WSU coach Gregg Marshall is 0-1 against Kentucky. His team at Winthrop lost it season-opener 65-44 in 2003-04 at Rupp Arena.

The Wildcats last played a Missouri Valley Conference team in the 2009 NIT, a 65-63 Kentucky win over Creighton in Omaha.

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