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GAMEDAY: Cats try to tame Coogs

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The Wilcats wrap up their pre-conference slate this evening with a 7 p.m. ET game against the Houston Cougars at Rupp Arena. Houston enters at 5-6, losers of three straight, while Kentucky is 10-3 with a 6-game winning streak.

The Cats looked sluggish after the Christmas break, dispatching Eastern Kentucky, but not without a few scares along the way. The junior trio of Randolph Morris, Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford are finally beginning to round into the sort of form fans expected nearly two years ago.

The matchup couldn't be more different than the one with EKU on Saturday, as Houston runs and shoots and barely defends, while the Colonels walked, passed and packed it in the paint. It would be nice to see the Cats enjoy themselves with the freedom to create off the dribble rather than mash their heads against the wall that is UK's half-court offensive scheme far too often.

Trez again previews the opponent in detail, making particular note of the troubles the Cougars have in the middle. Simply summed up, Morris should have a field day, assuming (a0 he stays on the court and (b) his teammates remember he's there and get him the ball.

Kentucky is still seeking a return to the national rankings and consciousness, and at this point, until the big dogs of the SEC come calling, there is only way to do that: continue winning.

What to look for:
* Speed Freaks: Tubby Smith has given plenty of lip service to the idea that he wants his kids to run, but they just don't seem to get it. Meanwhile, fans weaned on speed and trapping defense are still grumbling about the slow-it-down offense. Houston wants to run. Will Tubby let it happen or keep a lid on to avoid turnovers?

* Fresh Blood, Part III: All season, across the country, freshmen have been wowing crowds and coaches alike. UK's newbies have been no different, with Derrick Jasper starting and Jodie Meeks, Perry Stevenson and Michael Porter each having standout moments. Who will be the spark tonight? Will it be time for Stevenson to break out of the doghouse?

* Razor Light: After some debate about his status for redshirting, folks are curious whether Alaskan freshman Ramon 'Razor' Harris can be helpful as an athletic body this season. He hasn't practiced enough to know what's going on, so fans clamoring for 25 minutes are delusional. But he didn't even play last game, so I think any time he can get before Florida and Bama and the like are on the floor, the better.

Probable starting lineups


Kentucky
SG: Ramel Bradley, Jr., Brooklyn, NY (13.5 ppg)
3G: Joe Crawford, Jr., Detroit, MI (12.5 ppg)
PG: Derrick Jasper, Fr., Paso Robles, CA (3.5 apg*)
SF: Bobby Perry, Sr., Durham, NC (7.0 ppg)
C: Randolph Morris, Jr., Atlanta, GA (16.6 ppg)

Bench rotation:
F Perry Stevenson, F Sheray Thomas, F Ramon Harris, C Lukasz Obrzut, G Jodie Meeks, G Michael Porter

Houston
PG: Robert Lee, 6'3", Jr. (12.1 ppg)
SG: Robert McKiver, 6'3", Jr. (17.8 ppg)
3G: Oliver Lafayette, 6'2", Sr. (15.7 ppg)
F: Dion Dowell, 6'7", Jr. (17.4 ppg)
C: Jahmar Thorpe, 6'6", Sr. (8.5 ppg)

Bench rotation:
Marcus Malone, Charlie Jones, Sam Anderson, Tafari Toney

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