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Calipari: No. 8 Kentucky needs new habits

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- No. 8 Kentucky looks to improve to 6-1 on Sunday as the Wildcats bring a action-packed November to a close when University of Illinois-Chicago visits Rupp Arena.

The game will be Kentucky's seventh in 16 days. By contrast, they play only six times during all of December.

For Kentucky's young team, it has been on-the-job training all month long.

"I'm trying to challenge these guys," Wildcats coach John Calipari said. "We're trying to create new habits. I am losing my mind thinking that we should be farther along than we are."

Calipari starts five freshmen. Coming off the bench are one freshman and two sophomores.

"If a guy has been doing something eight years, you're not going to break that habit," Calipari said. "So you've got to create new habits so that thing is not there anymore. We're not trying to break it. Leave it there. But we're going to do something different.

"That's what's hard with these young kids. Kevin Knox -- one-handed rebounds again. One-handed catches. Just got to keep running him. You're going to run. I mean, Vermont game -- one-handed rebound. We almost lost. Kansas game -- one-handed rebound.

"It's not breaking that habit," Calipari added. "It's creating a new habit that you're going to go after every ball with two hands."

Despite the flaws, Knox leads Kentucky in scoring at 14.7 points per game. Next comes Hamidou Diallo at 11.8 and Quade Green at 11.7. Nick Richards, fresh off a career-best 25 points and 15 rebounds against Fort Wayne last Wednesday, is the top rebounder at 7.0.

Kentucky is shooting 47.9 percent while holding opponents to 38.0, including just 27.6 from 3-point range.

The Wildcats will face UIC coming off their best performance of the season. In the win over Fort Wayne, Kentucky scored a season-high 86 points. They also shot 60 percent, only the 10th time a Calipari UK team has ever reached that mark. Kentucky won the rebound battle by 23, the 11th-best mark for UK during Calipari's time.

"There was some good stuff," the coach said. "I'm anxious to watch the tape. Happy for the guys."

UIC is 2-2 with wins over North Carolina Central and Delaware State and losses to St. Joseph's in overtime and Fort Wayne. UIC lost to Fort Wayne 67-51, a team Kentucky defeated 86-67.

Sophomore forward Dikembe Dixson leads UIC in scoring at 14.3 points per game. Next comes sophomore guard Marcus Ottey at 12.3, sophomore guards Tarkus Ferguson and Godwin Boahen at 9.5 each and senior forward Tai Odiase at 9.3 with a team-best 7.8 rebounds.

Coach Steve McClain's Flames shoot 40.7 percent, including 24.5 from 3-point range.

"Again we struggled to score," McClain said after the most recent game, the loss to Fort Wayne. "More than anything we created our own struggles because we had wide-open plays at the rim and didn't finish."

Sunday night's game will feature an interesting side story as Calipari goes for his 700th coaching victory. Kentucky is qualifying the feat as "on-court wins" as the NCAA ordered 38 wins during his time as Memphis coach vacated.

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