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Kentucky sharpening claws for epic cat fight in Baton Rouge

James Crisp/AP
FR6426 AP
Kentucky's Keion Brooks Jr. (12) shoots over Missouri's Ronnie DeGray III (21) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lexington, Ky., Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

Kentucky has played a true road game just one time this season. And it did not turn out well; a 66-62 loss at Notre Dame on Dec. 11th. UK, ranked 16th in this week's Associated Press poll, will face another true road game on Tuesday night, as the Cats visit the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge to face No. 21 LSU. Kentucky is hoping to learn from its first experience playing in front of a hostile crowd this season. WUKY's SportsPage podcast host Keith Elkins has this preview.

"That was our first true road game with a new team who had never been in that situation before," said assistant coach Chin Coleman. "Now, we have that experience and experience is the best teacher. From now on, we know that our job is to go on the road with a different mentality and to play with a swagger."

Guard Davion Mintz thinks the experience at Notre Dame can prove to be beneficial.

"Just to know how it feels, especially with a crowd," Mintz said. "Going in, obviously the other team is super excited. They're really looking forward to having us there. They're doing something special just because we're there. It's an attraction when we play in the arena."

That "something special" on Tuesday will be LSU naming its playing floor after long-time head coach Dale Brown. For Kentucky, it should be nothing new.

"It's what Coach Calipari talks about all the time with our team," said Coleman. "When you play at Kentucky, you're everybody's biggest game. If you lose, there's going to be a scrum, there's going to be the court rushing. I think we understand that target that's on our back."

Mintz knows that this is what he and his teammates signed up to do.

"This is Kentucky. This is why you come here," Mintz said. "What else do you want? You want to be the main scene. We're used to it at this point. This is why we come here and this is why we are UK."

Mintz calls Tuesday's game against nationally-ranked LSU a statement game.

"Just another statement game, try to get a really big road win," Mintz said. "Obviously, they are a really good team and they play well at home. Just to go somewhere and win and prove that we can bounce back on the road, that would be big for us."

As far as what statement Kentucky wants to make on Tuesday, Mintz was clear.

"That we're road warriors," Mintz said. "We can come in your house and we can dominate, the same way we do here. We want to prove that there's no layoff, that we're a legitimate top 10, top five team in the country, no matter if we're playing at home or away."

Kentucky has had some success playing at the PMAC, winning three of its last four in Baton Rouge. But the Cats will be facing a nationally-ranked LSU team that's coming off its first loss of the season. Still, Coleman likes where the Cats are at this point in the campaign.

"We're trending in the right direction right now," Coleman said. "And we want to continue to do that with the way that we're playing on both ends of the floor."

The Cats hope that trending in a positive direction, along with the lessons learned at Notre Dame earlier this season, can be enough to get a tough road win on Tuesday.

Bitten by the radio bug as a teenager, Alan Lytle got his start start more than 30 years ago volunteering in Clermont County, Ohio for WOBO-FM. He graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Broadcasting from the University of Cincinnati and worked at a variety of radio stations in the Cincinnati market, then made the move to Lexington in the mid-1990s.