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November 8, 2012Mark Turgeon took John Calipari by surprise the first time they met. Calipari, then an assistant at Kansas, had scarcely heard of the diminutive Jayhawks guard when Turgeon came up and introduced himself.
"I remember him coming up to a table when we were having breakfast and Larry Brown had gotten the job and he said 'I'm better than any point guard you have on your team,'" Calipari said. "We didn't know who he was. It was like 'What's your name?' He was confident, a little, 145-pound kid telling us this."
Now the head coach at Maryland, Turgeon has a team big enough to push Kentucky around.
The Terrapins' front line includes a rangy 7-footer and pair of 6-foot-8 forwards that can knock the Wildcats around in ways their two exhibition opponents couldn't.
"They're going to play hard," freshman forward Alex Poythress said. "They're big and going to try to jam you in the post. But if we play like we should, then we should be fine."
Maryland also has sophomore guard Dez Wells, a transfer from Xavier who was recruited by UK before picking Maryland. He averaged 9.8 points for the Musketeers last season and was declared eligible to play immediately on Wednesday.
"He will make Maryland now, legitimately, one of those teams," Calipari said. "They were good enough and they needed that one guy. He's that guy. He's that good."
The Wildcats, on the other hand, could be shorthanded.
Sophomore point guard Ryan Harrow did not practice on Wednesday with flu-like symptoms. Senior guard Julius Mays also sat out as a precaution to limit stress on his hyperextended knee. There's a chance neither will be available to play on Friday, Calipari said.
Poythress wasn't concerned about Mays' status for Friday. He has more to worry about from Maryland's men up front.
Calipari expects Maryland to test UK quickly, posting the ball up early and often. He would have preferred to put a couple regular season games behind him before facing Turgeon's team, but playing a game early will help him find out where his team is.
"Our big guys have their hands full," Calipari said. "If you think you're just going to play, you're going to get screened first. Or your man is going to screen and then they're posting your man. They put you in tough situations and they're executing."