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November 22, 2012While students are away, the Wildcats have to play.
With games the nights before and after Thanksgiving, there was no time for coach John Calipari to give his players any days off, but he planned to make sure the team felt at home on Thursday.
"We're going to have Thanksgiving at my house tomorrow?," Calipari said after Wednesday's win against Morehead State. "Usually I give them a day and a half off over Thanksgiving. The way our schedule fell it's not what's happening so we will just have to deal with it."
After the team has its Thanksgiving meal, the Wildcats will do a quick walk-through preparing for Friday's game against LIU-Brooklyn. Then they will step away from basketball, likely to go see the movie "Linoln," Calipari said.
With a team sprinkled with freshman, a lot of players will be spending their first Thanksgiving away from their family.
"It's going to be tough. Every Thanksgiving I spend time with my family," freshman Alex Poythress said. "It's going to be my first Thanksgiving without someone from my family, but my mom and my sister are coming down Friday, so I can eat some food Friday."
But fellow freshman Nerlens Noel sees Thursday as an opportunity to bond and get closer to his basketball family.
"It's going to be different but this is like family here, it's just like spending it with my brothers and coaches," Noel said. "It would be different, but you're spending it with people you care about."
Even though they can't spend time with their real families, the Cats will gladly take a day off from practice, especially coming off a physical game against Morehead State.
In UK's 81-70 win over the Eagles, the Cats were fouled 32 times, leaving UK battle-tested but also bruised.
"I'll make sure I take care of my body and get in the cold tub," Noel said. "Do what I need to do (to get ready for Friday)."
And while the Cats won't have much time to get their bodies 100 percent before Friday, they don't mind playing sore. In fact, after struggling with overmatched Morehead State, UK will be ready to get back on the court after taking a day off.
"We want to try and regroup and try to pick it up Friday," Poythress said.
UK takes on an 0-3 LIU Brooklyn team, whose three losses came to the three teams UK has beaten this year, Maryland, Lafayette and Morehead State. It's the final game for both teams in the Barclays Center Classic.
And while UK will be the favorite Friday, the Cats learned they can't take any team lightly after a scare from Morehead State.
"We definitely have to come prepared for the physicality," Noel said.