By LARRY VAUGHT
John Calipari thinks his team is getting “better” but also knows it is game to game with his team as it gets ready to play Missouri tonight.
“They shoot the ball well. They got good size. They lost a couple games that they could have won. They had Mississippi up seven with a minute and a half to go, two minutes, they lost the game,” Calipari said Friday. “They’re one of those teams in that pack of teams that we’re all pretty much the same. So we gotta play the way we’ve been playing to give ourselves a chance.”
Kentucky and Missouri are both 8-7 in Southeastern Conference play and tied for third in the conference going into tonight’s game.
Kentucky lost four straight games before beating Alabama and then winning at Arkansas. Quade Green and Jarred Vanderbilt have both played well recently to help bring the team to its best streak of the season.
“I think the two guys that are playing well together are Jarred and PJ (Washington). They’re playing well off one another. They kind of got a good feel for each other when they’re out on that court together,” Calipari said. “But no, Quade is playing better.
“Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander) is doing what he does. You know, Kevin Knox is way better. Nick (Richards) and Sacha (Killeya-Jones) are doing good. We need Wenyen (Gabriel) to step it up a little bit. He was a little bit better a week or two ago. He’s got to come back to where he was.”
Calipari was hoping his team would blossom earlier, but is glad progress is being made.
“I was hoping earlier, but you start worrying about later, you know. I think the ’14 team didn’t come until the last couple days of the season. As a matter of fact, I think we lost our last road game (at Florida),” Calipari said.
“So, you know, we hit the tournament and got better. We’re doing some good stuff, but we just gotta keep getting better. Guys gotta fall into those roles and then be good at we need them to be good at collectively.
“I don’t think the issue (with this team) has been basketball IQ. I think the issue has been they didn’t realize until two weeks ago how bad they needed each other. The second thing is they’re still trying to figure out who they are, then we add Jarred (Vanderbilt) midseason. I mean, that all comes together and we look confused sometimes out there on the court, which would make you to believe, ‘Man, their IQ –.’ It’s not, they’ve got a good basketball IQ, they have a good feel for the game, but again, we’ve had to make adjustments. I’ve had to really set into rules of how we’re playing, roles for guys, but they’ve gotten better.”