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Payne says Cats are “capable” but must end stretches of lackluster play every game

Wenyen Gabriel (Vicky Graff Photo)


Think back to 2011 and 2014 and remember the struggles Kentucky had during the regular season before somehow regrouping and making the Final Four. Neither team won the national title, but both got extremely close.

Could it happen this year? Kentucky fans hope so. Even the UK coaching staff is telling current players about the 2011 and 2014 history lessons.

“Cal has done a great job of explaining historically what teams have been similar coming down the stretch, losing three of four, and then they clicked. Having adversity and then all of a sudden you figure it out and you go out and you fight for 40 minutes,” assistant coach Kenny Payne said Tuesday.

“You change the landscape of where the program is and where you are as a player and where we are as a team. This team is capable. This team is more than capable even though they’re young.

“We’re not using youth as an excuse; we just need them to fight, to not give up four, five-minute stretches of lackluster basketball. If you can do that, you give us a winning chance.”

Payne said the coaches are trying to get the players to believe they can put together a big finish but they are also trying to make players understand that they have to be accountable for how they play.

“You have to make sure that you love them, that you – I hate to say the word but – hit them in the face but hit them with reality. That means challenge them, get after their butts. When you are not playing hard, when you’re tired, that’s not acceptable, and we are going to get after you for that,” Payne said.

“For you to miss free throws when we shoot hundreds of free throws every day, that’s not acceptable. That means there is mental block that is allowing to not believe you are going to make this free throw and you’re missing. Why? We are going to challenge you on that.

“We are going to challenge you as a freshman to think like a senior. We are going to challenge you as a college player to think as a professional player. That’s what we do here.”


  1. This team is not either of those teams. Sorry Coach, but you either are blowing smoke or don’t understand, and I refuse to believe you don’t understand. We “basketball bennies” are not blowing smoke, and we do understand.

    You want these players to understand history, why not start back in June when they arrive on campus teaching them about the real history of this program, the history of this fan base, and the recent history of the UK teams under your guidance. Teach them that the results this program has been proud of for decades, nearly a century, don’t just happen by showing up and rolling out a basketball. Teach them about the necessary sacrifice for team, teach them that UK teams simply don’t lose 3 or more in a row. Instill in them a pride in the name on the jersey before they ever have an opportunity to actually put it on to engage an opponent.

    When on the brink of 4 in a row is a little late to start trying to instill a sense of urgency, especially with a group that has never shown one little iota of urgency about anything, joking with each other on the bench while the team is being embarrassed on the court.

    You said Monday night to vent at you, and I am doing just that.

    4 in a row!!!! Only happened 6 times in 89 seasons, and 2 of those happened in 89 and 90 when Sutton got this program on NCAA probation. 2 other times happened when Gillispie was self destructing in 08 and 09 that allowed you to walk into this job. You are about to join some very exclusive company if this team loses tonight.

    How is that for a little dose of UK history! Have you told these players about that tidbit? I bet not.

  2. I agree Professor.
    This team has the talent to be very good, but a lack of effort is not acceptable. I believe Cal has accepted more of the effortless play this year than he should have. I have not seen Knox sent to the bench for lack of effort and he is one of the worst in that area. To have such a future looking him in the face and then just stand around like he doesn’t know what is going on, is not acceptable. I blame Cal for not putting his but on the bench until he decides he is one of the best players in the country and ready to give the effort to prove it. Same goes for Washington and Diallo. These 3 have been allowed to “play at their own pace” too long this season. These kids could be really, really good if the will kick their own butt and decide to do it.

  3. Payne used the word “youth” and then back pedals that they are not using that as an excuse, but it is exactly what they continue to do. MG I am so sick of hearing that word. Cal continues to play soft ball with these guys, and this is on him and the coaching staff. This is the most passive team I have ever seen at UK.

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