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Cats win 77-62 but Calipari says Kentucky has no confidence defensively

Keldon Johnson (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky overcame its own horrid shooting (9-for-27 from the field) in the first half thanks to a 27 points from Keldon Johnson and a steady spot at the foul line to knock off Tennessee State 77-62 Friday night in Rupp Arena.

Tennessee State had lost three of five games coming into Rupp but played with no fear of the Wildcats and even went on a late 8-0 run when it forced three UK turnovers in a 2 minute, 17-second span to at least keep the score respectable.

Kentucky did defend the 3-point shot better — the losers were just 6-for-16 — but a not so good trade off was that the Raiders got 32 points the paint, the same number as UK.

“This season we are playing fast and want to take open 3’s, especially in transition. Kentucky being so elite in transition and great in rebounding we wanted to pass up good shots for great shots. This is lowest amount of 3’s taken in a game but did allow us to stay competitive rather than just taking quick shots,” said Tennessee State coach Brian Collins.

Johnson, a freshman, had his second 20-point outing. He was 7-for-15 from the field and 13-for-18 from the field in 33 minutes. He also had seven rebounds.

“I was impressed by his poise. He didn’t get in the paint and just run people over,” Collins said. “He was agile and able to finish through contact. He will be a big-time player. Be another guy that gets drafted and will have a big career.”

Reid Travis got to the foul line nine times and had 13 points (4-for-4 from the field) and nine rebounds.

Kentucky, which came into the game averaging 31 free throws per game, went 27 of 41 from the foul line. In the second half UK was 14 of 25 from the field, including 3-for-5 from 3-point range after being 1-for-10 the first half.

Kentucky coach John Calipari didn’t mince words about his team.

“You cannot have confidence defensively if you don’t guard,” Calipari said. “The reality of it is we are a ways away. We are not a very good team right now. We have no confidence defensively which bleeds into our offense. If you get beat three or four times (on defense), you are not pounding your chest and saying you are great on offense.”

What about Johnson?

“He was seeing gaps and seeing opportunities to go to the basket and did a pretty good job,” Calipari said.

There were more than a few troubling signs again for Kentucky:

— Sophomore Nick Richards had two points (he got a dunk with 1:47 to play). He had as many technical fouls — one — as rebounds in 10 minutes. He’s becoming a consistent no-show, not something anyone expected this year.

— Freshman point guard Ashton Hagans had just two points and one assist in 11 minutes.

— P.J. Washington, who had averaged 21 points and 12 rebounds in the last three games, had six points on 1-for-6 shooting in 27 minutes. He did pull off seven rebounds.

— Sophomore Quade Green was 2-for-6 from the field and had five points in 17 minutes. He did have four assists.

“The offense is not an issue. We are fine,” Calipari said. “But we are not going to become that team until we are better offensively. I am just going to keep coaching them.”

6 comments

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  1. More questions than answers…Will Cal ever like this team?..What does this team do during practice?…Why does Nick report for games?…Will PJ ever be a separator?…Will we ever be able to defend at the rim?…Was Hagans really a 5*?…Will Cal suffer a Big Mack attack this year?

  2. NOT IMPRESSED…Kentucky should have had its way against a Tennessee State team ranked No. 284 in KenPom.

  3. Last summer, I posted that I thought Reid Travis, a legitimate AA candidate, and the element of experience, age, and toughness that has been the missing link on most “very young” Calipari teams, WOULD NOT START for a Calipari UK team.

    And it seems that fear is materializing. Travis is giving way for either EJ Montgomery (3 games ago) or Nick Richards (last 2 games). Why is that happening Coach Calipari? Travis is the best player on this team, and you have him riding the pine at the start of games, when these cupcakes are taking your team to the first TV timeout on even or better than even terms, night after night?

    Defense is a matter of effort, not confidence!!!!!!! More BS spewing from Calipari. For years, I have heard about all this talented depth, but for those same years, I have not seen Calipari use pine time as a motivator for lackadaisical effort from his NBA Bound (and determined to get there) Freshmen. No pine time for them, but plenty of pine time for Travis?

    I am fed up with this players first deal. It is past time for a program first approach. If some players manage to earn a way to the pay for play early because the program and team have been successful, I will lead the cheers, but this program is what matters to me, and I do not give two flips about any of those twenty some NBA millionaires that Calipari has paraded through the halls of this program over the last decade.

    off my soap box.

    Next!

  4. The Professor has nailed it !!!

  5. #258 KenPom ranked Monmouth coming up Wednesday.
    Can UK’s uber-talented team beat them by more than 15 points?
    Sorry to say, I’m not convinced they can.

  6. First of all i still think this team will improved as the season goes along. But I gotta agree to professor comments he did hit the nail. I wonder what happen to the team in Augusta to the season start. I really think there’s something going on that we don’t know nothing about you don’t just lose your confidence all of sudden after that Bahamas trip.

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