By LARRY VAUGHT
Freshman Keldon Johnson thinks Kentucky’s first two games have been learning lessons for him and his teammates.
“I think we learned a lot from each game and it’s just up from here. We’re just going to continue to get better as a team and as individuals and I think that it will be great,” Johnson said.
Kentucky plays North Dakota tonight, eight days after its 34-point loss to Duke to open the season.
“I know that I made some mental mistakes, some kick-outs that I should have made, but just learning, keep playing as a team and trusting our teammates,” Johnson said.
Kentucky coach John Calipari said said it’s not hard to know what opposing teams are going to do when Johnson drives.
“They’re collapsing (in the lane). You can throw three cheerleaders, an official and their whole team in the lane and right now what’s he do? He keeps going,” Calipari said.
Rather than passing to an open teammate, Johnson is trying to hit a home run every time.
“I think that instead of making the simple play, making the play that’s the easiest, I think that sometimes we try to complicate, try to get the highlight play, if you want to say that, or make the spectacular play,” Johnson said.
Like some other teammates, he’s struggled with his perimeter shooting.
“It’s a mechanics thing. Just gotta keep shooting. We work on shooting every day, just applying it to the game and keep trusting it,” Johnson said Tuesday. “Don’t try to go back or revert back to old habits because they’re not falling right now. If we keep shooting like we know we can, they’ll eventually fall.”
That seemed to be what happened when UK wiped out a seven-point deficit in the second half to beat Southern Illinois Friday. Johnson said it was about the team’s “passion” for basketball.
“We wanted to fight. We wanted to win. We just dug down. We knew we were down and we knew if we just gave up there they were going to beat us. We just came back and fought and that’s about it. We just kept fighting until the end,” he said.
Give him credit for admitting he knows little about North Dakota. My guess is most fans don’t, either.
“I heard they’re a pretty good team. I think we’ll be fine as long as we come out and play our type of basketball,” Johnson said.