By LARRY VAUGHT
Almost every non-conference team that Kentucky brings into Rupp Arena to play makes it clear how much the opportunity to play Kentucky meant to their program.
That was no different after Kentucky’s 77-62 win over Tennessee State Friday night. Tennessee State coach Brian Collins acknowledged his respect for coach John Calipari and his program.
But Collins also basically pointed out the weaknesses in UK’s defense before Calipari followed him into the media room and said UK had no “defensive confidence” six games into the season.
“This season we play fast, and we want to take over the 3’s, especially when in transition. If we can get a good quick one up, we are going to take it every time,” Collins said. “Tonight, with Kentucky being so elite in transition and so great at rebounding, we really wanted to apply the pressure on them by getting multiple hand touches”
Tennessee State took 16 3-pointers, just one more than Kentucky. It had been averaging almost twice that number in its first five games that resulted in a 2-3 record.
Collins said passing the ball more and shooting fewer 3’s enabled Tennessee State to “stay competitive” with Kentucky.
The shorter Raiders even battled UK to a standoff in points in the paint, 32-32.
“Tonight we just played harder than we did all year really as far as points in the paint,” Collins said.
Then came the statement that points out a big flaw in UK’s defense.
“We put the pressure on them by getting in the paint and we felt like that was something we could do against them is drive our bigs,” Collines said. “We wanted to use our speed to our advantage, we got in the paint, and some of our bigs got some nice finishes in the paint.”
Calipari wasn’t surprised by what Tennessee State did because every team Kentucky has played this season has been able to do the same thing.
“Well they probably watched the tapes (of previous UK games) and said, ‘You know what, we don’t have to take 3’s. Let’s just drive the ball,’ which I thought they would do,” Calipari said. “My thing was they would spread the court, use clock and then try to beat somebody on the bounce. I thought they had a pretty good game plan in what they were doing”
Kentucky’s players certainly know how frustrated Calipari is withe defense.
“I think he’s pretty frustrated. We work on it everyday in practice and sometimes we come out flat. However, we’re going to keep working and get better,” freshman EJ Montgomery said.