By LARRY VAUGHT
After two straight wins over top 25 teams that have helped vault back into the top 10 of the national rankings, Kentucy coach John Calipari certainly seems to have a better feel for what he’s doing putting the pieces of the puzzle together for this team.
“We are still trying to mess with offense. I did a couple different things today (against Mississippi State) that you guys don’t know basketball, so you wouldn’t know, but there was some things I did offensively that were different because I wanted to try some stuff,” Calipari said after his team beat Mississippi State Tuesday. “And I kind of liked one, and the other, I wasn’t so sure of.
“Defensively, you know, we’re — I don’t like going game-to-game, changing how you play pick-and-roll. I’d rather say: This is who we are; you force your will on them, even though they know it’s coming. The old Green Bay Packer, what did they call that play, the sweep. You knew it was coming. Sweep! Touchdown.
“So I don’t like changing, but we’re doing some things, at times changing up how we’re playing some stuff. But this is a smart team, so we can go over it in two days, and they usually are pretty good about it. ”
For weeks Calipari has talked about the team needing to be player driven rather than pushed by him. He says the team is getting closer to that goal.
“Now I’ve just got to keep an eye on being humble and being hungry. Not, you know, getting carried away, because we’re just — we’re just beginning the climb of where we need to go,” he said.
Kentucky had 16 turnovers against Mississippi State. He said UK made 10 “self-inflicted” plays after it built a 16-point lead the previous game at Auburn.
“Two of them were free throw blockouts. Another one was just bouncing one off your foot because you’re not really alert. Two of them, not getting open. Why would you not get open? Why would you run from the guy? We work every day on getting into — all those kind of things, it only takes one or two things to change the whole complexion of a game,” Calipari said.
“And so we’re showing them, we’re talking about it. They are engaged. We had a coach come in the gym the other day and watch us practice and said, ‘Man, are they engaged. They are really locked into what you’re doing and what you’re trying to do as a team. '”