By LARRY VAUGHT
Mississippi hosts Kentucky Tuesday night after having lost consecutive games to Tennessee and Arkansas that came down to the game’s final possession.
Kentucky coach John Calipari said Monday on the SEC Coaches Teleconference that both Ole Miss and Florida, which plays at UK Saturday, will be “desperate” for wins to help their SEC Tournament seeding. Calipari said he would be telling Ole Miss players they could easily be 2-0 in the last two games and to think how they would be feeling if that was the case. He used the same strategy in mid-December when the Cats lost at Seton Hall on a last-second shot.
“Then the people here went crazy. ‘Cal doesn’t care about winning anymore. He’s only about moral victories,’ and they went absolutely crazy. I’m worried about my team and their mentality. I’d imagine that (Ole Miss coach) Kermit (Davis) is doing the same,” Calipari said.
“Listen, they’re an NCAA Tournament team. They’re a team that’s played well, been aggressive and played well all season. I’d imagine – are there still tickets for sale down there? I would say there’s not. It’s going to be a war and they know it and their team will be ready.
“Look, we don’t face anybody that’s not ready to play. Some games we play better than others, but the other teams that we play we understand what we’re getting. I fully expect those guys to really get after it. It should be a high-flying kind of game.”
The UK coach said Ole Miss has “really good” guards that can both shoot the 3 and drive inside.
“They create fouls. They create opportunities for bigs. They’re really good,” Calipari said.
Kentucky’s defense has not forced as many turnovers in recent games. Calipari says that has to change and can if he is team will just play aggressive like it has most of the season.
“When we’re letting teams throw it wherever they want and not truly putting pressure on the ball for whatever reason, we’re not the same team. We’ve just got to get the guys to understand for us to be successful here’s what we’ve got to look like,” Calipari said.
“It’s not guaranteeing that you win, but it puts you in the best position to play your best version as a team. This team is connected to each other and the minute that they start worrying more about their own performance we don’t trust each other, which means you’re not aggressive. Which means you don’t take chances. Which means you’re not pushing up.
“So, we’ve just got to get back to where we were. But it’s a bunch of young guys still learning.”