By LARRY VAUGHT
As soon as John Calipari started talking about this year’s team, he emphasized the defensive ability he felt his teams guards would have to put pressure on opponents to make it hard to start any offense.
That obviously starts with sophomore point guard Ashton Hagans, the co-SEC Defensive Player of the Year last season. He had fours steals in Sunday’s exhibition win over Georgetown College.
“Defense starts on the ball, and if you can’t keep the ball in front of you, they are running downhill, they are shooting layups and they are getting your bigs in foul trouble, and when he (Hagans) wasn’t in, that’s what happened,” Calipari said.
“We work every day on one thing: Stay in front of people on the drive you and can’t do it by turning. You have to lunge in. But these kids, it’s not their habits yet, and that’s our job is to create habits for these young people, and you know, we weren’t able to do it.”
Calipari has worried about team’s toughness, something that probably worries him even more about Georgetown outrebounded his team Sunday night.
“Georgetown was physical and outrebounded us, and most of it was just scrappiness. You had to go in and they were going to throw a body on you. They are not just letting you go get balls, and they played well,” Calipari said. “Jake Ohmer played well, shot the ball well, and Ashton kind of, you know, got after him a little bit, but you know, Georgetown did a good thing.
“We started the game so good defensively, made some shots, but we held them to 15 points with two minutes to go, and then all of a sudden it’s a 10-3 run by them. Then you have to go back to the tape and say, ‘Who was in the game?’ You can’t be in the game at that time. So now, all of a sudden it’s a closer game and they get it to 17, but we just got a long way to go.”
If junior center Nick Richards, who went down with an ankle injury, happens to be out for an extended period, Calpari said other players “have to buy in” to the defense even more.
“You can’t be thinking just offense. You’ve got to focus on our team, but it takes — for all that you’ve seen, I remember sitting here last year, we played IUP and I’m like, ‘Oh, my gosh, we’re up nine at half, luckily and I’m like, wait a minute, how in the world are we going to win any games?’ So just about every year, I’m in the same mode,” Calipari said.
“How are we going to do this; where are we going to get buckets. We posted the ball and couldn’t make those two footers. Come on, now. Where are we — Immanuel (Quickley) has gotten so much better. He’s showing it. But we’ve got guys that just got to develop better habits. That’s the biggest thing. ”