By LARRY VAUGHT
Mount St. Mary’s coach Dan Engelstad knew that Kentucky wore down his team in Friday’s 82-62 loss at Rupp Arena. He also had a simple message for coach John Calipari after the game where Kentucky dominated the second half.
“I have great respect for what they do and how they play, and I know that his team is only going to get better as the year goes on,” Engelstead said.
Certainly Kentucky could if it shoots 3-point shots like it did the second half when it made its first four 3-point attempts to break open a close game and win going away. Kentucky had struggled from 3-point range — 1-for-5 in the first half, which was right on its 21 percent mark for the season — before the second-half flurry. Of course, Kentucky still made just one of its final six 3-pointers to end the game 6-for-15 from 3-point range.
Engelstad admitted his team’s game plan was to make UK fire away from long range.
“Our plan was to limit transition limit in the paint and make them jump shooters, but we knew they were capable shooters.,” the Mount St. Mary’s coach said. “They’re very good basketball players obviously, so I wasn’t really happy with our contest.
“We wanted to play to those drivers, but we wanted to make sure everything was contested, and I thought in the first half our contests were much better than they were in the second. But they made some big shots and I know that for them that that was an area of weakness and when that becomes a strength, they’re hard to guard.”
He’s right. By the time Kentucky was misfiring again from 3-point range, a 39-34 halftime lead had ballooned thanks to a 10-0 run that put the game out of range.
Engelstad said Kentucky was faster in person than his team had any way to simulate in practice.
“I thought tonight they were able establish their transition quicker than they had in the previous games. I think that led to some early confidence for them,” the coach said. “We knew that they were fast. You can’t really simulate that speed, and when they go on their runs, you know they had a couple of big runs.
“That hurt us tonight, but it kind of was as predicted. They opened up the second half and made the 3’s which kind of made us have to guard them closer on the perimeter which opened everything up. That was big for their unit tonight.”