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John Calipari not worried yet about 3-point shooting — but should he be after UK’s poor start

Johnny Juzang (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky was just 1-for-12 from 3-point range in Monday’s win over Utah Valley, a stat that prompted some UK fans to wonder if more practice time at Rupp Arena would help UK’s shooting.

The only hole in that theory is that the Cats did go 31-for-34 at the foul line, one of the best performances in the John Calipari era at UK.

So how does one explain those two incompatible statistics?

“That’s what our staff just said,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said after Monday’s game. “How do you do that?”

That prompted Calipari to remember what former NBA standout Sam Cassell said, ‘You cannot be afraid to miss,’” Calipari said. “Even Nate (Sestina) was pulling back. That means you’re afraid you’re going to miss. You can’t play that way.

“I’ll say this again, folks, everybody that comes in here has nothing to lose. They have nothing to lose. So, you know what? You have to play like you have nothing to lose. You have to play the same way, which is why in March we have a big advantage.”

However, Calipari threw in a big if.

“But I don’t know if we can get to March. I’m, like, what, we got to start playing better,” Calipari said.

I don’t believe for a minute that he has any doubts about his team making the NCAA Tournament and likely having a really good seed.

“Defensively we are doing some good stuff, but not everybody was locked into our team. And it’s understood. They’re young kids,” Calipari said.

Don’t blame the longer 3-point line on UK’s 21 percent mark from long range in four games. As Calipari correctly noted, other teams are not having a problem — Utah Valley hit 11 3-pointers against UK.

“We go through this every year. I think part of it is I’ve got to figure out maybe there’s an offense that we’re running that I just say we’re trying to get 3’s off. This offense is trying to get 3’s,” Calipari said. “Maybe we get into that.”

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  1. First, 3 point shooting is down a couple of % points this year from prior season. I think it is reasonable that this statistical drop is primarily due to the line moved back a little.

    Second, the UK 3 point shooting is a dire situation, and if Calipari really does not take it as a serious problem, I am shocked. Regardless of what he says about such things, his ability to recite in an interview that UK is #315 tells me he is paying attention specifically because it is a problem. Coach Speech prevails with him nearly 100% of the time.

    BTW, #315 was prior to Monday’s game. It is now #342 out of 353 D1 teams. It does not get much worse that what this team has done from outside the arc.

    The question must be, why can’t this team shoot the ball with at least a proficiency equivalent to an average D1 team? Is it too much to ask for a UK team that is among the top 50 3 point shooting teams again? For the record, only 2 of Calipari’s 11 teams have done that, 2011 was #9 and 2012 was #37.

  2. The reason our 3 point shooting percentage is so low is because we don’t play inside out. We pass the ball around the perimeter looking for a shot when the defense is in position to guard the 3. When you pass inside to the post consistently and score from inside consistently, the defense tightens up and the 3 point shot is more available. The 2011 and 2012 teams had solid post play and also had guards who could and would feed the post. Good shooting 3 point teams also take more open 3s in transition where we go for the almost sure thing at the basket.
    Then come the Harrison twins and all of a sudden Calipari allows the shot chart to be dominated by the guards. It has been like that ever since. Why do you think the good bigs no longer come here? They know they will never get the ball in a scoring position.
    Calipari is punch drunk off of his wings and guards shooting. The wings and guards have long since learned that Calipari’s bark is a whole lot worse than his bite. You have to make the defense play honest. Opposing teams watch the tape and can see that we either can’t or won’t make post passes. That Is why they are guarding the 3 so well. This bunch is its own worst enemy.

    1. Mr. Spartan asks “Why do you think the good bigs no longer come here?” Really dude? I guess it depends on what one considers a good big not coming to UK “is.” Well let’s see, UK just inked two pretty good basketball players both at 6’9″, and 200 plus. I predict they could be much more beefed up by the time next season… 2020-21 rolls around.

      1. No beef in 6’9″ 200 # er.

        1. Whatever hoss. If they signed “super man” you wouldn’t be satisfied. No. 1 class, and he could add some more.

  3. Two reasons our three point shooting is low. Catmandoo1000 is right about not working inside and out for a better 3 point shot. We also stand around too much and let the other team rest on defense. four people watching the man with the ball.

    If we can pass into nick and he kicks it out to the wings and everyone is in constant cutting motion, we will have open shots both two and three pointers. It will also wear out the other team and keep them from being so aggressive on offense.

    We jack up to many early shots! Take the fast break points when available, but make the other team run trying to keep up with passing the ball as many times as possible. Much like teams have done against us the last two games.

  4. guys, thanks for the explanation for why this happens, and your explanations make sense to me. All I know is it is unacceptable the way it is, and Calipari should know this too. It is not a question of being too early to worry as the article suggests.

  5. UK is not the only team now having trouble shooting the three. Florida had problems in their loss to UConn. What I saw Monday night was UK getting the ball more to Nick much better in and around the basket for dunks, and he was hitting open shots on dishes from about 12 feet out too. His 26 points prove that. I like the dribble drive offense, I say drive it to the hoop and dish it to the open man. The threes they missed were open shots. Many that were kicked out on drives to the basket by UK guards. It is real easy to say just pass the ball inside, but harder to do if teams are denying the pass inside with aggressive defense. Calipari says, you don’t have to make them all, but you need to make some. Make just four or five against UVS and it’s s a blowout. I believe this will come as this team plays together more.

    1. Looks like the three point woes got fixed last night against MSM. GO CATS!!!!

  6. I don’t know why is some fans are in such a panic and we have only play four games in the season. First of this team isn’t deep in bench wise and I really think the injurys that has plague the team. Don’t you guys realized that when injury to a certain player or players may have an impact how the team goes. Cone on guys give this team a break let them get healthy before you judge this team what they can be. It’s way too early for that.

    1. Keep “preachin” Cats79, you nailed it.

  7. Pup, sometimes you open your mouth and something intelligent comes out. You are mostly right about Monday’s game. Ashton was finding Nick and one time he found Nate cutting to the basket. Ashton and Nick carried the team. All of that is coming off of penetration by Ashton. Bigger, more athletic, better coached teams will shut that down for the most part. Tyrese did make a couple of post passes to Nick at the right time and he scored easily both times. Ashton is going to have to learn how to do that and when to do it as well. The wings need to learn how to do this too. That is where the kickouts for open 3s will come from. Immanuel and Johnny are better shooters than what we have seen. If Dontaie can start playing by conference time, I think he will improve the 3 percentages. I really do hope this bunch can come together and play well enough to boot me off of this site. Right now, that’s a big IF.

    1. Wow Mr. Spartan, ain’t we the sharpest knife in the drawer. Very rarely does anything come out of your mouth but a rack of Calipari and UK nonsense. Come on, whine some more, and give all of us some more INSIDE “SCOOP.” You are a real treasure.

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