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Basketball practices are like lacrosse; Calipari says “I might as well give them sticks.”

Ashton Hagans (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky fans might be looking ahead to games with No. 5 Ohio State Dec. 21 and No. 1 Louisville Dec. 28, but coach John Calipari insisted Thursday he was thinking  only about “today’s practice” and Saturday’s game with Fairleigh Dickinson.

“All I’m trying to do -– how good can we get. I said publicly, if we don’t become an unbelievable defensive team, we will not be playing late in March. We will not,” Calipari said. “If we are that and we rebound and have some toughness about us, fight, then we’ll have our chances to advance and do what we want to do.

“The teams that are winning right now are playing great defense. Most of them have veterans. I mean, that’s what it is. You’ve gotta guard and you got to have some veteran leadership.”

That’s why Calipari’s word of the week is “fight” for rebounds, position, everything else.

“You fight harder than he is to try to keep you from catching it, and if he’s in there, you fight harder than him. Fight. You’re fighting over a screen, fight. Run him into the screen. He’s fighting to keep you from catching it. Everything is on every possession, fight,” Calipari said.

But he also has another key word — finish.

“Last four minutes of games we have been atrocious, but we were last year too. And so now I’m working on how we finish the last four minutes of games, what we’re going to do, what’s your mentality,” Calipari said. “And so (the) last two days, whew. Really last three practices were like, literally we might as well put helmets on.

“And today I got – if you grab and hold I’m going to let you do it twice; on the third one we’re running because they are like – literally, it’s like lacrosse. I might as well give them sticks. But it’s been good.

“We’re still shorthanded but I’m like, forget it, I don’t care, let’s go. I’ve done this before with six and seven guys so let’s go. It’s not like I haven’t done it. I’m not panicked. I feel good. I feel good about my team, but we’re nowhere near some of these other teams. We’re not.

“But there are other teams that were ranked there and I said they’re not that good either, and it’s proven to be true.”

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  1. “… if we don’t become an unbelievable defensive team, we will not be playing late in March. We will not,” Calipari said. “If we are that and we rebound and have some toughness about us, fight, then we’ll have our chances to advance and do what we want to do.”

    Interesting quote from Calipari. Is this an admission that this team’s offensive efficiency is pitiful, and this team’s only real chance is dominating defense and rugged rebounding determination?

    Calipari’s offenses at UK have performed consistently well, at 1.8 ppp or higher in every season except 2013, which was 1.1 ppp. This year’s offense through 7 games stands at 1.08 to 1.09 ppp, which is the lowest of the Calipari Era by a long shot. To give this greater context, the offense for the two Gillispie years were about 1.05 and 1.07, and over the last 4 years of the Smith Era, the offense was in the 1.1 to 1.2 range.

    This year’s defense currently stands at about 0.89 ppp, which is about equal to last year’s defensive efficiency, and in line with Calipari’s better defenses since his arrival at UK. However, 2015 sets the standard at 0.79 ppp which is on par with 1997’s 0.79 ppp. Calipari’s weakest defenses have been 2017 (0.98 ppp), 2013, 2014 and 2016 (0.93 to 0.94 ppp), and his more typical defenses have been 2010, 2011, 2012, 2017, and 2019 (0.87 to 0.90 ppp)

    I believe this team will end the year as one of Calipari’s strongest defenses, but have major concerns about this team’s ability to achieve high offensive efficiency despite its 75% free throw shooting. I would hope that Calipari’s efforts behind closed doors would be focused on improved offense for that reason despite his public proclamations that his focus is on the defensive end.

    As for the toughness issue, this team continues to be challenged on the glass at its offensive end of the floor. Its defensive rebounding has been very strong throughout this young season.

    As usually is the case, Calipari’s remarks are carefully crafted to confuse the fan and disguise what is really happening with the team.

  2. As to your last sentence, I doubt it. The offense will come if they concentrate on strong defense and rebounding. I agree with Coach. This is not his first rodeo.

  3. There is a difference between 10 years of experience and 1 year of experience repeated 10 times.

  4. Well Professor, I am just willing to leave it in our Coach’s good hands and wait for the season to play out. UK last I checked sit a t 6-1.

  5. Really? how about a final record of 21-10?

    1. Well let me answer you this way, season 2019-20 is not in the books yet. also, I believe, with possibly the exception of the 2012 national championship team, this edition of the UK Wildcat basketball team could be the most athletic, and talented team, as a group, Calipari has had. So, I will take a wait and see attitude and see what happens. I say that Cal’s offense will be just fine in due time. All I concern myself at this point in my life is wins and losses. I’ll let you worry about the stats.

  6. We as fans are going have to more patience with this team compared years past. With all the injurys that’s has plagued this team they won’t figure out each other until L they get at full strength. It’s matter of time still got 20 games to improved. It’s still in the early stages not like it’s February like some people think. Go Cats!$!

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