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.”