By LARRY VAUGHT
Remember last year’s loss to Seton Hall in overtime, the one that Kentucky coach John Calipari told his team just to count as a win because of the way it fought back.
Calipari wants his team to basically do the same thing after Wednesday’s 69-66 loss to Utah where the Cats rallied from 17 points down with 12 minutes to play to tie the game 66-66 because he said Friday he now knows the team does have a “will to win” he wasn’t sure about before.
“I’m good now. Now, we need to handle this as though we won this game close at the end. Where we had no business winning, we still could have won,” Calipari said. “Make a free throw, call here, this happens, they make a shot, we miss a shot. We win that game, how would we all be feeling. But, we’re a ways away from where we need to be.”
Start with UK’s lack of physical play, something Utah capitalized on Wednesday and Ohio State certainly will try to do with even bigger, stronger players in today’s game in Las Vegas.
“So it’s a lesson for us. I thought EJ (Montgomery) fought (against Utah), but the rest of it was they were more physical than us. But this game, these guys rely on their physicalness. Let me say this: When they set a screen, oh, there’s no spinning out. You know got screened. I’m talking on the ball. They hold it, they hammer, they move, they hip. They’re going to screen you,” Calipari said.
“Second thing is, then we gotta screen them. You watch the tape, we screened nobody. We’re almost like, ‘Oh, don’t…’ We gotta get that going, but, again, this thing is about upside. Where are we trying to take this? How do we gotta do this?”
That includes Calipari “figuring out some stuff” himself and he tries to tinker and tweak his team’s play.
“Does this make us better? But this is every year. If you have a team that’s been together for two, three (years) you have a good idea. This is a brand-new team. Some guys that I’m expecting more from, I still am, but they’ve gotta go do it,” Calipari said.
“I keep saying the same thing: We can do what we can do to prepare you and get you in the right frame of mind, physically, mentally, how you have to play, but you have to go do it. We can’t do it for you. And these kind of games –- this one –- you’re going to have to play.”