By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky’s trip to Las Vegas didn’t start well Wednesday with a 69-66 loss to unranked Utah. Now the Cats have to play Ohio State, the team UK coach John Calipari says is the best in the country despite the Buckeyes’ loss to Minnesota.
Ohio State won by 25 points at North Carolina. The Buckeyes also have win over Penn State, Villanova and Cincinnati and have showed a more balanced, physical style of play than UK has all year.
“They’ve got a lot of guys that can score, but they’re also good around the basket, which is why they are as good as they are and rated where they are,” Calipari said Friday. “They play physical, they’re a good defensive team, but they have five or six guys that can shoot it.
“What’s happening is they’re shooting at a high percentage. So it’s not like they’re taking 40 3s a game, but they ones they take, they make, or at least 40 percent of them, 30. Whatever it is, it’s a high percentage.”
Certainly higher than what UK has been shooting as the Cats were 2-for-17 from 3-point range against Utah.
Kaleb Wesson is Ohio State’s best player and averages 14.1 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.
“Good. Strong, physical, bully ball. Will bully you under the rim. Will wedge you under the rim to offensive rebound but has got a good touch. Can step out and make shots. Like, the pick-and-pop, it’s real. The kid can make it,” Calipari said.
“They do a lot of roll and replace. They’re good. Listen, they’re one of the best teams in the country. That’s what we’re faced with.”
Kentucky looked like anything but one of the nation’s best team when it fell behind by 17 points against Utah with 12 minutes to play before rallying to tie the score 66-66.
“For 30 minutes, it was obvious who the aggressor was. I’ll just tell you, to start the game, when they outrun us –- even after a made goal –- to shoot layups. They scored nine points in transition. I mean, what do you say? They’re just outrunning you. Normally, that means you don’t think you have to play that hard,” Calipari said.
“My message to these guys is they need each other. We played 10 minutes, maybe 11 minutes, the way we’re going to have to play for 40. We’re maybe not capable of that right now, but let’s not make it 10. Let’s make it 25 or 30 so we can fight and see where we are.
“We got away from creating shots for each other, so now all of a sudden the shots we had — some of them were open, but they’re not as confident shooting because we were, ‘Let me get mine and if I don’t I’ll get you.’ So there’s some things we’re going to have to work on.”