John Calipari: “We could be 11-0”

John Calipari says if he can get Tyrese Maxey and others to finish plays the right way then Kentucky can win close games it has lost. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky has already lost three games this season and dropped to 19th in this week’s national rankings going into Saturday afternoon’s game in Rupp Arena against Louisville.

Even Kentucky coach John Calipari says he is “not really happy” with where Kentucky is.

“Like, I haven’t figured this out, so if I’m a little bit still like, ‘OK, which way is this?’ They’re going to be that way too. But the thing I’ve said from day one: If we don’t fight, if we don’t compete, we don’t battle, hard to win,” Calipari said Friday.

“Last game (against Ohio State), I thought we did really good competing, battling and getting us to pass the ball, and then the last five minutes we wouldn’t pass to each other. Refused to pass to an open man. Throw it at the rim. And that’s the finish of a game. Again, it’s stuff that we need to work on.”

Now comes the part that could give UK fans hope for the rest of the season or make them wonder what Calipari is trying to sell them.

“The games that we’ve lost have been by a couple buckets. I know it’s devastation, and it’s the worst, and we’re  … literally, a couple of buckets. All of the games. I mean, we could be 11-0 and so now you say why?” Calipari said.

Kentucky lost by three points to Evansville in Rupp Arena. It lost by three points to Utah in Las Vegas. It lost by six points to Ohio State in Las Vegas. So that’s three losses by 12 points and Calipari is right — Kentucky could have made a play or two at the end of every game and won. Instead, UK didn’t make any game-winning plays the final two minutes of any of those games.

“You just think about it. All of the finishes, they get a great shot, we get bad looks, and we’re more, ‘I’m going to get this myself.’ We’ve got to get out of that,” Calipari said.

“We’ve got to trust each other more. But the fight of this. you know. The shooting, I think we’ll get better. I’m not concerned about that.”

Louisville’s last five opponents have combined to shoot 29-of-135 (.214) from three-point range.  Louisville is 31st nationally in 3-point field goal defense  at .267.

“They really guard. Now obviously Jordan (Nwora) is one of the best players in the country and can get baskets for them, but the biggest thing I’m telling you is they guard. (Coach) Chris (Mack) has done a good job with this team. He really has,” Calipari said.

The Wildcats are making 4.4 3-pointers per game and shooting just 27.8 percent from long range. In the last two games, the Cats were 4-for-32 from 3-point range not counting Nate Sestina’s 5-for-8 against Ohio State.

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