By LARRY VAUGHT
For the first time in over a month, Kentucky junior center Nick Richards got in early foul trouble against Vanderbilt Wednesday and only played five minutes in the first half before dominating the second half to help UK wipe out a 10-point deficit.
Now with the Cats set to face Auburn Saturday on the road, Kentucky coach John Calipari knows what Auburn coach Bruce Pearl and his team will be trying to do against Richards.
“So, if you’re their coach, what do you think you’re trying to do? So, you guys (in the media) do understand this isn’t brain surgery I’m doing here? The other guy, ‘How do I get him out? How do I flop around? How do I tell my guy to flop, flop, flop? How do I get him to do that to draw fouls? What do we? Do we post him 12 straight times?’” Calipari said Friday before the Cats left for Auburn.
“We’ve got to be prepared as a staff. We’ve got to talk to him.”
However, it is not just Richards that has to be careful. It’s also guard Ashton Hagans who has had a propensity for offensive fouls as well as fouls a long way from the basket.
“He can’t have dumb fouls. You can’t foul 72 feet from the basket. You can’t foul. I keep telling these guys, ‘This isn’t football. It’s not a touchdown. It’s two points that we’ll score in eight seconds. Calm down. We’re fine,’” Calipari said.
“But they think … they take it personal and they get embarrassed. ‘I got beat and I got embarrassed, so I’m going to grab a guy.’ You can’t be in that moment. You have to learn, ‘OK, I got embarrassed. Let me not get embarrassed next time. I’m going to force him a different way.’ But it’s stuff we’ve got to talk about and address.”
Calipari said Richards has been “good” about avoiding foul trouble and he tells all his players that the best players (in the NBA) “don’t foul out” because they understand to stay alert and stay in the game.
“You’ve got to be aware and you’ve got to be focused,” the UK coach said.
Yet one got the impression that Calipari expects a lot of “flops” from the Tigers, especially early, to try and draw fouls on Richards and other Cats even though there was a point of emphasis with officiating not to do that this year.
“If you’re going to call it, call it. Or let it all go. When your post player gets it and he turns and that guy flops, let it go. If you’re going to let a guy come off a screen and throw his head back, let it all go. If you’re going to let a guy kick his foot out and fall down and you don’t call it, I’m fine. Just don’t call any. I really don’t care,” Calipari said.
“What the rules are, I don’t care. Whatever it is, just make it consistent. And you (an official) should never say, ‘I didn’t make the (last call).’ You’re a team too, the three of you. You saw what he’s doing. You do the same. You’re a team. It’s not one guy. ‘I didn’t call it. I was here.’ ‘Well, why did you call that one from 30 (feet away)?’ ‘I’m not in the position.’ That’s my whole thing.
“I don’t care what they do. There’s an effect on the game if there’s 15 fouls to one. Then you’ve kind of gotta say something, I think.”