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Arkansas was “emergency situation” that dictated UK going to zone defense

Immanuel Quickley applies the defensive pressure against Arkansas. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

John Calipari’s ejection at Arkansas got a lot of attention and praise for sparking Kentucky’s dominant play the final seven minutes to beat the host Razorbacks.

But don’t forget the role going to a zone defense after the ejection played. It shut down Arkansas’ penetrating and either scoring and getting to the foul line.

Did Calipari like what the zone defense did?

“He’s always been – as long as I’ve been with him and played for him and worked for him – he’s always been willing to go to the zone in kind of an emergency situation,” Kentucky assistant coach Tony Barbee said Monday. “He’s going to go with the man-to-man at all costs until he sees that emergency situation. The last game against Arkansas, we came across one of those.”

Say amen UK fans. But get this — on his weekly radio show Monday Calipari admitted he wished he played more zone defense in the previous game when UK let a double-digit lead get away in the second half and lost on a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Calipari wouldn’t indicate on his radio show if Kentucky might play more zone defense tonight against Georgia or in future games. Barbee said UK has worked on a zone defense every year he’s coached with Calipari

“Even when I played for him, we had a zone we would work on for just in case. Obviously, he’s a man-to-man basketball coach. He likes the accountability that comes with man-to-man, but he’s always been prepared with the zone in case you need it for a variety of reasons,” Barbee said.

“Obviously, we needed it last game because of the foul trouble, especially with Ashton (Hagans) having those four fouls and the way they were driving the ball. We could not afford to have Ashton foul out of that game, and that’s probably what would’ve happened if we would have stayed in the man.”

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