By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky got called for 26 fouls in games at South Carolina and Arkansas last week and those high numbers probably played a significant part in UK coach John Calipari getting ejected in the second half at Arkansas Saturday.
However, Kentucky assistant coach Tony Barbee said today that UK did a “lot of fouling” in both games.
“We did a lot of fouling. It’s something we work on,” Barbee said. “One thing we try to do is make a very competitive practice. Coach wants practices to be harder than the game.
“You’ve guys have heard it forever, and obviously I’ve heard it from him forever: When you are that competitive, you’re fighting. They’re brothers and they’re teammates, but they’re fighting for their opportunities. Our guys are fighting for their livelihoods, so in practice it’s competitive.
“But the one thing we try to limit is the grab and the holding and the fouling because that then translates. What you do in practice is what you’re going to do in the game. We’ve got to be more conscious of what we do with our hands on defense. We’re getting our hands on post players, drivers of the basketball too often and it’s too easy for our officials to see and call.”
Does Calipari have the same analysis?
“I don’t know. You would have to ask him. Nice try,” Barbee said (Calipari was not available to the media Monday).
Barbee said it was an “emotional moment” at Arkansas and said he couldn’t remember a lot.
“They were making a run. The whistles might not have been going our way at that time and it seemed like the situation just got a little out of hand,” Barbee said.
To refresh his memory, Arkansas shot 15 free throws — counting the four technical free throws — in 12 minutes in the second half while Kentucky had not shot one when Calipari got ejected.
Barbee understands the emphasis on playing tougher could be leading to more fouls, a conflict UK must correct starting with Tuesday night’s game against Georgia in Rupp Arena.
“We’ve had a lot of competitive teams around here with competitive individuals and this year is no different. We’ve got to try to regulate it in practice so it doesn’t carry over,” Barbee said.
“That competitive spirit kind of goes over the top sometimes because I want to stop my guy and that turns into fouling. And so, the more we can do that in practice the better we will become defensively even though we are one of the elite defensive teams in the country.”