By LARRY VAUGHT
Freshman guard Jamal Murray missed practice Thursday because he “bumped knees” in Tuesday’s win over Georgia, but Kentucky coach John Calipari said today he expects him to practice and play at South Carolina Saturday.
Calipari knows even with Murray that winning at South Carolina, or anywhere on the road, is difficult.
“I think you look around the country, everyone on the road is struggling. When you’re not a dominating team, it’s hard to win on the road. We’ve won games on the road where I was like, there’s no way we’re winning this game. We beat a team that’s 80-5 at home. We beat them,” Calipari said.
“This is a little different setup. I’m anxious to see how we respond. Tennessee was a quick turn and I believe the Auburn game was a quick turn. We didn’t have much time and this we have a little more time. I like to see how we respond. This is a great test for us. They don’t lose many games there and they’re playing well.”
Senior forward Alex Poythress remains out with a knee injury and Calipari said junior guard Dominique Hawkins is “80 percent” due to his ankle injury.
“We’ve won a couple big games and we’ve had a 12-point lead and a 21-point lead. And then stuff gets hairy and we’re still learning how to win, how to put people away, how to stop the bleeding. You don’t shoot a fadeaway. You don’t shoot an up and under. You don’t take the hardest play and turn it over to give ’em another basket,” Calipari said.
“You make a play that either you make more than 50 percent of the time or you’re gonna get fouled. And then you have to lock down defensively if you’re not making baskets, because it becomes a game of they’re gonna make a run, now make another back at them, push them back. They’ll make another run, then push them back again.
“Normally the team’ll give up, especially when you have a 20-point lead. But we haven’t – we don’t have that mentality. We’re beginning to get that mentality, but three weeks ago, absolutely did not. We were just playing, like, next play. Not realizing – and it’s part of what we had to do as coaches is to get them to understand that.”