By LARRY VAUGHT
After watching Skal Labissiere practice “great” on Monday, Kentucky coach John Calipari told guard Tyler Ulis he might start Labissiere. Ulis told him to do it, so Calipari did Tuesday night at Florida and did it ever work.
Labissiere, who had not started a game since December, had 11 points, eight rebounds, one block and one steal. He was 5-for-10 from the field. His numbers would have been even better if he had not been limited to 15 minutes by foul trouble.
Calipari said he liked the way Labissiere and Alex Poythress (12 points, 10 rebounds) played together in practice and put them in the starting lineup together.
“That’s what great about being a head coach. You can do stuff like that,” Calipari said after Tuesday’s 88-79 win over Florida.
Labissiere hit outside shots but also scored in the post and rebound. The only negative was going 1-for-4 at the foul line.
However, his more physical play more than made up for poor free throw shooting.
“He can do it. It’s very hard. I’d rather not do that. I’d rather do this other stuff. What he’s finding out – kind of like Jamal (Murray) found out – that playing winning basketball-and most of these guys, what got you here to Kentucky isn’t going to get you to where you want to go. You gotta start doing things, you gotta work harder, you gotta be more focused, you gotta be – you ready for this term – efficient,” Calipari said.
“You’re not a volume shooter anymore. No one wants to coach a volume shooter, at any level. We don’t have volume shooters. We have guys that can shoot and make a bunch of shots, but that’s not what we have. And the way that we’re going to have to play -and again, we were sloppy. There were a lot of things today that we broke down on, but my whole thing and what we did to tweak things to get these guys to focus on some different stuff is I need a confident basketball team.
“And it’s not going to come from me building guys up who are playing like crap. That’s not confidence. That’s fake. That’s not how we operate. It is telling them the truth. Work on it. Now go do it in the game. Alex started very shaky. And then he came back and started playing a little bit better. So he’s gotta build on that now. That’s gotta be who it is.”
On how good the team can be if Labissiere is consistent … “We can be better. It was a tough game for Isaac. You just saw the difference in those two, but Isaac made a jumper too. We gave up 16 offensive rebounds. They only turned it over five times. That’s two games in a row now that teams we’ve played only turned it over five times. We’ve had to play these guys different, which is you had to back up a little bit and that doesn’t lead to turnovers, but we’re happy to get out with a W, get on our way and get ready for this thing on Saturday.”