By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky’s defense had some issues in SEC Tournament wins over Georgia and Texas A&M. However, Kentucky coach John Calipari said part of it was that both teams made some “ridiculously tough” shots.
“You gotta accept it if you did their job and they hit it. We broke down about four times, maybe five, and it was basically the same couple guys that just broke down. Like, ‘It was you again. It was you again. It was you again,'” Calipari said.
“Derek (Willis) was one of them, but he was only one of them. So there are things that we can point out.”
Calipari started with the energy of point guard Tyler Ulis.
“We even showed today tape of the effort of Tyler, the bounciness, the aggressiveness that he played with, and talked about other players on the floor: ‘Now you watch yourself compared to how he’s doing at the same time.’ And, I mean, it’s pretty telling,” Calipari said during the SEC coaches teleconference Monday.
“If we can get everybody to understand this is the energy you play with, and if you can only do that three, four minutes at a time, just do it three, four minutes. I talked to them today again about, if you’re struggling we’re OK in this thing because I’m not gonna play you that much. It’s on you to get yourself ready to play.
“It’s on you to be in the right frame of mind. Being in a desperate frame of mind, being in an excited frame of mind ready to play, not an anxious frame of mind. That has nothing to do with us or our team or coaching. It’s your responsibility. If you’re worried about playing and anxious about playing, it’s gonna show. You’re gonna wear out, you’re gonna miss plays, you’re gonna look like you’re lethargic. If you’re excited and desperate about playing, shows somebody different.”
Calipari said few have noted the injuries his team had to deal with during the season. Now UK is healthy and Calpari likes what he has going into NCAA play.
“We were injured all year. So we’re still improving, which makes me feel pretty good as a coach because it’s what we want,” Calipari said.
Willis knew he got beat in Sunday’s game. He said it also happened when UK lost at Texas A&M. However, he had 10 points Sunday, including a clutch 3-pointer with one minute left in overtime.
“I was just trying to do something because there was times out there that I was killing the team. I was miscommunicating, There’s a lot of things I’m really upset with myself about. But I’m happy for the team, happy for the coaches,” Willis said after Sunday’s win.
“All the effort they put into it, they don’t get a lot of credit either I don’t think, and that’s with Coach Cal and all the assistants. Kenny Payne, (Tony) Barbee, Robes (John Robic), Joel Justus and all those guys. They worked hard and it paid off.”
Willis knows his defense has to improve this week in NCAA play.
“I have confidence in myself offensively right now. It’s a thing of getting back to the defensive mindset there was earlier in the season,” Willis said. “There was teams where I was really getting after it. I was playing intense, and I just have to get back to it again.”