By LARRY VAUGHT
LEXINGTON — At Wednesday’s SEC Media Day, Kentucky coach John Calipari explained how he thought his team could be one of his best defensive teams.
Kentucky looked anything but like a great defensive team in Friday’s Blue-White Game. Yet that did nothing to change the UK coach’s mind about his team’s defense.
“We really guarded on the ball really good. It all starts right there. You have De’Aaron Fox, you have Dom (Hawkins), you have Malik (Monk), you have Isaiah (Briscoe). They can all guard the ball, which means you’re not getting broken down, having to rotate,” Calipari said.
“Now Derek (Willis) is better, Wenyen (Gabriel) is really active and long and can block shots. We got to get Sacha (Killeya-Jones), Isaac (Humphries) and Bam (Adebayo) in that back line to play pick-and-roll better, taking away drives. I told them at halftime, ‘You can’t let Isaiah just get to the rim. Make him make a pass, make him throw it.’ And they didn’t.
“But that’s OK. It was what it was. Turnovers-assists were about even. For this kind of game, the turnovers were based more on a racing mind than anything else. I think we’ll be all right.”
Gabriel, a 6-9 freshman, showed his defensive versatility.
“He was guarding Bam, who is a beast. He was guarding the four. Derek is playing like a three. He was guarding that position,” Calipari said. “It’s his energy. And then he just has to be more confident. Again, 13 rebounds. He led us in rebounds. He and Derek both have 13. More confident. It’s us helping define what his offense looks like, if you know what I’m saying, so that he can just go play.”
Both Gabriel and Bam Adebayo also had to defend guard Isaiah Briscoe at times, and managed to do it well.
The players are confident the defense will improve and can be as good as Calipari wants. Fox says fans didn’t get to see what UK can do defensively.
“I don’t think so. Towards the beginning, but once people realized you gotta play all 40 minutes, kind of toned down a little bit,” Fox said.