By LARRY VAUGHT
Several times during the preseason Kentucky coach John Calipari talked about how he thought this could be his best defensive team. He cited the team’s length, speed and athleticism for that belief and his players seemed to agree.
Instead, UK gave up 97 points in a loss to UCLA in Rupp Arena and then allowed 100 points in a win over North Carolina Saturday in Las Vegas.
“I also said that it’s one of the fastest teams I’ve coached, and I was right about that. So I was 1 out of 2. What’s happened to us is people are exploiting individual players on my team. We’ve got to figure it out as a staff: How are we going to do this?” Calipari said after Saturday’s game.
“They’re exploiting one, two, and three players. The minute they go in, they go right at them. Every team is doing the same thing. We’re working really hard with those guys to try to get them to be able to just, how about this one, stay in front of a guy with your hand up. You don’t have to take it from him. Just be in front of him and have your hand up so he can’t just shoot a jump shot.”
“A guard slips on our 6’9″ guy, our hands are like this, and the guy makes a three.
There were three of those today. And you don’t understand, we work on that every single day, sometimes twice a day. So it’s what happens when you have young guys. They revert back to what they know best, which is back away from the guy, have his hands down. If he makes the three, it’s an AAU game. Can I get a hot dog, I’m hungry. They’ll revert back to that kind of stuff at times.”
Justin Jackson scored 34 points against Kentucky Saturday and got to the foul line 15 times.
“The biggest difference between us and them is he got to the line 15 times. If we’re to be anything special, we have to get to the line and not just from big people. Our guards got to get us to the line. Their guards were running downhill on us the whole time,” Calipari said.