By LARRY VAUGHT
After Kentucky lost to UCLA a week ago in Rupp Arena, coach John Calipari had sophomore Isaiah Briscoe come into his office.
“He just told me like, ‘What happened today? You weren’t yourself. I didn’t see the energy or anything like that.’ Me, being the leader of the team, I had to accept it. I told him, ‘Yeah, I didn’t bring energy.’ I felt like that one was on me,” Briscoe said Friday.
Before UK played Valparaiso Wednesday, Briscoe went extra hard in practice not only for himself but also so other players could see his effort.
He said it was “kind of weird” that he lacked energy against UCLA since effort is a major part of his game.
“There will be days like that. I’m not really trying to have a lot of days like that, but that one’s behind me. Just looking forward,” Briscoe said. “It happened, we lost. We got plenty of games left in the season. The only thing we can do now is just get better.”
Kentucky assistant coach Joel Justus said when Briscoe plays with energy on both ends of the court, he’s at his best. Justus says the quicker pace UK is playing at this year is in part because of Briscoe’s role.
“The biggest thing for him is when he comes in and he’s got that big smile and he’s laughing and talking and touching and bringing that competitive spirit to practice. That’s when we’re at our best,” Justus said.
Briscoe said he was “cool” with Justus believing he makes the team go. He says any player would like that compliment.
“I’m fine with that. It’s a lot on my plate, but I asked to eat. This is what it comes with. I’ll take care of it,” Briscoe said. “I knew it was coming. Yeah, it feels good. I’m not new to this. I’ve done it before. It’s all just coming into play.
“Like I said last game, Coach made it clear that he wanted me to bring the energy and he wanted it to start with me because against UCLA I didn’t do that. I went out and did it and everybody else followed right after me. Dom (Hawkins), Malik (Monk), De’Aaron (Fox), everybody wanted to lock up and that’s when we’re at our best to get in transition. Then we’re good.”
Just not as good as they thought they were before the UCLA loss. Briscoe said the Cats learned they “can be beaten” a week ago and cannot forget that lesson.
“I think that some of us thought we were so good that we can just come out and play and they’ll see that it’s Kentucky and think we can just get the win based off that,” Briscoe said. “UCLA is a good team. I’ll give them credit.
“But also we didn’t have our best game, and we didn’t play to our full potential. We let that one slip away from us, but like I said, that one’s over with. We’re judged on what we do from here on out.”
Justus senses that the players got the message from the UCLA loss.
“What we were able to do was find out through the film the things that we needed to do to beat a really good team. The focus continues to be on what we need to do and ourselves, not just in the games, but every single day to be the best collectively and also individually,” Justus said.
“That’s the best thing. If our guys are going to be their best, it has to be a daily thing. You come to practice and have to be focused on what you can to do to become better and help yourself and the team.”