By LARRY VAUGHT
After Kentucky lost 79-73 to Kansas Saturday night, several quotes during the postgame press conferences kind of stuck with me.
Start with Kansas senior guard Frank Mason on what Kansas did differently after falling behind by 12 points midway of the first half.
“I think Coach did a good job changing defense. We changed defense about three to four times. I think they all were pretty good, we closed out on the shooters and adjusted well,” Mason said. “I think we just believed in each other, started to drive the ball downhill and stay in attack mode.”
Kentucky never changes defenses. Just saying.
“I think switching defenses really threw them off a bit, so that helped a lot,” Kansas freshman Josh Jackson said. “They’re an outstanding transition team and I think that’s the strongest part of their game. So switching up to the zone was mainly to slow them down.
“It definitely played into our favor with turning into a half-court game. They strive to transition – they’re fast and really athletic so going to the zone really helped us to slow them down and give us a little break on defense. We don’t really have that many guys so a lot of our guys get tired out there playing so many minutes.”
Again, Kansas only had eight scholarship players available and yet it seemed that it wore down Kentucky,
More than a few heads turned when Kentucky’s Derek Willis, who had 18 points and hit five 3-pointers, talked about his extra film study before the game. He didn’t sleep Friday night as he searched for film to watch of Kansas.
“Our team, we don’t watch a lot of film,” Willis said. “We watch film probably like a day or two before the game. Just wanted to get more familiar, because I know this is a big game. It’s College GameDay.”
Calipari believes in showing his players limited clips of opponents and is not big on film study. He prefers to concentrate on his team.
Kentucky’s leading scorer, Malik Monk, had 10 early points. Then he went over eight minutes without getting a shot.
“There was a stretch where Malik doesn’t get a shot. Well, we can’t. You can’t play seven, eight minutes without him getting a shot. And it wasn’t, they were in a zone, OK, we can move them around and do some different things,” UK coach John Calipari said.
So why not move him around?
Kentucky senior Dominique Hawkins had his own explanation for why UK lost.
“I felt like, at times we weren’t communicating on defense and (were) playing lazy defense and they took advantage of that,” Hawkins said.
Lazy defense? In a game as big as the one Saturday? How can that happen?
The good news, though, is that in 1998 I remember UK losing a Valentine’s Day home game to Ole Miss. Kentucky won the national title that year.
In 2011, UK could not win a close SEC road game. The Cats went to the Final Four.
In 2014, UK got drilled at South Carolina in late February. That UK team reached the national title game.
That’s why based on past seasons, there’s no reason to panic yet.