Calipari wants Cats back to having a defensive presence

Isaiah Briscoe (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Was Kentucky’s defense better at Alabama or was Alabama’s offense just not that good the first half before it shot 58 percent from the field the second half Saturday?

Kentucky coach John Calipari had a lengthy answer when asked about UK’s defensive improvement in the road win.

“The technical stuff of what we need to do and how we need to play, how we need to press, what we need to do – making a few adjustments there. The other part of it is, if you’re playing with a teammate that you know can get beat on the dribble then play tighter. It’s what — you’ve just got to play tighter,” Calipari said.

“Other guys, you’re just taking great pride in I’m not letting the guy just go by me. It’s not happening. We pick-and-roll defense. You know, one of the things you do is just say if you really want to get better defensively, you play your best six defenders and that’s it. Don’t play anybody else.

“Now, you’re seeing teams across the country start doing that right now. Syracuse went to playing six guys. That’s it. I’m playing six, and I’ll play five if no one gets in foul trouble and you can all play 40 minutes and they’ve won seven in a row. So there’s all kind of ways — you’ve got other teams doing it. You just, I’m not going to play as many guys. You’ve got to deal with it.

“So, we’re not at that point yet, but again if you’re going in and you’re breaking down or you can’t fight or rebound, you just can’t be in there. I’ve made it clear to the guys. We’ve got to get back to having a defensive presence and making it about defense. Our offense is fine. We’re moving the ball now, doing stuff. You can’t be on defense 70 percent of the time, which means you can’t just come down and shoot a quick-contested shots because now you’re on defense 70 percent of the time and you can’t win that way.

“You’re going to break down, and you’re going to give up baskets, and you’re going to have some of the issues that we’re having. So, it’s a little combination of both. And I’ll say this, and I said it to the team, the best thing to happen to us is LSU. We were on track. We were going to beat them by 30 and then they make that run in the last seven, eight minutes. And if we had won by 30, possibly me would have looked at it and said, ‘OK now we’re right’. We’ve got this right. And by them coming back on us, it showed me, we’ve got to, this ain’t no – this is not going to work this way. And I was able to do and change and get these guys to doing it.

“And I’m going to say it again, it takes you three weeks to go one way. It doesn’t just (become) OK in two days. So for 75 percent of that game, I liked what I saw. Seventy-five percent of that game. And then all of a sudden you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ If this is in us, we’re going to have issues. So that’s what we’re working on. Thank goodness we gotta month to get this right.”

1 comment

  1. This team still had a very hard time staying in front of whoever had the ball and wanted to drive to the basket. They cannot stop the penetration of anyone that can half-way dribble the ball. Having said that, at least in the first half, early second half, the bigs did block a few shots when Alabama got penetration. Did not happen when bama made their run late in the game. Still time to get things right, but not sure there is enough time or enough desire.

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