By LARRY VAUGHT
John Calipari has been wanting his team to play more physical most of the season. Now he knows if Kentucky doesn’t do that this afternoon against Wichita State in the NCAA Tournament, UK’s season likely will end.
“I can just tell you that they viciously go after offensive rebounds. If you don’t rebound in the game, you don’t have a chance to beat them,” Calipari said Saturday. “They also are not afraid to go inside. They’ll be physical when you drive. I mean, you’re not getting a clear drive. You’re going to have a body on you, something on you.
“It’s the kind of game that’s just a competitive, you know what it’s going to be, and you love walking into those kind of games, know how good they are. You got an unbelievable opponent who plays with heart and fight and battles, and you bring your team in, your young team, and say let’s see what we are. Let’s see what we are at that point.
“Our team has gotten better. We really have. But still, there are gaps. And if you have a gap against this team, it will be bam, bam, bam, bam, time-out. What just happened to us? Let’s get this back in order.
“So I’m looking forward to it just because I know how good they are. It’s going to be a hard game, and I want to see how my young guys respond.”
Calipari said he knows enough about Wichita State’s experience and talent.
“I’ve got to worry about my team playing their best. If they don’t do that, then it’s done. If we play our best, let’s see if that’s good enough. We don’t know. We’ll see, though,” Calipari said. “When you got young guys, you just hope they want this moment, they want to play in this kind of moment.”
Several Wichita State players said Saturday that they had no fear of Kentucky — maybe they heard Calipari talking about how good the Shockers were.
But UK players wanted no part of the trash talking.
“We’re just here to play basketball, stick with our teammates and just be together,” Bam Adebayo said.
“We’re going to play basketball. I’m not worried about what anybody says right now,” De’Aaron Fox said.
“Was prepared for the team yesterday, and now we’re prepared for Wichita State and worried about ourselves and worried about what we’ve got to do. That’s how we feel,” senior Derek Willis said.
Myself, I like that. Let the play do the talking and count me as one who thinks Kentucky will win this game.