By LARRY VAUGHT
Playing without injured freshman forward Jarred Vanderbilt affected Kentucky Friday even though the Wildcats beat Georgia.
Kentucky coach John Calipari said he didn’t expect Vanderbilt to play today against Alabama in the SEC Tournament semifinals.
“It affects us because he is an active player, but it’s as much offensive rebounding as defense, and we did get 14 offensive rebounds today. But it gives Wenyen (Gabriel) a chance. It gives Nick (Richards) a chance and Sacha (Killeya-Jones),” Calipari said. “I thought Sacha played well today, and I’ll watch the tape again, but I thought he played well.
“Nick’s got to come up with rebounds. That’s why you’re in the game. You can either do it — if you don’t do it, I can’t keep you in the game. You must get rebounds. Block shots, defend. All the other stuff is secondary. That’s what this team needs from that guy.
“I thought Wenyen bumbled some balls and bobbled some balls in the first half, and we kind of grabbed them a little bit like come on, man, grab the ball with two hands. What are you fumbling around for?
“But this is — look, for these guys this is all brand new. For them to perform like they did in this tournament this first game, come on. I mean, we’re out there with all freshmen.
“We’ve got time, but learning to play without him was a big part of today. And, again, let me say this: When we lost four in a row, he was playing. Like when we lost four, he was playing. And then we started playing better, and we started winning because everybody was saying, well, Jarred came back and screwed the team up, if you remember.
“Some of you here probably wrote that. And then we started playing better, and now it was, okay, Jarred. Now we’re not playing with him, and we’ll have to see.”