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UK coach John Calipari cites lack of discipline for loss in gut game but this time he has to share blame for loss

Kentucky coach John Calipari tries to get his team to adjust during the Alabama Crimson Tide's NCAA SEC basketball game with the Kentucky Wildcats, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, at Coleman Coliseum  in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won another wild nail-biter, keyed by defense, 58-55, to go to 4-1 on the SEC year. (AP Photo/Birmingham News, Vasha Hunt)

Kentucky coach John Calipari tries to get his team to adjust during the Alabama Crimson Tide’s NCAA SEC basketball game with the Kentucky Wildcats, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won another wild nail-biter, keyed by defense, 58-55, to go to 4-1 on the SEC year. (AP Photo/Birmingham News, Vasha Hunt)


The numbers were ugly — 36.8 percent shooting from the field, 15.4 percent shooting from 3-point range and a 44-32 rebounding deficit. Yet Alabama overcame those numbers Tuesday to beat visiting Kentucky 59-55.

How did that happen? Simple according to Kentucky coach John Calipari.

“It is a gut game. It has nothing to do with anything else,” said Calipari after UK blew a 14-point first half lead and lost. “Neither one of us played well. They gutted it out. They had discipline at the end and we did not. Sometimes that happens with a young team.”

Calipari cited his team’s lack of discipline time after time during his postgame remarks.

“We didn’t have the discipline to know we are grinding this game out. It’s not about me making a shot or play. It’s about it. It’s all part of the growth of a young team,” Calipari said.

Growth? It’s hard to see any growth in the way UK played the second half against Alabama when it scored only 22 points and went almost eight minutes to open the half without a field goal. The more physical Alabama got, the more UK seemed to back down.

“You have to give Alabama credit. They fought and had great confidence and they played to win. We played not to lose, which young guys do on the road at times,” Calipari said. “Everybody thought what would hurt us was the press, but it helped us. Then (Alabama) just said, ‘Don’t even press, we are just going to lock them in to a half-court set and be physical and if they drive, go body-to-body.’

“They ran and got good shots and got second shots that we didn’t. They had nine offensive rebounds, but three were very late, tip-in plays that killed us. You stop them, and they miss it, but they tip it in. Tough game, but we still haven’t totally bought in — individual players haven’t. Obviously late in the game, we took chances, we left our feet, we fouled and we let them get offensive rebounds. It’s all that we talked about late in the game — give them one tough shot , do not foul, do not leave your feet.”

Calipari admitted it was a “step back” for his team after an impressive road win at Auburn on Saturday.

Calipari was particularly critical of his team’s guard play. UK guards combined to go 10-for-34 from the field. Archie Goodwin missed 10 of 12 shots and Ryan Harrow nine of 12. Julius Mays was 4-for-8 overall — all four goals were 3-pointers — and Jarrod Polson made one of two shots.

Most of the misses by Harrow and Goodwin were on drives to the basket — both shot only one 3-pointer — and many were wild, off-balance shots.

“He (Harrow) just wasn’t there. Tough game for him,” Calipari said. “The second half at Auburn, he played well. We didn’t have it here.”

What about Goodwin? Apparently Calipari wanted him to continue to force shots inside because he played 35 minutes.

“Our guard play was – Julius Mays did what he could do – but our guard play was not near their guard play, it just wasn’t. We reverted back to just throwing it to Kyle Wiltjer (late in the game) in the post to try to keep the game close, to give us a chance to win, and we had our chances. If they are not going to call those [fouls], then Archie needed to pull up or shoot around them,” Calipari said.  “I just kept telling him, and he just kept going.

“So I will watch the tape to see if he got whacked or not, and he may not have. The official was right on it and said he didn’t get touched — bodies were flying — but he said he didn’t get touched, and I have to trust his judgment on it.”

He also faulted his guards for not rebounding better. Goodwin grabbed seven missed shots, but Mays had only three boards and Harrow one. Polson did have three boards in just 14 minutes.

“Our guards did not think it was their job to go get it. It got rough in there and we didn’t mix it up,” Calipari said.

The coach faulted Nerlens Noel — eight points, 13 rebounds, seven blocks and one steal in 39 minutes — for his late play, too. He said he tried to make steals late in the game he shouldn’t have and left his feet to block shots he shouldn’t have tried to block that led to follow baskets for Alabama.

“Again, you guys and they panicked a little bit. We were not able to settle them down,” Calipari said in his postgame press conference.

Yet this is one game where the coach also has to shoulder some of the blame for the loss. Wiltjer was 5-for-8 from the field and had 11 points in the first half. In the second half, he got two shots and didn’t get his only field goal for almost 18 minutes. Calipari was content to watch his team flounder with Harrow and Goodwin, who combined to take 15 of UK’s 27 second half shots, driving and missing and then doing it again.

It wasn’t until late in the game that Calipari tried to isolate Wiltjer down low. But why wait to go back to Wiltjer with the offense struggling the way it was?

“He is a good low  post player,” Calipari said of Wiltjer. “He has good moves down there. Again, we were just hoping for anything to keep the game close.”

Keep the game close? How about hoping for points to start the half to keep the lead and not let Alabama take all the momentum? Why wait until desperation time to go back to Wiltjer?

“I am proud of how he played. He just played too many minutes (35),” Calipari said.

Calipari again noted that his players have not totally “bought in” to what they must do. Again, isn’t that his job to get them to buy in? Alabama certainly did for coach Anthony Grant.

“I think we got hurt in the first half in transition. We had some breakdowns defensively. Offensively, I just felt like we were out of rhythm. It was more of just guys trying to do a little bit too much from an offensive standpoint,” Grant said.

“Nerlens Noel was phenomenal at protecting the rim, tremendous timing on his blocks, so I thought that our guys adjusted in the second half and were able to make some plays around the rim in the second half that we couldn’t in the first half. The thing I’m most proud of is the things that we focused on at the half in terms of what we needed to do from the defensive standpoint. They dominated the glass in the first half. I think we played them even in the second half on the backboard. So just the adjustments and the understanding of what we needed to do to win the game.”

And that’s why a team with some ugly statistics was able to gut out a win over a team that didn’t make the adjustments/plays it took to win.

Permanent link to this article: http://vaughtsviews.com/calipari-cites-lack-of-discipline-for-loss-in-gut-game-but-this-time-he-has-to-share-blame-for-loss/


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  1. Larry Pup

    Great game analysis. Pretty hard on coach.

  2. kywildcat_96

    For me, the most frustrating part of the Alabama game was watching Harrow and Goodwin drive and then either get the ball stripped (Harrow) or throw up a terrible “shot”(Goodwin). What made this unbearable to watch was seeing Cal yelling at the two of them to “Drive the ball.” It was painful to watch the two of them, but it was like salt in the wound seeing Cal encourage it.
    If we didn’t go to Witjer in the second half due to adjustments Alabama made at 1/2 time, then why didn’t we make adjustments too?

  3. MILL8J

    Could not agree more with your analysis. I was screaming at the TV to call some plays for Wiltjer! There is no excuse for him not getting a shot for 17 min into the 2nd half. I love Cal but he is the coach he can stop that foolishness of Goodwin. Introduce Wiltjer to the rest of the team and say “see this guy lets get him the ball” Go Cats

  4. grant

    What I take so far from this season is this, Cal will not go another season at UK without making it a priority that he has a “true” point guard coming in year after year.

  5. john

    This is what you get when you:
    a) 4 freshmen
    b) have only two upper classmen who can give you any kind of quality minutes, and
    c) have very little depth

    1. eric

      Who are the two “upper classmen” who give quality minutes? Wiltjer is a sophomore who didn’t start last year, I don’t consider that upper classmen. Polson is the only upper classmen and he is a former walk on. What is being missed is the the last three years we did actually have some upper classmen “anchors:” Patterson, Harrellson, Miller and even Lamb and Jones had started the year before. This is the first year we are actually starting 5 that have had little to no experience before, and guess what it shows. We will see what happens. The fact that the media looked at last year’s team and stated that Cal actually won a title with Freshman is a skewed vantage point. Jones and Lamb were returning starters and Miller a Senior. This year is totally different.

  6. Judi Cole

    Larry, I have to agree that Coach Cal needs to take the blame more than the players. He obviously wanted Goodwin to drive the ball. When I was watching, I couldn’t believe that Wiltjer was not in the game plan in the second half. Seems this happened a few years ago when we lost to W VA. Does Cal get so caught up in the moment that he isn’t able to make the proper adjustments? I still think Cal is a great coach and stand with him and these young men who I’m developing an affection for. Maybe 3 of these freshmen will decide to return next year and hone their skills. Hope so because they can use more experience before subjecting themselves to the rigors of the NBA.

    1. larryvaught

      Amen Judi. HOpe to see you Saturday

      1. Judi Cole

        Larry, I’ll be with Sam and Jeanie Kegley and I know he’s interviewing you so hope to see you then!

        1. larryvaught

          Looking forward to talking to Sam. Just don’t you and Jeanie go out shopping and spend all the money

    2. King Ghidora

      I think Cal is sticking to his game plan and hoping his players will learn the system and learn to make it work. He has also criticized Goodwin for not passing the ball and not pulling up to take shots when the other team has the driving lanes closed. Still he wants Goodwin to drive the ball. He’s committed to the dribble drive and sometimes you just have to let your players learn under game conditions. He’s hoping Archie will learn to do the right things when he drives because those drives can break down a defense and you really must have someone that can drive if you expect to win. He wants him to play like Lamb did last year. And he won’t learn to do that by not driving at all. He wants Harrow to make the right decisions when he drives too. For example they need to draw the defense so they can get the ball to the big guys. Noel is not getting nearly enough shots and unfortunately he is not a post up player. So that means he needs the guards to set him up for finishes. And again they can’t learn to do that by not trying to do it.

      Sometimes players just don’t learn to do the things you want them to do. Cal specifically mentioned both Harrow and Archie not pulling up and taking the shots they were given. I think of a guy named Rondo who wasn’t supposed to be a great scorer when he was at UK. Now he’s a fabulous scorer. It took time but he developed his game. Cousins got much better at moving his feet inside too and now he’s one of the best players in the NBA.

  7. coldspringmike

    So, when all is said and done Cal got out coached in this one. Will not happen often, and take him over any other head coach in the country. Grant, agree Cal will not be caught again without a true point. Look who we have coming in next year and who he is in on for 2014.

  8. TheProfessor

    I find it curious that we are near the end of January, and the topic remains the inefficiency of Goodwin. However, this team’s problems are not confined to Goodwin’s inefficiency, but his inefficiency is simply symbolic of this team’s problems, thus the focus. After the first game, I think all fans were very pleased that Jarrod Polson came out of the shadows to bail out his teammates, but who would have imagined that after 18 games, Polson would be the 3rd most efficient player on this team. Not me, because if that is the case, which it is, that means that some very highly regarded freshmen and sophomores were not performing that the levels expected of them.

    Cauley-Stein is out of action, which only compounds this problem because he is the second most efficient player, a list headed by Noel.

    When I look at the tabulation of individual efficiencies for this team, and compare it to last year’s team, the problems are clear.

    1. While Noel leads this group, and is posting very impressive numbers, he is not close to the efficiency that Davis maintained last year.
    2. Last year, among the players that logged significant playing time, the player with the lowest individual efficiency was Kyle Wiltjert, and this team has four players getting significant playing time with lower efficiencies: Poythress, Hood, Goodwin, and Harrow, in that order of descending efficiency.

    This is why this team is less efficient, and not efficient enough to contend for a title this year.

    The players on this team that have efficiencies in the range where they can contribute to championship levels of play are Noel, Cauley-Stein, Polson, Wiltjer, Mays That is it, and I am not suggesting that these 5 players, on the floor together, would get the job done, but that is the best this team has to offer. When Jarrod Polson and Julius Mays are two of the five most efficient players, that is not a recipe for big time success.

    Another factor about this team. This is the most inconsistent team, offensively and defensively, at UK since 2000, and I don’t have the variance data for teams prior to 2000 to know whether it may be one of the most inconsistent teams of all time. I suspect that it may be, at least on defense.

    1. larryvaught

      Professor, they are consistently inconsistent and that drives coaches and fans crazy

      1. King Ghidora

        I think it’s exactly what Cal says it is Larry. They don’t listen to the coach and buy into what he’s saying. When a player does that expect to see the team play just like this one. Unorganized, inefficient, and sloppy – they need to learn to do what Cal tells them.

  9. Kokamo Joe

    This year calls into focus the question: Can a virtual all freshman team compete with teams with experienced, but less talented players and dominate? Calipari, until now, had experienced players to back up his freshmen. This year he has experienced players, but they do not compare to those in the past.

    Calipari frequently uses the word “young” when trying to explain why they are not “getting it.” He cannot have it both ways. He established the one and done system. He recruited our four projected draft picks. He choose to have a weak bench.

    Next year we will start over with another number one recruiting class and it will be a good one. IMO, the fab 4 must leave. Otherwise Calipari loses his hook to bring in future number one recruiting classes. So it will be freshmen next year who will be the center of our program. The question will be: Will they play like an all star high school AAU team or will they be a UK TEAM on the hunt for a national championship.

    At that time we can lavish praise or dump criticism on Calipari for his “system.”

  10. Pacman

    I dont think the problem with this team is “inexperience”. The problem with this team is that certain players that have offensive skills are selfish and play for themselves (Goodwin) and are soft mentally and physically, with no motor (Poythress, Harrow much of the time, occasionally Wiltjer) and the others (Noel, Stein, Mayes, Polson) have very limited offensive skills. I have coached a team like this in the past in High School and Cal has two options at this point; one is to put Goodwin on the bench permanently to allow the team chemistry to improve & create a workable unit by SEC Tournament time or stay the course of letting each player decide how they will play (Goodwin continuing to drive to the basket with head down and throw the ball up with no intention of passing, no inside game from Poythress, inconsistent shooting because no passing and poor shot selection) and hope that at some point they get tired of losing and “buy-in” to start playing for the team and quit playing for themselves. I tried the later in High School because it is extremely hard to put one of your most talented players on the bench but it only led to a .500 season and an early exit from our post season tournament. If Cal continues the course he is on now UK will be an NIT team this year. If he decides to bench Goodwin in favor of a 3 guard rotation of Harrow, Mayes, Polson UK has a chance of improving and getting a seed in the 10~12 range. Tough choices for the coach this year.

    1. King Ghidora

      I agree with some of what you said. Players aren’t thinking team first for sure. And they aren’t working hard enough. I don’t think Goodwin needs to be benched. He needs to learn. If he doesn’t UK is in trouble for the rest of the year. I have to admit I expected them to have improved more. They are stuck in a rut and that happens strictly because of not listening to the coach. I coached a team like that once. There was a kid that was a dead eye shooter from outside but absolutely refused to learn a mid-range game or a driving game. I told him eventually teams would learn to stop him because he was one dimensional but like many kids he thought he was smarter than me. His dad had been a great scorer in high school so he figured he would be too. And he was – for a while. Then teams figured out how to play him and it was too late for him to learn a new move and be effective at it. He went from averaging 30 ppg to averaging 20 ppg in about 10 games. Of course that meant he really went from scoring 30 a game to scoring 10 a game for his average to drop that much. All teams did was play him tight outside and he couldn’t drive around them and score. Game over. He was shut out from that point on. This UK team isn’t learning and that is a really bad thing on the level they’re on.

  11. Little Baron

    Larry hit the nail on the head. Others have hammered it home. How can ANYONE sit on the sidelines and watch, even encourage, the pathetic drives to basket by Harrow and Goodwin, ending in streetball shots that simply gave Bama a chance to grab the ball and get a jump on the CATS going the other way.

    Wiltjer should GET SCREENS!!! Come on, Cal. Wake up and smell the coffee. How many opponents get shots off of good screens? Yet, we never seem to set a screen for Kyle and Poythress (look at his shooting % from 2 and 3 – awesome) to launch a 3.

    Let Wiltjer and Mays bomb away from 3 – BEHIND SCREENS SET FOR THEM – and there will be more room for Noel and Willie (when he gets back, and we need him) and Poythress to get an offensive rebound.

    Polson’s guard play was so much better than Harrow and/or Goodwin. He does not cost us a possession due to nonsense drives or shots. If Harrow and Goodwin want to play sandlot ball, and Cal wants to endorse, then they should set a time during the week when they can go outside and join some kids on a playground, until they either get it out of their system, or decide they’d rather play street ball than UK basketball and just ride the bench.

    Harsh? Someone needs to be. Those 2 did not have a clue when they drove into the swarming (and, yes, FOULING) Tide. Refs are not going to call. Never have, never will, against UK. So, get real, and don’t set yourself up to get fouled so hard you can’t make a basket. Stop and shoot a floater. Watch some old film of Travis Ford and Darius Miller. LEARN to shoot the floater.

    Oh, and in case the staff and team already forgot – GIVE THE BALL TO WILTJER. SET A SCREEN FOR HIM. One of the best pure shooters in all of college basketball. His soft, floating, gliding long shots remind me of the great All-American Cotton Nash who could make a ball glide through the air like it was on a cloud.

    GO CATS. Still time. And, Cal, how about discussing some game-time decisions with your staff – or add an assistant with an offensive mind-set, so we can set screens for Wiltjer.

    Remember the screens set for Travis Ford – how he would slide behind it and drain the 3? Wiltjer is so much taller. Imagine how he could nail those 3’s and we’d have 2 defenders (Kyle’s and the screen setter’s) way out at the 3 pt line who could not rebound – and now it’s an easier follow for the awesome twin towers.

  12. Little Baron

    I would be happy to see the 5 most efficient players start a game, and let the Goodwin and Harrow (and Poythress, although I am not down on him as much as the two guards) on the bench to learn a little about taking care of the ball and the team.

    Polson, Mays and Wiltjer would provide a couple of 3 pt shooters and a guard who will not only think about shooting or driving wildly into the lane. The twin towers would have more room to roam under the boards, with 3 players on the perimeter instead of recklessly running around in the lane and tossing up sandlot shots.

    We need to try something. Time to make some changes.

    AND, maybe, just maybe, we need to let Poythress go back to playing the way he did when he scored 20 points a game for four consecutive games!!! Maybe we could use THAT Poythress.

    Don’t get me wrong – I think Calipari is the best at developing players… the BEST… but every now and then, there just may be a player who does not fit into the same development method mold as most – and perhaps the awesome Poythress we saw in the early games is one of those guys.

  13. King Ghidora

    I think Cal is doing what it takes to develop his players. It really isn’t his fault if they don’t listen. At some point it just becomes about the players not wanting to learn or not willing to learn. He knows he needs Archie to drive and score if they expect to be a tournament contender. But if he won’t learn a different way of doing things when they pack the lane on him then he’ll never become the great player he could be. Cal can tell him that until the cows come home but if he doesn’t listen it won’t matter one bit. Not every player is coachable. I saw something in the eyes of Archie right off the bat like he was lost or something. Maybe he was. Maybe he still is. Maybe it’s because he won’t listen. We have to consider it may be that he can’t listen and learn. I hate to say things like that but it may be true. I really hope he does learn for his sake and for the team.

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