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By LARRY VAUGHT
Nerlens Noel’s season-ending injury in the Florida game made it easy to overlook just how bad Kentucky’s overall guard play was in that loss. So if you wondered what UK coach John Calipari might have said to his guards after that game in hopes that they play better today against Tennessee, here is what Calipari said Friday:
“It wasn’t very good. I thought Jarrod (Polson) battled, did some good things. I think Julius (Mays) is doing what he can. Julius is giving you everything he can. But like I said, we got some things to figure out, and they do as a team. One of the things they did I loved in the (Florida) game is, they subbed a guy or two. They just came over to me and said, ‘Get him out. Scared to death. Get him out.’ And I took the guy out. And I said, ‘You got to hold each other accountable.’ They’re like, ‘We want to be positive.’ I said, ‘Good. Now what if a guy is out there…’ hold them responsible. You guys, you tell me to take somebody out, he’s out. And it’s never for missing shots or turnovers. It’s not what they’re talking about. You’re not talking on defense. You’re into your own thing. And they just said, ‘We can’t win that way,’ and they know that.
“You know what’s funny? We win five of six. We do have an injury that can either bring you together or separate you. But now we’re on the cusp of, ‘OK, let’s see what we are. Let’s learn.’ I’m not afraid of it. I’ve been here. Not where I’ve lost a player, but I’ve been here where you’re up against it and you’re not playing well. I’ve done this long enough. My thing and the whole vision is, let’s try to make this special and unique. Going to Florida and losing, everybody has this year. Couple guys showed their colors and now maybe they got to take a step back. But the reality of it is, we’ve still got good players. We’re still in the same position. We don’t talk enough, we don’t play for the team enough.
“And what I mean by that is, if they make a mistake, if things don’t go right, they just, a couple guys – it’s two – when they hang their head, they got to come out. The minute you see it, ‘Get out. You’re zapping us.’ And they got to recognize it’s very selfish. Very selfish. See guys again think selfishness is, ‘I don’t shoot every ball. I don’t shoot every ball. I’m not selfish.’ Yeah you are. You’re not helping your teammates. You’re not in a position to play two guys when you have a chance. You’re not talking. You’re not switching when you have opportunities. Everything’s about how you feel. That’s selfish. And we’re just trying to slowly get that through. Now we can’t afford that. And I think they know it, and I think you’ll see guys be subbed out by their teammates. ‘Get ‘em out.’ Let’s be an energy team. If you can’t play that way, then don’t play.”