By LARRY VAUGHT
John Calipari got a bit testy and defensive on the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference Monday when it was suggested that Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl caused problems for his dribble-drive offense with his zone defense.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We beat him at home pretty good,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Calipari. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We were 2-for-22 from the 3. I remember (people) saying my team at Memphis could not win because of free throws. Now it is 3-point shooting. You have spells where you do not shoot well. I am proud of my team. We were 2-for-22 on the road and tied 65-65 after being down 19. Incredible. The way they played and held the ball gave us a chance.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Think that wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t a little shot at PealÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s offensive strategy. Calipari said the same thing after SaturdayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 74-65 loss Ã¢â‚¬â€ when he did credit the Vols for their play Ã¢â‚¬â€ about Tennessee wasting chances with deliberate play to break the game open.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s funny. Everybody will have this is how to play them. Hold your nose and close our eyes and hope we do not make shots. But if we go 5-for-22 (at Tennessee), we win going away,Ã¢â‚¬Â Calipari said.
Get ready. Here comes another salvo in the Calipari-Pearl rivalry.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The beginning of the game is where we lost,Ã¢â‚¬Â the UK coach said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The players, not the coaches, came into that game out of desperation. By the time we settled down, you are down 19.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“There are all kinds of ways to play my team. South Carolina played man to man and beat us. Vanderbilt played man and almost beat us. What you are basically saying (in a zone) is that you hope we canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t make shots. By the end of the year, I believe the difference will be 3-point shooting. When we finish out, you will be saying, Ã¢â‚¬ËœHow do you guard them? They made 3Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ And thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what I believe our team will do.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Calipari said TennesseeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s defense did not deny his team good shots.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“They are wide open. We shot air balls twice with nobody on us. That is what the dribble-drive does (to create open shots),Ã¢â‚¬Â Calipari said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“They had to have that start to beat us. Without that start, they donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t beat us. Give it to their players. They did it.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Again, give it to the players, not PearlÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s strategy.
The two coaches had an intense rivalry when Calipari was at Memphis. Obviously, nothing has changed and thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s only going to make future games Ã¢â‚¬â€ and possibly a SEC Tournament matchup Ã¢â‚¬â€ even more interesting and entertaining.