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By LARRY VAUGHT

His team is coming off not only rare back-to-back losses since his arrival at Kentucky, but coach John Calipari watched his team lose by a combined 47 points at Florida and Tennessee last week.

Now the Wildcats have dropped off the national radar again and despite their 17-8 overall record and 8-4 Southeastern Conference mark seem a longshot to even make the NCAA Tournament with star freshman center Nerlens Noel out for the season with a knee injury.

Yet Calipari threw out a different scenario to envision Tuesday as the Cats prepare to host Vanderbilt tonight.

“We can make what we want of this season. Whatever we want to make of this season, we can do. We could be the story of the year — of recovery and all that,” said the Kentucky coach. “We can do that if they choose to do that. And we don’t have to win every game. You just have to know that we’ve got to keep getting better and figure out how this team has to play and then see how we can do it and how we march on.

“But you can’t …  our guard play is shaky at best. Toughness around the basket, getting balls, we’re not doing that. Obviously, defensively, it was poor (at Tennessee), so we’re changing a little bit. We’ve got some issues to deal with, but the biggest thing is just battle, fight. You’ve got nothing to lose, go after it. But we’ll see.”

Senior guard Julius Mays, one of only two players Calipari thought played well in Saturday’s 30-point loss at Tennessee, said the team is not “looking back” at what happened.

“We are only looking ahead. We know the task in front of us and we’re just ready to get started,” Mays said. “I just don’t think guys minds were right the day before leaving for Tennessee. That was the worst practice of the year by far. We were just out of it mentally and we really didn’t get anything accomplished. We’re looking forward to playing in front of a home crowd. Definitely want to rebound after a two-game losing streak, so we’re looking forward to a home game.”

Kentucky won 60-58 at Vanderbilt Jan. 10 after building a 47-31 lead. The Cats gave up 20 offensive rebounds in that win, and that lack of toughness inside has been a year-long problem.

“It started when Maryland outrebounded us (in the first game). Since then every team has tried to come in and bully us,” he said. “We just have to be a lot more physical, have to put more bodies on people. Everybody has to rebound because we can’t depend on just Alex (Poythress) or Willie (Cauley-Stein) and Kyle (Wiltjer) to try and get rebounds. Everybody has to do their part to get two or three rebounds.”
At Tennessee Saturday, Cauley-Stein and Poythress managed just two rebounds each in UK’s first game without Noel, it’s top shot blocker and rebounder.

 

4 Responses to Calipari says Kentucky could be story of the year if players choose to do that

  • Jim Boyers says:

    “Shaky at best” is an EXTREMELY generous way to describe the performance and prospects of this team.

    Cal is showing just how nervous he is about this team. The “We aren’t very good” rhetoric from the past 3 seasons has been replaced with these “We can do it. We can be special” statements. NOT a good sign.

    I wish I could say I was optimistic about their chances in the last 6 games.

  • Kokamo Joe says:

    We are already the story of the year. How could a team of projected NBA players produce such a bad year?

    But, Calipari may be right. If THEY decide to become a team and put real effort into the next 6 games and the SEC torunament they could make a statement. Yesterday’s Missouri win over Florida could bring both good and bad news. The bad news is that Missouri will come into Rupp on a roll. The good news is that Florida is beatable. Beat both of them at home and the sun will shine and the BBN will flock to Nashville to cheer the recharged Cats to wins there. Will that happen? Probably not. Calipari has pulled out all stops trying to motivate these players. They are unocachable. They are coachable but have bad habits. Love is the answer. Take names off the back of uniforms and on and on. All I can say is bring on Vandy and let’s see.

  • kentuckygolfnut says:

    Tonite we see what they have in the tank, fuel or fumes. Come out and play tough from the tip to the end of the game and walk away a winner, come out and play tough till you get bumped and then whine and complain the rest of the game and walk away a loser…the choice is the teams, the coaching staff can offer the best game plan in the world, but if the team chooses not to follow that plan and do their own think individually as they have been doing, Cal would be better suited to sit and watch them self-destruct again. Looking and rooting for a win, GO CATS!

  • Kokamo Joe says:

    Vandy comes to Rupp a whipped bunch. They have nothing to play for. Rupp will be rocking. Kentucky will beat Vandy tonight. We have had games like this all year. Bad teams come to Rupp and the Cats play well enough to win, and most of us think that the Cat is about to growl. Then the next game is a meow. We’ll see.

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