By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coach John Calipari says basically being out of the Southeastern Conference race does not impact the psychology of how he approaches his team.
“I’ve never been big on conference championships or conference tournaments. Every game we play is to prepare us for March, and that’s how we approach it,” Calipari said Monday on the SEC coaches teleconference. “I think the history of my teams have done well in conference play and conference tournaments because they’re not the goal. The goal is to be at our best in March.
“And so, the last game we played (and lost to Florida), I’ll be honest with you, (for) 30 minutes that’s as good as we’ve played all year. What happened down the stretch was that mental discipline that I talked about before the game. But it showed me that we can beat anybody in the country. We’ve got to shore up how we finish games off. It showed me our goals do not need to change – at all.
“And I told the team this: It’s about chemistry, energy and a will to win for your team. There were three rebounds you would have figured our best rebounder (Julius Randle) would have got balls, and he was right there with another guy, and they got all those balls. (Dorian Finney-)Smith got one, (Casey) Prather got one down the middle, they got another one, tipped back one for a 3. There was all that will to get that ball that they had more than we had.
“But, again, our goals haven’t changed. I’m happy with my team. What that game showed me: We’re as good as anybody in the country; we can play with anybody. Now let’s shore this up, let’s get this chemistry together and this energy together, let’s create a little more will to win down the stretch, execute. They got to the line by driving it. We took bailout 3s. Can’t do that. Can’t do that late in the game. But again, we’re still learning.”