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Cats might be overanalyzed, but they still dominated second half

By LARRY VAUGHT

Even before the season started Kentucky coach John Calipari talked about the potential his team, which was ranked No. 1 in the preseason, had. He noted UK might have seven players capable of scoring 25 points in a game and didn’t openly discourage talk of his team going 40-0.

And don’t forget how often Calipari has talked about putting players into the NBA — which he has done exceptionally well — along with winning the 2012 national championship.

Yet after the Wildcats beat Mississippi 80-64 here Tuesday night, Calipari noted how his team was the most “overanalyzed team he had ever seen in the history of the game at any level in any sport.”

He cited the weekly updates on “what we are and what we are not” and that UK’s losses “are worse than any other loss in the country.” He pointed out that LSU had “three NBA players” along with two veteran guards and yet the Cats dropped from 11th to 18th in the AP poll — a move Calipari said he predicted to his coaches — after last week’s road loss.

“This team has to deal with all that. It’s hard to play here,” Calipari said.  “You have a bad game, you can’t play any more. You go from a great player to you stink in one game.”

However, he said that’s one reason UK players tend to go to the NBA and do well.

“They can deal with all the crap,” Calipari said.

Whatever the reason, UK outscored the Rebels 45-30 the second half by dominating the game inside behind the play of Willie Cauley-Stein, one of those players who went from great to “you stink” during a recent funk that even had Cauley-Stein wondering what was wrong.

“At Missouri (Saturday) I was mad because I was almost back home and wanted to play good and was just too antsy and that threw my timing off,” Cauley-Stein, who had 15 points, 11 rebounds and six blocked shots, said. “This game I was more relaxed and doing what I could do.”

Calipari said UK was getting better and particularly liked the 41-26 rebounding edge that included 15 offensive rebounds by six different players led by five by Cauley-Stein and three by Alex Poythress.

“This is a tough team to play. They were tied with us for a reason (in the SEC),” Calipari said. “It will be a different game down there (when the teams play at Ole Miss). It will be a war.”

Kentucky had five players score in double figures for the first time since Nov. 29. Poythress continued to be solid with 10 points — and a highlight dunk — and seven rebounds. Aaron Harrison was 5-for-10 from the field and had 16 points, six rebounds and two assists. Julius Randle overcame a shaky first half — Calipari didn’t start him the second half — to finish with 12 points and five rebounds.

Kentucky goes on the road now to play at Mississippi State and Auburn — two games it should win — before hosting Florida Feb. 15 on ESPN GameDay. That’s when the chatter will really go up — win or lose — about the Cats and Calipari said the scrutiny takes a toll on his young team.

“They’re 18 and 19 years old. This is the youngest team in the country to play at this level maybe ever. Yeah, it affects them. I tried to tell them. I said, you think it’s opinion (by a media member). Most cases it’s the hope of the writer. It’s not their opinion; it’s their hope. Don’t deal with it. You can’t let it affect you,” Calipari said.

“I told some of them, they came into practice really excited after Missouri. Are you excited because we won? You can’t be that way. You’re excited because you want to get better. You’ve got to be excited if we get dinged and we lose a game. You’ve got to come in with an excited level. I told them if you think every game you’re going to play you’ve got to follow it with the win, you’ve got to learn to deal with adversity, and we’ve had some this year.”

But this was a game where UK dealt with the first-half adversity and responded by dominating play the second half any way you want to analyze it.

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7 comments

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  1. Judi cole

    It was so good to see our boys play so well tonight. They are progressing every game in some way. There’s a lot of pressure on them and I think they are very composed considering the hype. I plan to sit back and enjoy the ride, win or lose, because this is a fun young team and they deserve our full support. Coach Cal deserves coach of the year for the work he’s done with these freshmen.

  2. Larry T Clemons

    Great Story, Sage Advice and Good Timing….Go Cats !

  3. King Ghidora

    Gee I thought Cal knew what it was like at UK. People care about the team. And it hasn’t been “one” game, it’s been a lot of games that they didn’t play well. I think Cal is showing some thin skin here. That’s not a good thing for a UK coach to have.

    Whether he likes it or not the fans drive this program. They fill the seats and pay the bills. They pay close attention to what goes on. Cal talks about the fans turning on players well he does the same thing with fans. One game they’re the best fans on earth and then all of a sudden they’re “basketball bennies” and they over analyze the team more than any team in any sport. I could have told him that’s the case. UK fans are the most dedicated fans in the world in any sport.

    The team played well yesterday but they also got the calls which is pretty rare lately. I think the league is down on certain Ole Miss players.

    Cal gets paid plenty to deal with the stress of having people look over his shoulder. If he starts a war with the fans he won’t win. I’d hate to see that happen. But his job is to live in a fishbowl. He makes a lot of money at it. If I was him I’d thank my lucky stars that he gets to coach where the fans care so much. I think it’s a good thing even when you hear some fans say some really ridiculous stuff on the call in shows or whatever. It’s easy to fix that. Don’t go on call in shows.

    I think he’s wrong about the team being over analyzed BTW. The Knicks seem to be that team IMO. The whole NY press feeds on their stories. They haven’t been really good for a very long time. But you would think they’re competing for a title every year. They haven’t done that since Riley left and that’s the reason he left (the press being so hard on the team).

    I’ve seen Cal get progressively less happy with the fans with confrontational remarks. That can work both ways and there’s a lot more fans than there are coaches. I think Cal is doing a fine job but if he contributes to the “UK is too tough to coach” attitude I won’t like that at all. He contributed to building this team up with his talk of 40-0. Now he’s surprised that fans got disappointed???

    Come on Cal. Don’t let the fans sour you. Don’t get it in your head that you make the program. Other coaches learned the hard way that wasn’t true. You contribute. So do those fans only they’ve been around much longer than you. They were pressuring the team back in the mid-60′s and maybe before that. That’s as far back as I remember. People wanted Rupp gone for pity’s sake. The fans drive the program. They demand excellence and they are willing to support the team to an incredible degree. It keeps the coaches and the players on their toes. The results look pretty convincing to me.

    1. larryvaught

      Remember, Cal does lot of things to draw attention to UK and says a lot of things. NOt saying right or wrong, but that draws analysis year-round to the program in addition to the fan interest

      1. Larry T Clemons

        King……..Have you been around a Mother Hen when she’s protecting her chicks ? Coach Cal, has to be many things to many people, including the Fans and Our Team, and he’s very good at this. Well, this time, He’s being The Mother Hen, and Our YOUNG TEAM needs that at this moment….Coach is just playing Chess to bring Our Team along, a little faster, ( Us against the world ). Remember, Florida is right around the corner and Our Young Boys, need to be Young Men. Dakari, is only 18…and Yes, he’s needs to feel protected, like all of Us did when we were Young and it felt difficult to make everyone happy….

        1. King Ghidora

          Both Larrys are right of course. I didn’t say Cal was already at war with the fans. I just don’t want it to happen and it does look a little thin skinned. If he said this to help his players along that’s fine but he’s said several things lately. I know some fans are obnoxious and very wrong about basketball and I’d like to think that’s who he refers to as the “Bennys” but it can be off putting to many fans. I didn’t say I was one of them. I think I said I fully supported him didn’t I?

          I don’t expect anything to come of this but I’ve seen some trouble brewing among the “win every year” crowd. If Cal tweaks those people too much he’ll draw sympathy to them. We all have our relatives who drink too much or whatever and some of them call into chat shots. Most of us try to ignore what they say. But then we have to worry if he really means us. I don’t think he does but what do I know?

          I just saw his comments as a shot across the bow towards the fans. He has to know what goes on in the BBN. I just don’t want to see things escalate. That was my point. Maybe I didn’t say it well enough. Larry V you’re absolutely right that he does his best to keep the team in the news year round. It should be obvious that people are going to talk about things and analyze situations. It’s just like the hot stove baseball shows. What else do we have to talk about in the off season? And when the team doesn’t always play well there will be questions in Big Blue Land. We know that much for sure. I’m not saying the questions are always right either. They aren’t.

    2. Karen Sprinkle

      I listened to the press conference at the time, and I thought he was talking about the media, both local and national, and not so much the fans. I have been to several of the Women’s Clinics, and while he always tells us we’re the best fans in the world, he also asks us not to watch film. He, with good humor, tells us stories about the grandmothers who give him advice on zone defenses. In no way do I think this was a shot at the fans, but that’s just my interpretation of what he said.

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