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By KEITH TAYLOR
Jarrod Polson has been spending more time in the gym. The Kentucky senior guard renewed his effort to get better behind the scenes and his progression showed in Kentucky’s 88-50 rout of Lipscomb Saturday at Rupp Arena when he scored seven points. It was the West Jessamine product’s best offensive outing since scoring seven points in Kentucky’s 101-49 rout of Lafayette on Nov. 16 at Rupp Arena.
“It has given me confidence, getting my shot better and has my shot has improved a little bit over the past two weeks,” he said. “Definitely being in there has been good for me. I have just started coming into the gym a lot as of late and it’s a good thing.”
When he’s on the court, Polson “tries to bring energy” but also knows he, along with the rest of the team have room for improvement.
“I know that’s what we need,” he said. “It’s really about energy. I thought we did some good things, but the overall effort level probably wasn’t where it should have been.”
Now that final exams are out of the way, Polson said the next two weeks will be crucial for the Wildcats, a stretch that puts the team’s focus entirely on basketball.
“This is when Cal’s team’s usually get a lot better,” he said. “We have nothing to worry about, absolutely nothing. It’s just basketball for the next two weeks. We have nothing (else) on our minds and hopefully we can get better.”
He said those workouts have been “rough, competitive and defensive-minded.”
“I definitely think we’re improved, but the way we’re going to practice moving forward is definitely going to help us, too,” he said. “Just having that mindset that everything is a win or a lose is what we kind of work on in practice.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari wasn’t pleased with his team’s progression in the win over Lipscomb, an area of concern. He gave the team a low grade the improvement category.
“We’re trying hard, but we’re trying to put together a 40-minute game of competing and playing hard is what we’re struggling with,” Polson said. “We had a hard and tough week of practice (last week) and I think it did help a little like (Calipari) said, but at the same time, we know we have a long way to go and he knows that. Hopefully the next two weeks and on will help us. We’ve just got to compete and play harder. We’ve got to stay hyped the how game and I think that’s where he is trying to get at. We’ve got to compete every possession and not be happy when the big plays happen.”
One of the team’s issues this season has been slow starts to open the second half. Lipscomb scored the first four points of the second half, while Kentucky didn’t connect on its first bucket until Kyle Wiltjer made a layup with 18:28 remaining.
“I don’t think we’re really ready to go (after the half),” he said. “We’ve just got to bring the energy. I don’t really know the answer, but we have to compete more and play harder out of the gate to open the second half. We tell each other before we go on the court we have to bring energy right now and obviously it hasn’t worked so far, but we’ll take care of it and move on.”
Polson added that the team is paying attention to Calipari’s instructions on the practice floor, also a problem that has plagued the Cats this season, especially in losses to Duke, Notre Dame and Baylor.
“We’re trying to listen to coach Cal,” he said. “It’s not like we’re just showing him off or anything like that. It’s a matter of listening and then putting it together in practice, listening and competing in practice.”
Although he admitted that those practice sessions will “probably be a lot tougher” from now until the new calendar year, Polson said the two-week stretch also allows the Cats to bond both on and off the court.
“We’re going to being around each other literally all day for two weeks, whether it’s breakfast, dinner or practice,” Polson said. “Hopefully that will pay off on the court.”