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Vandy coach Kevin Stallings says even without Noel that Kentucky is ‘very, very talented and very, very good’

uk basketball logoBy LARRY VAUGHT

Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings knows Kentucky lost center Nerlens Noel to a season-ending knee injury last week and lost by 30 points at Tennessee Saturday without him. Still, Stallings expects UK will be “raring” to go against his team Wednesday in Rupp Arena.

“We’re coming off a pretty good performance against a good Texas A&M team on Saturday and it’s a game I thought our team played pretty well in. We were happy to win that and now we know we’ve got a big challenge in front of us,” said Stallings Monday. “Had a great game against Kentucky the first time around and would anticipate that’s what we’ll have again. But anyway, I know they’re coming off of a disappointing game but I’m sure they’ll be raring to go on Wednesday night. So we look forward to the challenge of going up there and playing and hopefully we can go and play well.”

Stallings said he wasn’t sure what he could learn about UK without Noel from what happened at Tennessee.

“Tennessee would have beaten probably anyone in the country the way they played on Saturday. So I don’t know how much you can really look into that,” Stallings said. “They still have really good players, still have a bunch of guys that are projected to be very high draft choices. So they lost a key guy for sure, but they’re still very, very talented and very, very good. I’m sure that was a case of bad timing on Saturday and I’m sure they’ll be a lot better by Wednesday.”

Kentucky coach John Calipari hopes so, especially since UK also has to host Missouri Saturday night.

“Two good teams. Vandy beats Texas A&M. They played Tennessee to two great games,” Calipari said. “Kev (Stallings) is doing a great job with his team, putting them in positions to have a chance to win every game they play. You look at Missouri’s guard play, which means they have a chance any game they are in. They’ve got big people inside that can do damage, so they’re a top-20 team. Two teams that are going to be rough games for us right now.”

Calipari indicated on the Southeastern Conference coaches’ teleconference that he learned Saturday what other defensive changes he must make without Noel, the nation’s leading shot blocker. With no Noel, Tennessee players got inside and scored time after time.

“Well, I’m not going to tell you everything we’re trying to do because what I’m trying to do is give this team the best opportunity to win games, to put themselves in a position when the game is winding down, we have our chances,” Calipari said. “And it’s on both offense and defense. Aside from X, Y, Z, that’s what we have to do and that’s what we’re trying to figure out.  And it’s obvious without Nerlens we are a little different. It doesn’t mean we’re 40 points different (like they were after beating Tennessee b 10 points earlier this season), but we’re a little different, and we’re going to have play stronger. We’re going to have to cover for each other a little more because you can’t just let people shoot layups, which is what happened last game.”

Kentucky also had no inside offensive presence without Noel, who was averaging 10 points per game.

“I don’t think they ran a lot of plays for him to begin with and they didn’t run a lot of plays for Anthony Davis and Anthony Davis still scored a lot of points against you,” Stallings said. “But again, they still have really good players and guys that can shoot and guys that can post and guys that can drive and they’re good in transition. It’s still a very potent offensive team even without Noel and he certainly is an outstanding player.”

Calipari wouldn’t indicate whether Jarrod Polson, who had 11 points and six rebounds, would start at point guard again after making his first start. Ryan Harrow lost his spot to Polson and did not have a point, rebound or assist at Tennessee in 20 minutes. “We got two practices here. We’ll evaluate that and see what we do,” Calipari said.

Stallings hopes his team is better than the one UK beat in January.

“There are times when we’re scoring the ball a little bit better. Maybe our offensive play has gotten somewhat better. I wouldn’t call us an offensive juggernaut yet, but at times we’re a little bit better offensively than maybe we were a month or two ago,” Stallings said. “I still think that the thing that’s been consistent about us that’s given us a chance to win has been our defense.

Permanent link to this article: http://vaughtsviews.com/stallings-says-even-without-noel-that-kentucky-is-very-very-talented-and-very-very-good/

17 comments

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  1. HDCKY

    Ive heard a couple rumors that Ryan has started his last game at UK and will only play spot minutes like Jon Hood. Hes a really talented kid, I hope he gets it together. I hope all the guys get it together. I thought when Nerlens went down that the guys would light a fire and play their hearts out. We need more kids like Jarrod Polson. He isn’t the most talented kid on the team but he plays for the uniform he wears. That’s the problem with some kids these days is they are only playing for themselves and not the Kentucky across their chest. I have faith in Coach Cal, I know he will right the ship and we will still have a good finish to the season.

    1. Kokamo Joe

      Re: play for the uniform
      I expect that that is the problem. Polson is a Kentucky kid, a kid with Transy type of talent playng for the team that a lot of Kentucky kids would dream about. The difference for him and our other stars? Simply the goal. Polson is proud to play, even a minor role for the University of Kentucy. Our freshmen, and those in our future, have a goal of making millions playing professional basketball. How can we expect them to take pride in the Uniform? Calipari has tried with this group, including even taking the names off the back of the uniform and printing Kentucky on each back, but it has not helped. Next year’s team will be dominated with freshmen from across the country. Will they be a repeat of 2012? Or 2013? I know that we are excited, but we were excited this time last year about this bunch.

      1. grant

        What I am scared of Kokamo, and we touched on this yesterday, is whoever comes back next year off of this team does not taint next years team in a negative way. I am not saying a leopard cannot change its spots , but aside from Noel and Polson who could teach next years class the value of listening, and working hard?

        1. Kokamo Joe

          Re: this year’s freshmen comming back.
          I am hoping that a weak draft and the fact that teams draft on potential will help move this bunch on. Not only would we be better off with a new start next year, but Calipari system depends on his ability to place his recruits in the pros as soon as possible. These kids next year are hear for one purpose, regardless what they might be quoted as saying, and that is to reach the multi milliondp dollar promised land. It this year’s freshmen were to come back they would not be down with sitting on the bench and next year’s bunch would resent not starting. That would lead to turmoil. In ordinary times having players compete for playing time would be very good, but that is not the case at UK. These players expect center stage and Calipari has, so far, given them center state. If he stops showcasing his freshmen the one and done thing will be over.

          1. grant

            Kok , I am not so sure that next years frosh would not start over any returnees.

  2. grant

    Kevin Stallings is bragging UK up to make himself and team feel like there doing something huge when they beat us, thats all. Plus he does not want to give UK any locker room pin up quotes to give UK ammunition for the game. Wounded animals do 2 things – back in to a corner and fight like hell or they go off some place quiet and die. We shall see.

  3. Doug Ridley

    In looking at their schedule I fail to see even one team that I really believe they can beat. Hope I’m wrong and that is my best attribute.(Being wrong)
    Doug

    1. larryvaught

      Doug we all hope you are wrong, but are afraid you could be right outside of Mississippi State

  4. UKFAN197TONE

    When did Calipari take the player names off the jerseys? I don’t ever remember a UK coach doing that.

    1. gmoyers

      He didn’t UKFAN197TONE – that’s a Nike thing on those one-time uniforms. The other schools participating have done the same thing.

      1. Gene

        Damn it Gmoy !! You’ve gone and destroyed a great conspiracy angle.
        I could see it brewing a couple of days ago and wondered why no one had brought it to the fore before this——-and you come out with facts………and ruin all their fun :<) :<)

  5. Larry Pup

    I don’t know how anyone could say that Harrow has started his last game for UK unless you can read Cal’s mind. This team of ours can beat Vandy, and if they do it will build a little “MO” in going forward. I think they will come out and play hard. As I see this, this is the most important game of the season right here and now. I’m hanging in there for em. GO CATS. Vandy is in our house.

    1. Larry Pup

      Next question for me after Sat, “who are the officials?”

      1. Kokamo Joe

        I don’t know who the officals will be but we will play 4 of the next 6 at home and the SEC tournament will be in CATNashville. We usually get good refs at home.The LHL indicates that UK has won the vast majority of games in which Shows was a ref.

  6. TheProfessor

    There is always hope that a kid will finally get it, after a long struggle during the time that he does not get it. So, if Harrow, Poythress, Goodwin do return, I will remain hopeful that they get the entire point that they must be committed to their team, their teammates, and not consumed by their own little world. When they yield themselves for the team, their personal goals become more realistic and achievable. I believe that Wiltjer will be back regardless of all that has occurred this season.

    As for the concerns that the next influx of freshmen will be more akin to 2013 than 2012, I suggest a double pronged non-answer. If the premise offered this year that this group did not have the battle tested veterans to show them how hard one must play at this level, then I see no one on the roster next year that can fill that role for the next group. However, if the premise is that this particular group of players have fundamental flaws that prevent them from sacrificing self for team, then there is every reason to believe that the next group will be more like Cuz & Co. or Knight & Co. or :MKG & Co than Goodwin-Poythress-Harrow.

    I understand Calipari’s emphasis on this being a players first program, and I doubt that many UK fans disagree with that emphasis from the Coaches to the players. The players know by this that the Coaches have the players’ interest front and center and do not ask the players to do anything that is inconsistent with the players’ interests. However, there is another component that the coaches must emphasize to each player entering this program. This program endures, and they have some responsibility to do their share while wearing that uniform to make the program’s endurance more likely, not less likely. This program sustains, and one big group of people that this program sustains are former players, for the rest of their natural lives, even beyond their basketball days, which will seldom endure more than a few more precious years for any of them. When a player is asked to join this family (program) there must be a dual commitment. I have no doubt that the program (coaches, administrators, former players, and fans) always makes its commitment to the players (players first program afterall) and these newest members need to grasp the true significance of that fact. However, the reciprocal commitment, player to the program must also occur, and be fully demonstrated on the court for this entire system to work.

    That is what I see missing from this group.

    1. Kokamo Joe

      I would agree but for one consideration. What is the reason why these players come to play for Calipari? They want to reach their dream, which is not to play for UK, but to go to the NBA as soon as possible. That is a vast change from the days when Kentucky kids dreamed of playing for UK and some of them lived that dream. I am not sure that it is possible for a short timer to make a commitment to the University like a player like Polson who is here knowing that his future does not include the NBA. The reasonable cause of a committment to team play and success likely comes from knowing two things: 1. the better the team results the higher the draft possibilities and 2. Equally good players will be coming next year. Play together or sit the bench.

  7. Karen Sprinkle

    Well stated, Professor. Joe, as to your statement that you are not sure it is possible for a short timer to make a commitment to the University like Polson, I would give you as examples: Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist most recently. I believe there are others in the Cal era that also bought in the way those two guys did as well. When your arguably most talented players take the 4th and 5th most shots on the team, I think that is by definition making a commitment to the team/university rather than their own dreams. As you pointed out in your last sentence, they were smart enough to recognize that, as the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats. Conversely, a sinking tide can drown all as well. Granted, those types of unselfish players are very rare.
    Great thought provoking discussion here as always.

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