By LARRY VAUGHT
John Calipari says Kentucky is down to a “one-game season” starting with Saturday’s game against Florida.
“And it will be every game we play from here on out. It’s a one-game season. That’s what it is: a one-game season. Now are you going to fight like heck, play through the ups and downs of a game, or are you going to die? I can’t put it any more plainly or bluntly,” Calipari said before Friday’s practice after spending time earlier at the state tournament watching Madison Central standout Dominique Hawkins.
Calipari is not making things complicated for his team, which is coming off a disappointing effort that Georgia that has put its NCAA Tournament chances in jeopardy.
“But this team, we’re going to make it real simple what we’re trying to do. I watched the tape of (the previous Florida) game on the plane coming back. Got tobe better versus the press, and we gave them four 3’s just not talking,” Calipari said. “Other than that, we played good. I watched the tape. It wasn’t Nerlens (Noel) playing that great. We were fine. Got it to 10, had our chances, did some stuff, but we’ve got to have better structure against the press. We’ve got to be more consistent and disciplined in what we’re doing defensively. And we just can’t have the breakdowns we had down there.”
I just want to win games, so it doesn’t matter who we’re playing. To be truthful, if we beat Georgia, we still had to win this game. I didn’t want to say that down there, but that was the truth. We had to win. This is the game you’ve got to go and say, ‘All right, it’s a one-game season. How are you going to play?’ And you’re playing against a team that’s vying for a one seed (in the NCAA). They’re playing for something, too, now. They’re trying to get a one seed. So it’s going to be a hard ballgame. But that’s what we need.
“We need to keep the eye on this program, the far-reaching parts of it, not just tomorrow’s game. Where is this going? Who can be a part of it? Who can’t? When this kind of game comes, this is what playing at Kentucky is about. You’re at home. You’re going to have 25,000 crazy fans with you. Go ball. You’re not holding anything back.”
That obviously is a challenge for players to play with passion or move on. Maybe the NBA. Maybe another school. Maybe the bench next year when new players come in.
Calipari never knows what kind of effort he’ll get from his players, but he knows what he expects from UK fans.
“Our crowd has been great. They’ll be there. I’m not worried about our crowd. That’s the least of my worries,” Calipari said.