By LARRY VAUGHT
With Nerlens Noel averaging almost five blocks per game, UK was leading the country in that category. At Tennessee the Cats blocked three shots early — but that was it. Tennessee players were able to drive inside almost at will and score. Kentucky has drawn just 10 charges in 25 games while being called for charging 33 times, including 13 by Archie Goodwin. Kentucky coach Calipari admitted its a “big change” to try and get players to take charges with Noel not available to protect the rim like he did for 23 games.
“You have to change a little bit how you’re defending, which we are. But yesterday, again, you’re just starting up and you’re, ‘OK, here’s the adjustments we’re going to make,’ and it’s tough because guys, their focus and concentration, they’re 18 years old. All the sudden: Why are you out there? I thought we were … ‘Oh, my fault.’ We have more ‘my faults’ this year than I can tell you,” Calipari said. “It’s just a lack of concentration and discipline.”
Junior point guard Jarrod Polson, who had 11 points and four rebounds in his first career start at Tennessee, said guards before knew Noel would be there to block or alter shots if they got beat.
“Now we have to look to take more charges and hope that will work out,” Polson said. “We weren’t really focused on charges much before. We had Nerlens down there and you don’t really need to. A lot of us haven’t taken charges our whole life, so it’s something new for us, but we’ve been working on it. A charge is just as good as a block or even better — it gets a foul on them. If we start doing that more, that’ll take the drives down for the other team.”
Polson admitted Tuesday the team is thinking about what it has to do to make the NCAA Tournament. However, he knows the first step is to beat Vanderbilt and doesn’t think the historic loss will hurt UK’s confidence tonight.
“I don’t think it really affects our belief. I think we think we’re a good team. Maybe we were a little shocked or didn’t realize how much he (Noel) affected on the defensive end, but we’re trying to go over it and see what defense we can do now without him. I think we’re going to have a good scheme, so hopefully it will work out,” Polson said.