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Kentucky Basketball: John Calipari talks BU, Poythress, Skal, Antigua and more

Calipari talks BU, Poythress, Skal, facing Orlando Antigua and more.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

In what’s become a recurring theme in the young season, the Kentucky Wildcats toyed with the Boston Terriers last night for much of the game before finally pulling away to a comfortable win late.

Coach John Calipari saw a mixed bag from his team and, in typical Calipari fashion, spoke candidly about the triumphs and struggles of his talented, but very young basketball team in his postgame remarks.

Three-Point Woes

For all the success Kentucky has driving to and scoring at the basket, their inability to hit threes is a puzzling early season storyline for a team stocked with reputed bombers from deep.

Kentucky is shooting an abysmal 26 percent from beyond-the-arc and finished 3-of-15 (20 percent) against the Terriers.

Calipari put it best after the game when he said, "We do have good shooters. We just don't have good makers."

Overall, Calipari said that the number of threes his team took was not bad at all and they found other ways to offset the slump.

"We didn't take that many. We only took 15. So we just didn't make 'em. Like some of them were open, but our whole thing was, let's go inside, let's throw lobs, let's offensive rebound, let's drive the lane if they play zone. And I think they did a good job."

Still, Calipari said his team needs to make threes if they want to be successful.

"We got to make some 3s, you can't go 3-for-15. I think on the year we're shooting 23 percent. 22 percent. And we're still scoring a lot of -- think about it, what I'm saying. What if we made five or seven more 3s. And we're capable of that. We're just not doing it right now."

The Saga of Alex Poythress’ Knee

Despite a string of increasingly better performances, questions still abound about senior forward Alex Poythress’ recovery from a torn ACL.

John Calipari seems ready for that narrative to die and gave curt response when asked about it after the game.

"He’s getting better", said Calipari when asked about how the injury is affecting Poythress’ play.

Calipari made a point to say that he is not babying his uber-athletic power forward and expects a lot from him.

"I told the team after, I'm not going to accept anything other than an elite athlete when I watch him play. If he's not an elite athlete, he's out. He's not playing. Because he's capable of doing it, it's just really hard. And it's having to have him break through some confidence in his body."

That is what happened during the game and Calipari explained that Poythress responded well after getting the hook by posting a double-double.

The Physical Education of the Big Haitian

So far this season prized freshman big man Skal Labissiere has not shown the physicality in the post that John Calipari wants from him but UK’s head man knows Labissiere is improving and compared him to another Wildcat who struggled in the post early in his career.

"Look, last year, I think I'm going to get for him to see where Karl (Anthony-Towns) was in some of these games, because it may have been Buffalo he had 3-pointers and two rebounds last year, Karl did. Couldn't get it to the basket, was shooting fadeaways, couldn't get a ball, had a couple blocks and it's going to take time."

A lot of Labissiere’s struggles are due to the newness of what he is being asked to do on the court.

"Skal, he's trying, but this is all new. He doesn't react like the other guys right now. He's got to start reacting quicker. React quicker to voices. When someone says something to you, you can't look at them, what? What? What? You got to react to it. "Switch. Help. Step up Skal, step up." You can't be stepping back. And that's kind of where he's still figuring stuff out", said Calipari.

Orlando Antigua

The day after Thanksgiving, Kentucky will play the South Florida Bulls in Miami.

A familiar face will be patrolling the sidelines against the Cats, former UK assistant and now USF head coach Orlando Antigua.

Even though the Bulls have struggled this season, Calipari thinks Antigua has them headed in the right direction.

"He's done a great job. They lost some games. But if you watch the games, they're running good stuff, they're organized, they're getting the shots, they're missing a lot of shots. They're missing a lot of 3s. But they're trying, they're fighting, and it was a great win for them tonight."

The Bulls beat Albany, whom Kentucky defeated in their season opener, Tuesday night 63-61 to get their first win of the season.

South Florida is considered a difficult place to win and Calipari acknowledged that but also believes that Antigua is the right man to correct the course in Tampa and that it takes time to build a program from nothing.

"It's a very hard job. But he's up for it. I'm telling you, I've watched him, I've seen him. But it's just like anything else, those are the kind of jobs that it takes time. It takes one or two, three classes to come together and then you see it."

Calipari likened the situation to his first job at UMASS.

"But when you're walking into a situation like that, it's just hard to say, hey, we're going to --. I remember at UMass we were 10-18 and 17-14 my second year and they were saying like, man, I'm not sure this guy can do this. And then by my third year, we were 21-14. Happened to get to the NIT and still questioning what we're doing. And then I got that group of seniors and then we started going and it changed the whole thing up there. But it takes time. It took four years. My fourth year is where we started getting to where we were pretty good."