The Kentucky Wildcats may be 9-1 and ranked inside the top five, but there's still plenty of work to be done for this team to even come close to reaching its potential.
That much was clear during Saturday's tale of two halves vs Arizona State. The first half was one of the worst halves the Cats have played this season, even if they held a one-point lead at halftime.
But the second half was arguably the best half these Cats have played this season, and it's what powered them to a 72-58 win over a quality Sun Devil team. While it was a thing a beauty, this UK squad still has plenty to improve upon in the coming weeks and months.
Here is a recap of what head coach John Calipari had to say about the Cats' win and what needs to improve going forward:
On UK's shooting woes:
"It wasn't a pretty game, but you see if we make 3s, we're 5 for 10 in the second half. And if you go back and look, they were the same open looks in the first half that we went 1 for 11, and the second half you're 5 for 10, but you saw the difference. I'm not worried about it. The only thing I'm telling these guys, I want Jamal and Tyler prepared to shoot a 3 every single time, and if they crowd you, then you've got to drive it. If they don't crowd you, then you're looking to shoot."
On Skal's struggles:
"We just have a long way to go. I mean, we really do, and Skal's thing, again, what were the fouls? Were they like hard fouls? No, they were fouls because he doesn't want to bend. He wants to use his hands. See, if you bend, I'm going to tell you what happens. Like you people all stand and bend. Go ahead and bend for a minute. Go ahead, bend. Now stay down there for a minute. You know what happens? You don't want to stay down there. I'd rather stand up and push. It's easier.
"And this is all a process, and he's got to accept, OK, now there's no question I can't play this way and play and stay in games. But this is a hard process. And the other side of it, I told him after the game, some of the guys, I mean, I was hard on some of the guys."
On Derek Willis and figuring out the rotation:
"He played better. I thought he did some good things. He passed up on a jumper that I absolutely did a backflip on the sideline. You don't have to make them but you've got to shoot them, and you can't miss them all. Like the one he hit bounced three times, hit the light, went off the top of the board, almost rolled behind and fell in. That's OK, it went in. Now the next one you've got to shoot.
"Like I said, getting Charles Matthews to play the way he has to play for us to win and what he's got to do, I mean, we didn't rebound. I mean, we're one of those teams that a guy like Charles has got to go in; the one thing you know he's going to do is defensive rebound. Then I can leave him on the court. It doesn't matter what he does.
"But when you're not rebounding and you're out there, then it becomes a little tougher. And we've got great kids. We've got talented kids. We've got great kids. They are so young. They don't know what it means to fight. They just don't."
On Marcus Lee's improvements:
"He's more confident. There's nothing that I say that rattles him or Alex. Like, I'm on those two as much as I'm on the other guys, but they look at me and they say, "I've got you," and it has no effect what I say. I try to tell these guys, being Italian, I'm loud and I'm demonstrative. "Get that ball!" "I've got you." And then other guys, "Get that ball!" "Oh, my God, he yelled at me." Now, I could say it another way. "Could you please get that ball?"
On being worried about Skal's confidence:
"Somewhat, but I'll be honest with you: To do what these kids want to do, this is all a great thing that he's got to work through, and it's the first time in his life. You understand he came from Haiti. He played basketball for a year and a half and then he played church league for two years. He's never been through any of this. This is all new to him.
"Now, he played in a couple games that were more like pickup games. He made some jumpers. He ran up and down. And now there were no men. See, he's playing against men now. The kid he went against was a senior and just bulldozed him, and he couldn't play against a man. Well, this is all part of it."
"Isaiah Briscoe, the way he's shooting the ball at the foul line, it's great for him. He'll figure it out. You didn't shoot 35 percent in high school; you shot 72 percent. How in the world are you shooting 35 percent? Figure it out. Are you just doing this so that you can play in the rec league in four years and five years, or are you trying to do something special with your life and yourself?
"Figure it out. I kept telling -- a will to win. Part of that is getting in tough times and working through them. They're going to have to do it. Dom today didn't play particularly well. Well, tough it out. Let's go. I just sent all of them a text, every player on the team, that there are a lot of times for you to make it you need somebody to believe in you more than you believe in yourself.
"And I sent that text to them, and I said, "And I believe in you. Time to ball." Sent it to every kid. I want them to know I believe in each one of these kids. I wouldn't have recruited them here if I didn't. We're just -- we're the most inexperienced team in the country, and it shows. I mean, we could lose the next three, next five."
On second-halve surge:
"We were playing how we always play, but what we were trying to do was get to more of a random offense, and the problem is our guards are holding the balls too long. As you bring it up, if you're going to go random while the defense is spread, it's got to go pass, pass and then start playing. And we were going dribble, dribble, dribble, dribble, dribble, post; dribble, dribble, dribble, dribble, throw it now. Too late.
"And that's what I was telling our guards: Get rid of it. And then when it comes back to you, pass, pass, drive, it's back, make plays. This game is not easy. A lot of basketball is mental. A lot of basketball, it is physical, and a lack of physical play then ends up turning into mental toughness then starts to suffer.
"So here we are, we traveled all over the country. We were in Chicago, we were in Miami, we were in LA, we're on our way to New York. We lost one game without Marcus Lee, and we're hanging our heads. That's Kentucky. That's what it is here."
On Isaiah Briscoe's free-throw struggles:
"You know, again, I'm not -- it's just like our 3-point shooting. I'm not worried about his free- throw shooting. I'm really not. I mean, I watched him play high school ball. I saw him make 9 out of 10 free throws, but this is a tough deal coming here, and the laser is right on your forehead. It's right there. And these kids are learning, but what a great experience playing a physical team, playing a senior-laden team.
"Having happened to us what happened at UCLA, it's all learning. The thing here, and I'll saying it again, coaching in this program, it's about March. It's about getting your team right so that you can make a run in March. That's what this all is. Now, last year spoiled all of you and it spoiled me, so the beginning of the year you start fighting this a little bit. This is what it is.
"Here's where we are, let's try to get better."