For the second time in three years a young Kentucky basketball team went into the Pete Maravich Assembly Center to play the LSU Tigers and performed well below expectations in an 85-67 loss.
Early yesterday afternoon, Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari met with the press for the first time since his team’s meltdown in Baton Rouge to discuss the loss, preview Saturday’s tilt in Tuscaloosa against Alabama and other topics.
The Beatdown on the Bayou
Foul trouble in Kentucky’s front court hurt the Wildcats’ comeback hopes on Tuesday, but Coach Cal didn’t buy that as the reason for his team’s defeat.
"I thought there was some bad fouls. Like, ‘Why did you do that?’ There were a couple that when I looked back on the tape were questionable whether they should have been called. They out-fought us. I’m not going to argue when you’re getting beat every which way and lose."
To counteract the team’s soft play Calipari said that the coaching staff put them "through one of our tougher practices", which included an emphasis on physical play.
The emphasis on playing tough was meant to teach the team about the attitude they need in order to rebound the ball better, said Calipari.
Calipari said he is impressed with the way that Alabama is playing under first year head coach and former NBA player Avery Johnson.
"They’re playing hard, I’m telling you. They’re diving on floors. They were up nine on Mississippi at Mississippi at half. And the game was in doubt until about two minutes to go. Then Mississippi made a basket, they made a couple errors, but it was anybody’s ballgame. So he’s doing a good job."
Kentucky’s up and down post play this season is equal parts head scratching and frustrating, even to Cal.
"We have guys that are capable; they’re just not doing it. They’re doing it now and then. When they really do it we look really good. And when they decide they’re not doing it or for whatever reason – they’re not capable of doing it – we’re not as good."
Alex Poythress and Marcus Lee, Kentucky’s starting frontcourt, have given valuable minutes at times during the season, but according to Cal that is not enough.
"They’ve always been in the now-and-then position. Every now and then give us a good game. Now it’s like every day. That’s hard. Everybody wants to be in that position, but the responsibility to be ready, to be prepared for a dogfight every (game is hard). Not fouling out of games, not walking, not hiding. No. Every day."
If neither those two or Skal Labissiere step up then Coach Cal is ready to move in another direction.
"And so now we maybe take a look at Isaac (Humphries), take a look at Tai (Wynyard). Throw them in there. Let them see how they do."
Junior guard Dominique Hawkins will not play Saturday, and after a five point, eight rebound performance at LSU, Mychael Mulder will step into his place in the rotation.
Said Calipari on Mulder: "I thought he had great energy (against LSU). He rebounded the ball. He mixed it up. He did good stuff. Good stuff."
Freshman forward Tai Wynyard continues to improve and now he just needs to focus on getting into game shape, said Calipari.
"If he ran up and down the court three or four times he’d probably be exhausted, but that’s OK. We have some other guys that look the same way who have been here a while", joked UK’s head coach.