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Kentucky Basketball: Coach Cal talks Christmas, half court offense and more

The struggles of the half court, playing against zone defenses, Christmas and more were discussed in Cal’s presser.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky head coach John Calipari held his pre-Ole Miss press conference today, his first since the Louisville game before Christmas. Cal spoke on a number of team issues, primarily how they play in the half court.

“We’re pretty good in the half court,” Cal said, showing confidence in his team’s ability to run set pieces.

Cal said that most of their half court struggles are situational, and there’s a difference between a good shot with 25 seconds left in the shot clock and a good shot with seven seconds left in the shot clock. Most of his players are still used to having the freedom to shoot whenever they have a shot, regardless of the quality of the shot, or how much time the possession has lasted. The team has been working on these situations in practice, and Calipari is holding them more accountable, he said.

He said that some of them have struggled, and they should kiss him for playing them, because they know they don’t deserve it.

“We’ve got to have a couple guys catch up. We have a couple guys who’ve got to get better. I’ve kept it real the past couple days,” Calipari said “A couple of you guys should kiss me for playing you because you should not even get in the game. When you see me, don’t think I’m mad at you, you should say, ‘Oh I love this guy, he puts me in games and I know I shouldn’t be getting in.’”

But it’s all about improving at their young age.

“They want to get better, they want to be coached, it’s just, they’re young,” Calipari said of his team when commenting further on their struggles to run the half court offense.

Calipari also said that their offensive struggles, which showed against Louisville, are about trust. These young players aren’t far removed from AAU ball, where they would essentially play one-on-one with their man, and not worry about the rest of their team, Cal said. In the college game, they have to be more accountable for each other.

“Everybody has a responsibility to the other guy to do what they can do,” Calipari said.

Cal acknowledged that Kentucky could see a zone defense against Ole Miss tomorrow, but he thinks it’d be good for his team.

“If you spread the court on my team, it’s usually pretty good for us,” Calipari said of the potential zone defense.

Calipari also talked about the highs and lows of playing at Kentucky, which his young players have experienced with wins over Michigan State and North Carolina, but losses to UCLA and Louisville.

“They’re playing at Kentucky. You either win or there’s death,” he said, referencing the pressure that Kentucky always has to win.

Calipari also spoke briefly about Isaiah Briscoe’s shooting development, which was a major offseason topic. He’s improved at the free throw line, but still struggles from beyond the arc.

“I think free throw’s more of a confidence thing,” Calipari said. He added that three-point shooting is about being ready to put the shot up before you catch the ball.

He also spoke on college football players sitting out of bowl games, and what he would do if his players wanted to sit out a meaningless game (such as an NIT game). His answer: he doesn’t know yet.

“I haven’t thought a whole lot about it. I saw a couple of those situations where players are doing that...I can understand it,” Calipari said. “I’d probably have to think about it a minute.”

Cal also talked about Christmas in the Calipari household, and it seems as though the pressure of this season may be affecting his memory of other things.

“The girls got me, what’d they get me?” Cal said when asked about what he got for Christmas. “I can’t remember what Brad gave me.”

Here is a replay of the presser via Kentucky Wildcats TV:

Here is a look at what Isaiah Briscoe and Mychal Mulder had to say about Camp Cal and Thursday’s game:

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