Although not in flashy, ‘run and gun’ style, Kentucky was able to grind out a win on the road against a decent Alabama team on Saturday afternoon, 67-58.
It’s been no secret that Kentucky Coach John Calipari needed to shift his players’ focus to the defensive side of the ball, and only allowing 58 points is certainly a good sign.
Here’s a look at what they’re saying...
Whole lot of "Go Big Blue!" chants at the end of that one. Big showing from #BBN today in Tuscaloosa.— CoachCal.com (@CoachCalDotCom) February 11, 2017
Blue always gets in.
Briscoe was big down the stretch. He scored seven of his 11 points in the last 4:24 to help seal the W pic.twitter.com/jeMd4wwHIw— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) February 11, 2017
Props to Briscoe for being the go-to guy in crunch time. Not sure what was going on with his free throw shooting (1-for7), though.
.@EBled2's grandma enjoying the win with the guys in the locker room. pic.twitter.com/qIxpMK6GFU— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) February 11, 2017
This is awesome.
Kentucky's free-throw defense was outstanding: Held Alabama to 9-26 at foul line— Mark Story (@markcstory) February 11, 2017
Big part of why the Cats were able to pull off the victory.
Briscoe: Late in the game I take care of the ball. I was just trying to take what they gave me.— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) February 11, 2017
Briscoe said team didn't feel the need to prove anything. "We're just trying to have fun ... We're just trying to be the best we can be."— CoachCal.com (@CoachCalDotCom) February 11, 2017
Kentucky didn’t need to prove anything; they just needed a win. You can see the focus sharpening on defense, which is a good thing. Now they just have to find a way to put it all together in the remaining three weeks before the SEC Tournament.
Hawkins: This was a big win for us. We know how tough it is to win on the road in our league.— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) February 11, 2017
Any conference road win is a big win.
Cats won bench points 16-7 today. Nice contributions from Hawkins, Humphries, Willis. Had been losing that stat column lately.— Jeff Drummond (@JDrumUK) February 11, 2017
If the Cats can get 16 total points from those three guys from here on out, even if just one of them scores all 16, they’re in good shape.
Cal on UK getting an early 3-seed: "That's never happened to me before, where they give us a seed that's better than they should have."— Nick Roush (@RoushKSR) February 11, 2017
I don’t mind these early seed rankings; it gives reporters and bloggers something to talk about, even when the rankings mean absolutely nothing at this point.
Calipari mimicking the Selection Committee smoking cigars and “blowing smoke around the room” was priceless. Video coming.— Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) February 11, 2017
John Calipari smoking: pic.twitter.com/czzikiNICs— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_AJC) February 11, 2017
Calipari does seem to mind these early seed rankings, probably for the same reasons I don’t mind them.
Avery Johnson on Kentucky: "In my mind, I was like, 'This is the night to beat 'em.' They weren't clicking on all cylinders."— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_AJC) February 11, 2017
In my mind, Kentucky was still the better team.
Calipari: "We're not a grind it out team. We're a work in progress."— TheCatsPause247 (@TheCatsPause247) February 11, 2017
Time will tell.
Cal: We improved our defense and we got to more 50/50 balls... Loose balls, we were diving on the floor. There was a lot of good stuff.— Jeff Drummond (@JDrumUK) February 11, 2017
Cal added that UK's offense may have to suffer a bit while he continues to get the D fixed.— Jeff Drummond (@JDrumUK) February 11, 2017
It has to be tough with a group of young talented players to have this sort of identity crisis this late in the regular season. Altering your focus can be tough for any team. Luckily, there’s still enough time to figure things out.
Alex Forkner of the Cats Pause wrote about the Cats’ newfound commitment to defense and how it’s giving them more confidence.
Early in the second half of Kentucky's 67-58 win over the Alabama, John Calipari urged his team to clap as they settled into its defense, screaming "Energy!" from the sideline.
Moments later, Isaiah Briscoe intercepted a pass for one of UK's seven steals against the Crimson Tide. The sequence showed the Cats are more than capable of defending the way their coach wants.
"When we do clap I feel like it actually does help us," said Dominique Hawkins. "It gets us ready for the possession and everybody starts talking and gelling together. I feel like there's times where we don't even need to clap to have energy. We'll go down and everybody says, 'We need this one stop,' and we'll get it."
"With this team I really don't worry about offense," Briscoe said. "We're so talented. Everybody can score, everybody can get it off the dribble. It's just focusing on defense and talking and being able to come up with consecutive stops."
Jerry Tipton wrote about Briscoe’s clutch play down the stretch and the trust Calipari has in him.
Kentucky Coach John Calipari reported that the 67-58 victory at Alabama Saturday pleased his team.
“We’ve got so much stuff to work on, but that’s a happy locker room,” Calipari said. “A locker room that cares. That cares about each other.”
For this, Isaiah Briscoe could be considered Dr. Feel Good. With another UK lead shrinking to a dangerously small proportion and a sellout crowd urging further shrinkage, Briscoe literally got in the middle of things.
Kentucky stationed him in the middle of the court when Alabama went to a zone defense. He contributed passes, shots or drives. When the Tide went man-to-man, Briscoe got the best of the matchup.
Briscoe’s 11 points and 11 rebounds — his fourth double-double this season and sixth of his career — served as evidence of getting his job done.
“He’s got a toughness to him,” Calipari said. “And he’s got a fight.”
Briscoe was not surprised to be asked to play a leading role at what’s commonly referred to as winning time.
“Coach trusts me with the ball,” Briscoe said. “He knows late in the game, I’ll take care of the ball. I won’t turn it over or anything like that.”
SEC Country’s Kyle Tucker reported from the post game press conference about the new top 16 seed rankings and the Cats earning a No. 3 seed.
“Put it in marker, permanent marker,” he said after Saturday’s win at Alabama, which was not considered by the committee before the early reveal. “There are times in the season I would say we deserve it. There were times I would say we were maybe a little bit better than that. But there have been times where I would say, ‘Really?’ That’s never happened to me before, where they’ve given us a seed better than they should have.”
Calipari also offered this hilarious impression of previous selection committees in “smoke-filled rooms,” making picks with no transparency. That’s why he loves this new idea of an early look at the top four seeds in each region.
“I know there were some coaches that didn’t like it. ‘Ah, it’s put more pressure on it.’ No, no, no, there’s transparency now,” Calipari said. “If someone moves in, we’ll all know why they moved in to the top four. If someone moves out, you will be able to write why they moved out. No smoke-filled room: ‘I like them.’ None of that. It’s out there. Now we all now.”
The Cats have five RPI top-50 wins: No. 4 North Carolina, No. 24 South Carolina, No. 46 Arkansas, No. 47 Vanderbilt, No. 50 Michigan State.
With all the ups and downs of this season, I’d be very happy with a 3 seed at this point. We’ll see what happens through the next three weeks. For now, Kentucky’s focus shifts to avenging a loss against Tennessee from earlier in the year, as the Cats play host to the Vols in Rupp on Valentine’s Day.
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