We have a defensive tweak!
This time, Calipari brought out the term again during postgame media availability to talk about why Kentucky’s defense looked improved in a 90-77 win over Mississippi State.
After struggling on the defensive end against Texas A&M on Saturday, the Cats looked improved on defense against Mississippi State, particularly in the first half.
Calipari attributed the improved defense to a tweak in how the Cats defend the pick-and-roll.
John Calipari opens his presser saying Kentucky threw a new wrinkle out there in pick-and-roll defense and it worked. Team told on itself: "They can guard."— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) January 18, 2024
Adds Mississippi State is a top-10 defensive team nationally: "I think we got to 90. Did we get to 90?"
Those defensive successes didn't totally translate to the second half, as the Bulldogs scored 48 in the second half compared to 29 in the first, but there were some improvements from Saturday.
Kentucky also did better at not fouling, as the Bulldogs attempted just 10 free throws, the third-fewest a Kentucky opponent has had this season. It was actually the lowest any Power Five opponent has attempted against UK this season. The next lowest was Miami (FL) with 21 attempts.
Still, it seems like defense is going to be a common talking point with this team since offense doesn’t seem to be a problem, as the Cats scored 90 against a Mississippi State team that only allowed 64.8 points per game coming into tonight’s game and shot better than 55% from the floor, even though opposing teams have averaged shooting 39.5% vs. the Bulldogs.
Calipari made another point about defense during his postgame presser, saying that players who aren’t defending would start seeing their minutes cut.
John Calipari says they aren’t asking the players to play great defense, they are demanding that they do (going forward). Says if they don’t, his best friend is going to be the bench and that they’ll go straight to it for poor defense.— Tres Terrell (@TerrellTres) January 18, 2024
I think this team has the ability to improve on defense quite a bit, but those improvements need to start happening soon.
While the offense is exciting and one of the best in the country, the Cats have to be able to put together stops consistently to ultimately reach their potential.