Kentucky enters tonight’s game against Alabama riding more than a two-game win streak, they’re riding a wave of emotion following Saturday’s surprising 75-53 rout of Auburn.
UK coach John Calipari says ARCHIE GOODWIN played his best game in Saturday's win over Auburn.
“The best thing was, I told them, everybody says, ‘Man they showed emotion. They chest-bumped,’” coach John Calipari said. “Well, when you’re playing harder than the other guy, when you’re beating them to loose balls, when you’re coming up with tough rebounds, you chest bump. It’s hard to chest bump when you’re getting sand kicked in your face, you’re getting thrown to the floor and they’re grabbing balls out of your hand. It’s hard to run down there and go, ‘Yeah!’”
The effort was a breakthrough for the young team.
“Everything on this thing will come back to sustaining effort,” Calipari said. “If I have to coach effort, it looks like I’m going crazy on the sideline. At some point I won’t coach effort, I’ll just say, ‘If that’s what you’re going to do, that’s where you’re going to be, you’re going to have to figure it out between yourselves.’ But this team, I hope, learned some stuff.”
Several players head into tonight’s game in Tuscaloosa having reach the pinnacle.
ARCHIE GOODWIN. “Archie played the best game he’s played all year,” Calipari said. “Why? Because he didn’t take eight bad shots. If he had made two free throws that he missed he would have scored almost as many as he scores taking all those bad shots. When you’re playing for your team you’ll score as many as you score, yet our team looks better. We look more efficient.
RYAN HARROW. “Ryan in the first half, played casual and it showed,” Calipari said. “Everybody, including me, wanted to see, ‘OK what do you have in you, kid? What are you going to do in the second half?’ And he came out and he played aggressive. He played tough, he played through bumps.
“What I was telling him is, ‘You played tough,’” Calipari continued. “Instead of you driving, the guy bumps you and you go to the baseline and try to throw it, the guy bumped you, you bumped him back and made it. Then I just said, ‘That’s tough.’”
KYLE WILTJER. “Kyle’s effort level has been off the charts so when you talk about, ‘Well he looks good,’ it’s his effort level,” Calipari said. “You are not going to shoot it great every night, but you can have an effort every night. You can come up with balls. You can sprint the court. You can help on a pick-and-roll, and check this out, get back to your own man. Not help on a pick-and-roll, bounce twice and the kid shots a 3 and you run back. He proved that last game he can do it, ‘I can help on a pick-and-roll and still rush at my man. But man does it take effort.’ Then he had to raise up (his hand), had to come out. No kidding? That is what we are trying to get from all of them, everybody.”
ALEX POYTHRESS. ”Alex was about, on the charts, 20 percent better than the last games. That’s a big jump, man. Twenty percent?” Calipari said. “Now we have to keep him rolling in that direction. He is playing three minutes at a time so he can just sustain that energy and get in the habit. But stopping and not playing or mentally losing it, you’re off. Just three minutes hard, come off. Three minutes hard, come off. That is what we are trying to do right now.”
After some bumps in the road, Kentucky might finally be hitting a stride.
“The team is making progress and that is all I can ask,” Calipari said. “Wins and losses come and go, but these kids will not be defined by those things. They are going to be defined by how they play. Ten years from now when people look, it’s going to be, ‘Man that team played hard and they scrambled and they covered for each other, what great effort.’ Or, it’s not going to be the case. It’s going to be, ‘Man, no sense of urgency. Look like they don’t care as much, blah blah blah.’”
The across-the-board improvement was good on another front, it saved the coach’s vocal chords.
“When you are up 16 and 18 and finishing people off, what do you do? Just scream to scream?” Calipari said. “They are doing everything you want them to do so you just coach the game. How about this? They are diving for loose balls, going for rebounds, talking to one another. ‘Well, Cal, you didn’t have to do as much.’ Duh. Did you watch the game? I don’t have to do as much.
“I would like to just sit there with a rolled up program and watch the whole game,” Calipari said. “That would be fun to do that for like 10 years. A 10-year run or just crossing my legs and watching what happens.”
Calipari gets that chance beginning at 9 tonight in Tuscaloosa.