Kentucky may have lost by 30 on Saturday, but John Calipari’s theme by Monday was 30 equals 1.
Point guard, including junior Jarrod Polson, is one position John Calipari is evaluating this week. (TCP/Darrell Bird)
“It’s one game,” Kentucky’s coach said of the 88-58 loss at Tennessee. “I told them after the game, ‘I’ve had teams get beat up like this, but I want to see how you respond and how you come back. That’s the measure of how you are.’ It’s about your response. Do you take responsibility for how you’re playing? Then let’s begin to understand how we have to play.”
Complicating the situation is the fact that Kentucky is without Nerlens Noel, who suffered a torn ACL last Tuesday. It left the Cats with just seven games to right the ship and salvage a bid to the NCAA Tournament. The rout in Knoxville wasn’t a good start.
“We’re coming back saying, ‘All right, let’s figure out how we have to play with this new group,’” Calipari said. “We had to go through a game to figure it out. Some of the stuff we were running with the old team, we’re going to have to run a little different. It doesn’t take away from what we’ve done before this, but now there’s maybe things we have to do defensively that are different. We’ve been a good defensive team all year until this last game. And so now, OK, maybe we’re going to have to do this a little different. But it’s like, ‘Hey guys, we’re still where we want to be. You got bashed; take responsibility and let’s move on.’ ”
As part of moving on, Calipari also used Monday’s SEC teleconference to further distance himself from comments he made Saturday that some of his players are “not real coachable.”
“First of all, let’s go to the context,” Calipari began. “During a game, on the bench, there are a lot of things I say. If a guy is not listening, is not playing rough enough, is not coming up with 50/50 balls , there’s a lot of things I say. But this team is a bunch of good guys. They want to do well.
“Some of this is overwhelming,” he said. “We just lost our best player. And why a guy wouldn’t listen, or why he’s going out and not doing what we’re asking him to do, we’re just trying to say, ‘Hey, man, listen to what we’re saying. You can’t play the way you’re playing.’ But, like I said, I’ve got a good group of kids. They’re very young. We’re treading new water.”
Calipari is beginning to formulate how best to rework Kentucky, but its remains a state secret for now.
“I’m not going to tell you everything we’re trying to do because what I’m trying to do is give this team the best opportunity to win games, to put them in position where when the game is winding down, we have our chances,” Calipari said. “That’s both on offense and defense. Aside from X, Y, Z, that’s what we have to do and we’re trying to figure out. And it’s obvious without Nerlens we’re a little different. Doesn’t mean we’re 40 points different. But we’re a little different, and we’re going to have to play stronger. We’re going to have to cover for each other more. You can’t let people just shoot layups, which is what happened last game.”