Kentucky coach John Calipari not happy with UK's hustle in exhibition
UK Coach John Calipari addresses team members during the Cats' win over Pikeville. (Clay Jackson)
Against Pikeville here Monday night, Calipari couldn’t believe the lack of hustle points his Wildcats had in the 97-66 exhibition win over the outmanned Bears.
“The hustle points we had today were probably the lowest I've had in four or five years for the team,” said Calipari. “The first half was the lowest hustle points I've ever seen one of my teams have. We got beat in everything.”
Calipari said his team had 28 first-half hustle points. He noted a “bad game” would usually have 38 to 42 per half, a “good game” 50.
“If we get up to 60, we're up 25 at half. We were at 28. Second half was 36. So when you put those two numbers together, that's one of the lowest I've seen my teams do,” Calipari said. “That's where we are.
“The other team outworked us. Simple. I don't care who they are. You play a team, and they play harder than you, you're losing. You're not going to look good. You can't have one or two guys doing it, then two guys stop playing like it doesn't matter.
“This is a team sport. It's five guys becoming a fist. Five guys together. One heartbeat. We all know what we're doing. We're all responsible to each other. That takes time. This group, we're going to have to learn it because we go have a home game against an NCAA tournament team, go on the road and play four games. So we're going to have to, in a hurry, get some guys up to speed.”
Calipari also thought his young team got a lesson in physical play from Pikeville, which was called for 37 fouls that resulted in 56 UK free throws.
“We really had no real fight or viciousness to our game,” Calipari said.
The Kentucky coach hopes his players learned that every team, even in an exhibition game, will play inspired against the Wildcats.
“They were pretty big kids. They were seniors. They banged our freshmen around,” Calipari said. “If we learn from this, this was a great game to play. If we don't learn from this, we got to do it some other way. I got to get them to understand. That means probably got to get meaner, which I don't like to do. Just learn. You know what just happened. Let's get better.
“It wasn't just that guy, that guy. I mean, right up and down the line at every position. I couldn't take seeing a free ball and their guy pushing us out of the way and grabbing it. We don't win that way. My teams, we get that ball.”
Freshman guard Brandon Knight, who had 22 points, three assists and three steals, says the Cats are going through a “learning process” and have to work on many things, including intensity.
“Maybe it was first-game jitters, but our intensity has to be better,” Knight said. “I know we have been working hard, but our intensity just wasn’t there.
“Our energy has to be better. Me, I can talk more, do more. We have to rebound better, play harder.”
Knight said he would welcome tougher, more physical practices — and thinks his teammates would as well if it makes the team better.
“We’ll have more toughness drills. We’ll get after it and beat each other up,” Knight said. “I accept that and am willing to do it to help make my teammates better. We just have to be ready to get physical and get better.”
Freshman guard Doron Lamb, who had 16 points and was 8-for-10 at the foul line, knew Calipari was going to be upset after the game. Lamb had five rebounds, but did not have an assist.
“We just have to work harder. We have the talent to do it, we just have to push ourselves on defense and rebound. That’s all we have to do because offense is there for us,” Lamb said. “I see why he (Calipari) was upset because we just didn’t play hard and play to the best of our ability.”
Calipari said watching the game tape will help him “figure out” more about his team before a second exhibition game Friday.
“The advantage we had last year is that they could go back to practice, and we have enough guys, if you didn't play, you got dunked on or scored on. So we've got to do some things in practice. I've said I've got to make these practices rougher, we have to get more physical, physical without fouling, but we got to get more physical. Guys got to accept it,” Calipari said.
He said if he’s going to be able to use a small lineup, then the players have to show more energy.
“I mean, if there's no energy, you can't play small guys. Doesn't work,” Calipari said. “So we were better with one of those big guys in there with the smaller guys, and one of them (smaller guys) has to come off the bench. That's just how it is. Unless they really want to go in there and fight and go crazy, you can play that kind of lineup then.”