Taking better shots and finding some offensive flow are the areas of focus for University of Kentucky’s as it gets ready for a Wednesday night SEC matchup at Georgia.
UK has been through one of its most difficult weeks in recent memory. The Wildcats lost to Alabama by 20 at Rupp Arena, then fell at Auburn in a game where it clearly were good enough defensively, but they couldn’t break 60 points. UK is 4-8 heading to Georgia on Wednesday.
During film evaluation with teammates, they found one of UK’s biggest problems is bad shot selection, not making more passes for better scoring chances.
UK coaches are trying to figure out which groups work best together on each end of the court. That means a lot of experimenting in practice.
“We have one group that really guards at .5 points per possession,” UK coach John Calipari said. “OK, that group is scoring .6 points per possession. Then there are other lineups that we got to get on the floor more because their points per possession are in that 1.2, 1.3 range, 1.35, which means that’s as good as they are in the country.”
Kentucky’s defense is good enough for it to have a winning record. The problem is a lack of consistent scoring.
Calipari told the team it can be good, but it has to get on a roll, and it has to score some baskets.
“You’ve got to stay defensively where you are,” Calipari said. “And now we’ve got to make easy plays for each other. We got to open up the court a little bit. But even then, you’re not doing it for you to just try to score. Sometimes it’s a drive and then it’s a pass, pass. And then maybe another drive. It isn’t drive, OK, my turn, OK, your turn, drive. We’re trying to get that feel.’ ”
It’s been difficult to gauge who can perform best over the haul of games because of all the rotation building that goes on with UK’s yearly remade lineups and rosters.
“That’s the No. 1 thing that you know within 5% what this young man is going to give,” Calipari said. “We’re not there yet. We’ve got a couple guys but not enough. And the only way of getting that is demonstrated performance. How they are in the games is, you know, what do you bring every game? “
Calipari said on his UK Network radio show that he had opened up Monday’s practice, telling players to go out, compete, get physical and earn a starting spot.
“He talked about being desperate, you have to play with some sort of desperation with where we are in the season,” said Davion Mintz, who has been starting at guard. “He’s made it very clear going to play five guys who are going to go out there and play with desperation. At this point, everyone is trying to be that bull chasing that flag.”
Mintz called the situation “very, very” desperate.
“It’s been a really tough season,” Mintz said. “I can’t lie. It’s been hard. We understand that we have a job to do. We obviously can’t give up. We’ve got to keep pushing through it.”
Mintz has significant insight to working through a college season because he is a graduate transfer who started 79 games at Creighton.
As for the Wildcats, they need to break this 2-game losing streak that has gotten a lot of attention in the last week.
“We can’t trade them,” Calipari said. “This is who they are. And now I have a job to do: Keep them safe. How can I get each individual playing better? How can I make sure that I challenge without burying them, (i.e.) take their heart away?”