John Calipari wants to make sure the University of Kentucky is focused on its next game. That would be pretty standard advice for any contest for the Wildcats, but it is very important with one of the lower-level teams in college basketball coming in for a Saturday date at Rupp Arena.
Fairleigh Dickinson will meet No. 8 UK for the Wildcats' first game in a week. It has been a break in games where John Calipari has looked for more physical play across the board.
"We have a lot of guys who don't fight," Calipari said Thursday. "They give up on screens, they get hung up on screens, they don't go put themselves -- a body on people -- because they don't want that contact. They avoid contact."
Doing that in recent practices hasn't been allowed. Rebounding has become an obsession with Calipari about this team, and he's wanting more battles won by UK in getting rebounds, getting position to rebound, getting through screens and running opposing players into screens.
"You can't avoid contact in these practices," Calipari said. "Literally, you go at him or he's running you over."
UK (6-1) has to become a strong defensive team in order to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
"The teams that are winning right now are playing great defense," Calipari said. "Most of them have veterans. You've gotta guard and you got to have some veteran leadership."
The Wildcats need to pay attention to detail starting now because they will be going through a stretch of tougher opponents after FD, the 265th rated team in Kenpom.
Georgia Tech, Utah and Ohio State within a few days of each other, and No. 1 Louisville will all meet the Wildcats in December.
"Every game is, OK, use the day to prepare to play great. Use the shootaround to prepare to play great. Everything is based on that game day," Calipari said.
Younger players have to figure out their roles in all this as well. For some, that means getting less playing time as rotations get sorted out.
Johnny Juzang has had limited minutes, but was considered one of the best pure shooters on the team when the season began.
"The big thing for me, this whole year, has been keep your head down and keep working and trying to find ways to contribute to the team," Juzang said. "For me, as one of the guys who is not playing a lot, it's like, OK, I've got to do a lot of the small things. Trying to find ways to contribute to the team and impact the game. Putting out effort and being a good teammate, just things like that have been really big for me this year."