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Kentucky basketball players have to want it more, Calipari says

Coach frustrated as Kentucky keeps getting outhustled

jtipton@herald-leader.comFebruary 26, 2011 

As Kentucky Coach John Calipari recalled a recent conversation with Terrence Jones, it went like this:

Calipari: "You've got to try harder than the other guy's trying."

Jones (in a weak, unconvincing voice): "I'm trying."

Calipari: "He's trying way harder than you're trying."

Jones: "What's wrong with that?"

Calipari: "You can't win the game, then. ... You've got to want it worse, bottom line."

That's the back-to-basics goal Calipari set for Kentucky's game against Florida on Saturday: Try hard.

"Just compete," the UK coach told reporters on Friday. "Let's just execute. Let's play 40 minutes and see what happens. ...

"If that's not good enough, I'm fine."

Calipari said he can accept losing because the other team is more skilled or possesses more depth or even executes better.

But after watching Arkansas outscrap Kentucky down the stretch of a 77-76 overtime victory on Wednesday, the UK coach has little tolerance for his team getting out-hustled.

"Don't tell me that," he said.

Hustle helped Florida beat UK 70-68 in Gainesville on Feb. 5. Most memorably, Florida forward Chandler Parsons twice scored on putbacks to help steady the Gators. He finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds and five assists in one of the more productive performances by a UK opponent not named John Jenkins.

"He's active," Calipari said of Parsons, the second-best rebounder (behind Jones) in Southeastern Conference play. "He plays really hard. He attempts to rebound every offensive shot."

By contrast, Calipari lamented Arkansas' 22 offensive rebounds. "We didn't have guys even attempt to rebound," he said before adding, "forget about getting the ball."

Calipari suggested that Parsons tries for rebounds on 90 percent of shots.

"That's why he goes and (makes) plays," the UK coach said. "It's just an effort. It's not that he's more athletic or he's bigger."

Parsons sustained a deep thigh bruise against Tennessee two weeks ago. After sitting out a game, he returned against Georgia earlier this week. Coming off the bench, he scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 30 minutes.

"It's still sore," he said of the injury after the game. "It's still something I have to battle through."

Florida Coach Billy Donovan lauded Parsons' diligence in getting about five hours of treatment for the injury each day and said the senior would probably start at Kentucky.

Unlike Kentucky, Florida wins close games. The Gators are 3-0 in SEC overtime games and 9-3 overall (6-1 in the league) in games decided by six points or fewer.

Kentucky has lost six SEC road games by a combined total of 18 points.

Luck?

"No, no," Calipari said. "I don't want to say that because we've been poor in close games, and I don't think it's luck.

"You create opportunities, and what they do is create opportunities for themselves."

Florida did just that in beating Kentucky in Gainesville.

"They came up after us and were the aggressive team," Calipari said. "They have players, they expect to win, and they make plays. I don't know if there's a whole lot of luck to it."

DeAndre Liggins acknowledged that Florida has a knack for winning close games.

"They're on a roll," he said. "They actually pull games out. We don't do that."

Jones credited Florida with "gaining possession," a way of saying the Gators get those 50/50 balls.

For instance, Jones noted the offensive rebounds Parsons grabbed that made a difference in Florida's win over the Cats.

Calipari called for UK players to take the initiative in close games the rest of the season.

"It's almost like each of you expect the others to do something," he said he told the Cats. "You're hoping somebody does something as long as it's not you.

"You can't play that way. I'd rather have two guys bump heads throughout the whole game."

After the loss at Arkansas, Calipari wondered how another heartbreaker affected the players. Were the Cats angered? Demoralized? Resigned to a cruel fate?

Liggins declared himself angry.

"Me, myself, I'm pissed off," Liggins said. "I play to win. ... I'm pissed."

When asked how his teammates felt, Liggins said, "They should be pissed because I'm pissed."

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