John Clay: Kentucky needed win but also needs more work

Win was needed, but so is more practice, Cal says

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistDecember 18, 2011 

The time always seems to go by slower after a loss.

It had been one long, long week since Indiana's Christian Watford ripped the net at Assembly Hall and Kentucky returned home to hear the questions about its one-point loss to the Hoosiers.

It probably seemed longer than that for Terrence Jones.

First things first. Kentucky got back on the winning side on Saturday night, beating cupcake Chattanooga 87-62 in Rupp Arena.

And the Cats did so again without much from Jones, who managed just four points and one rebound in the loss in Bloomington.

Saturday night, the sophomore had a legitimate excuse. He injured a finger in the first half, tried to play some in the second, only to go out again in obvious pain, and finished with just one rebound and without a point in 10 minutes on the floor.

"He dislocated his finger," reported UK Coach John Calipari after the game, adding that he did not know whether Jones would be back for Tuesday's game.

How did Jones play before he got hurt?

"You couldn't tell," the coach said.

It's difficult to tell what the Cats can exactly get out of this stretch of games.

Saturday began a string of four lesser foes before the tough nut that is Louisville comes to Rupp for a fireworks show on New Year's Eve. Samford and Loyola-Maryland are on the docket for Christmas week.

Chattanooga is several rungs down the power poll from North Carolina or Indiana. The Mocs wobbled into Rupp Arena with a 3-7 record, but with two of those wins coming outside of Division I. To boot, head coach John Shulman sat key contributor Chris Earley for hitting the send button on some anti-coach tweets last month.

As could be expected, Kentucky jumped to an 18-2 lead. After that, however, the Mocs were at least competitive, playing the home team even (21-21) the rest of the half.

Kentucky then outscored the visitors 48-39 in the second half, hitting eight of 17 three-pointers.

"I thought we played OK," said an unexcited Calipari after the game.

After the rush-the-court at Indiana, there were some points for Kentucky to polish.

Surely UK wanted to do a better job of guarding the three-pointer after Indiana nailed seven from behind the stripe in the second half last Saturday, including Watford's jubilant game-winner.

Chattanooga ended up 8-for-27 from beyond the arc for 29.6 percent. After making just two of 11 in the first half, the Mocs were 6-for-16 in the second half.

So there was some improvement from the UK defense, but not enough to call it a real step forward.

Then there was the goal of doing a better job at the foul line, where the Cats were a weak 10-for-17 at Indiana.

An 89 percent foul shooter before that game, Doron Lamb went 7-for-11 from the stripe, a stat line that included a key miss with 5.6 seconds left that allowed Watford's shot to count for the win.

This night, UK was 9-for-14 at the stripe for 64.3 percent. But none of the 14 was in anything resembling a crucial situation, as was the case when the Cats missed late free throws against North Carolina and Indiana.

Anthony Davis played well, scoring 14 points and grabbing 18 rebounds. He also blocked five shots. Fellow freshman Marquis Teague had eight assists with just one turnover. Another freshman, Kyle Wiltjer, nailed a trio of three-pointers during his 23 minutes on the floor.

"It's good to get one under the belt after that one last week," said Calipari.

But with that out of the way, time to get better. With exams over, Calipari said his team will practice twice on non-game days next week, then after three days off for Christmas, he said, his team could end up practicing three times a day, if need be.

"We've got to figure out what we need to do," said the coach, "to get this team to the next level."

Reach John Clay at (859) 231-3226, or 1-800-950-6379, Ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com. Read his blog at Kentucky.com.

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