John Clay: UK basketball must change now or struggle later

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistDecember 15, 2012 

Scott Sanderson knows his way around the SEC.

He is the son of Wimp Sanderson, the former Alabama basketball coach, the one known for his plaid sport coats and his plain-spoken opinions. Maybe not sartorially, but Scott, the head basketball coach of Lipscomb, didn't fall far from the tree.

"Listen," Sanderson said. "That's what they need to do, listen."

That's what Sanderson said after his team lost 88-50 to Kentucky in Rupp Arena on Saturday.

He was talking about John Calipari's team, about what the young Kentucky squad needed to do to get better.

"Listening is a skill," said the Lipscomb coach. "They need to listen to their coach."

And if the Cats do listen to their head coach they can be as good as — drum roll — Ole Miss.

Back on Nov. 23, Lipscomb lost by 46 points, 91-45, at Ole Miss.

Saturday, Dec. 15, Lipscomb lost by 38 points at UK.

"(Ole Miss) guards better than Kentucky does," said Sanderson when asked to compare the two teams. "They guard the ball a lot better."

And what was Calipari's reaction to this?

"If we don't start changing we're going to struggle," said the Kentucky coach. "That's just how it is."

Let's back up here. Kentucky won on Saturday. Kentucky won big.

Calipari decided to start Ryan Harrow instead of Kyle Wiltjer, and Wiltjer responded with his first career double-double, 23 points and 12 rebounds. Harrow logged a season-high 31 minutes.

Kentucky held Lipscomb to 21.7 percent shooting the second half. They outscored the Lions 25-4 in one second-half stretch.

Still, not good enough. These days, Calipari is a tough man to please.

"I'm not cracking at all," he said Saturday.

We've heard him say it. He knows his team is not where it needs to be, and with final exams being over and the Christmas break here, he has nearly unlimited practice time to get his team to "change" from good to better.

"I can't wait," he said. "It's on."

We've heard Cal say it for a couple of weeks, at least, now. This is his mantra.

So now let's hear Sanderson say it.

"It was a 10-point game and, to be honest," said the Lipscomb coach, talking about a point early in the second half, "I'm not trying to be disrespectful at all, but at the start of the second half Kentucky wasn't ready to play.

"They weren't ready to play, and they gave us every opportunity. We score a couple of baskets in a row, they called a timeout and they do what good teams are supposed to do. They come back and respond, and when they responded we didn't."

Lipscomb committed 24 turnovers, second-most by a UK opponent this season. Lafayette committed 28. Not every opponent is going to be Lipscomb or Lafayette.

"Teams that don't turn the ball over, that take care of the basketball and make Kentucky guard the possession and guard the shot clock are the teams that will give (Kentucky) problems," said Sanderson.

So are they not listening?

"If they're listening, they're not changing and that's what was frustrating for me today," Calipari said. "I saw little change. We just went five days and I saw little change.

"So if I see a little change in this next week, from that point on, folks, we're not winning many, that's a fact."

He also said: "They're hearing, but they're not listening. They're hearing what we say, but they're not listening to it."

Ah, but let's give Wimp's son the final word.

"If they buy in," said the Lipscomb coach, "they've got a chance to be as good as they want to be."

John Clay: (859) 231-3226. Email: jclay@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @johnclayiv. Blog: johnclay.bloginky.com

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