Isaiah Briscoe and De'Aaron Fox come through at Vandy
Nashville Midway through the first half, the ball went out of bounds with four seconds left on the shot clock. Kentucky big man Bam Adebayo inexplicably fouled Matthew Fisher-Davis, who made both free throws in the one-and-one.
Later in the half, Derek Willis fouled Fisher-Davis on a three-point shot. Another of the no-no’s that weighed on UK Coach John Calipari’s mind after an 87-81 victory at Vanderbilt Tuesday.
“What they don’t have is the discipline and focus to win when another team is disciplined,” Calipari said.
Vandy was disciplined (only seven turnovers), but Kentucky did win. Despite itself, Calipari suggested.
Other lapses in judgment came fast and furious in the game’s first few minutes. Star freshman Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox each picked up two fouls before the first television timeout.
When asked whether he was unhappy with how Monk and Fox played after picking up a second foul, Calipari said, “No, I was mad how they played with one foul. ... I’m yelling, ‘Don’t foul. Give him space. Play him. Don’t body him.’ And (Fox) goes up and tries to steal a ball. Malik did the same thing.”
Kentucky seemed to execute down the stretch of a close game. The Cats scored on every trip downcourt in the final three minutes and had only two trips downcourt without points in the final 5:30.
Don’t jump to a conclusion, Calipari said. “I had to make calls every time down the floor for us to get the kind of shot we needed,” he said. “And that means they’re not empowered yet.
“When a team is empowered, they can do it themselves. They know where to go with the ball. They know what shot to take. Who’s getting the ball. We’re not empowered yet.”
That missing ingredient is crucial, Calipari said. The Cats will face a disciplined team in the future, most likely deep in the NCAA Tournament, that will require a steady, cerebral performance.
“If this team is supposed to be what everybody thinks, then we better be empowered,” he said.
For the first time, Vandy failed to make 10 or more three-point shots. The Commodores were eight of 29 (27.6 percent) from beyond the arc.
UK made only one of nine, barely extending its streak of games making at least one to 991. Monk made a three with 18:04 left. He made one of four, which made him one for nine in the past two games.
Calipari seemed pleased.
“I told them we were one of nine from the three, and I was ecstatic,” he said. “Because when you’re one for nine, and you still win, it proves to your team you do not need to make threes to win.
“Many teams in the country, if they’re not making threes, they have no chance to win. We’re not one of them.”
Role to fill
Calipari said he has yet to settle on a backup to Bam Adebayo.
“I’ve got to figure out what we’re going to do when Bam’s not in,” he said. “I’m going to keep trying Isaac (Humphries). But if it can’t be Isaac, it can’t be Isaac.
“You saw I went small. I kind of like that.”
Even going small, UK is not small. Derek Willis is 6-foot-9. So is Wenyen Gabriel.
Of his possible preoccupation with size, Calipari said, “What do I think? We’re the Lakers? We’ve got to have two 7-footers out there?”
Kentucky improved its record at Vandy during Calipari’s time as coach to 5-2.
In Calipari’s eight seasons as coach, UK has a .500 or better record at every SEC road site. Overall, the Cats improved its SEC road record to 41-21 (.661 winning percentage) in Calipari’s time as coach.
The next road game — at Mississippi State next Tuesday — is where Kentucky has enjoyed the most success in the Calipari era: 4-0. The only other site where UK hasn’t lost is Missouri (2-0).
Vandy expanded capacity at Memorial Gymnasium by 12 seats. Those seats are along the baseline by the Vandy bench.
Of course, Vandy fans with deep pockets sit in the seats.
A letter from SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey was attached to each seat. It states that the league expects the “highest level of sportsmanship” from fans sitting so close to court (about 10 feet from the baseline).
Abusive language or taunting can result in ejection, Sankey’s letter said.