It might be too much to say Bam Adebayo can go into a downward spiral in some games. So let’s just say the Kentucky freshman big man can recede in prominence.
Associate Coach Kenny Payne described the pattern as foul trouble leading to caution which leads to less presence around the basket.
“If you’re in foul trouble a lot, and you’re afraid to be aggressive, and you become tentative, and you’re worried about what a referee is going to call or not call, that takes away from your aggression,” Payne said Monday. “He’s got to get by that. He has to play with aggression whether he has two fouls or three fouls.”
When asked how Adebayo can stop this spiral, Payne said, “I think it goes back to Bam not getting dumb fouls, to be honest.”
For instance, Adebayo can foul after an opponent has already rebounded a UK missed shot. Or, Payne added, “Sometimes he’s overly aggressive playing post defense against a guy that can’t score on him.
“He just has to find his way. Once he does that, he’ll get more comfortable. A part of basketball is reading how the game is being refereed. That’s intelligence. If you know they’re calling more fouls than normal, then stay away from certain situations.”
A reporter suggested that Payne was describing the typical freshman learning to adjust.
“A very talented freshman,” Payne said, “but a freshman.”
Mychal Mulder saw the benefit in UK Coach John Calipari delegating some of the offensive instruction to Payne and defensive instruction to assistant Tony Barbee.
“It’s good to have multiple perspectives, different coaches telling you different things,” Mulder said. “… Sometimes hearing from different voices, it’s an opportunity to understand what’s being asked of you a little bit better.”
Payne tried to make sure no one believed he was supplanting Calipari.
“I wouldn’t say Cal is taking a step back,” Payne said. “I’d say he’s allowing me to talk more about offense (and) what he wants them to do.”
In his third season as Missouri coach, Kim Anderson has yet to show much progress in terms of the won-loss record.
The Tigers could be termed the anti-Kentucky. In that time, Missouri has an 0-25 record in SEC road games. UK’s record is 25-0 in SEC home games.
Kentucky has had a better SEC road record (18-7) than Missouri’s SEC home record (8-17).
In all games over the last three seasons, Kentucky has a better record away from Rupp Arena (38-13) than Missouri has had in Mizzou Arena (24-25).
On a SEC teleconference earlier this season, Anderson acknowledged the negativity surrounding Missouri basketball.
“I don’t pay much attention to the outside, I really don’t,” he said. “And I tried to encourage my guys to do the same thing. We all know in today’s society, with social media, that’s a difficult task for some.”
Anderson lauded his players’ resolve.
“These guys have been unbelievably resilient. I know we haven’t won games. But we’ve competed in every game.”
Anderson said he must walk a fine line in coaching players in a losing atmosphere.
“Psychology is a big part of this game,” he said. “How we approach it with our players is important. I’ve tried to have a balance between pushing them and backing off a little bit on them. They know they are not doing well, so I don’t think I need to tell them that. We’ve continued to teach. We’ve made improvements. We’ve gotten better. We just haven’t been able to put together a 40-minute game.”
Even taking a lead can be problematic for Missouri.
“Hard learning how to win and not playing not to lose,” Anderson said. “At times I think I’ve seen that. ‘Wow, we’ve got a lead. We can’t lose this lead.’”
Nice to be nice?
Calipari joined other SEC coaches in praising Anderson’s coaching.
“When I’m looking at a coach, it’s not when the guy is on a 10-game winning streak,” Calipari said. “It’s when stuff goes bad. … Do you keep them together? Do they keep growing? Do they stay positive?
“I know what their record is. I expected to see something different.”
Tennessee Coach Rick Barnes went further after his team beat Missouri 90-70 on Saturday.
“We’ve actually used Missouri as an example all year for our players,” Barnes said. “As a team that shows great perseverance. They keep playing hard. These past couple weeks, they’ve gotten some wins because they just keep battling. We told our guys we got to have that kind of resolve.”
When asked if these compliments were just fellow coaches trying to be nice, Anderson laughed and said, “If they are trying to be nice, I appreciate that.”
Anderson credited his players.
“I have good kids,” he said. “We’re young (nine freshmen or sophomores). We’ve certainly taken our lumps at times. At times, we’ve played pretty well. … We talk more about each game separately. We know we’re not going to win the SEC. We try to be realistic. We try to get better every day. Again, that’s coach-speak. But that’s what these guys have done.”
The game is not a sellout. Tickets are available at mutigers.com/buytickets. … Sounds like semantics: Mizzou is not staging a “blackout,” but fans are encouraged to wear black. … At halftime, Mizzou will honor ex-player Jon Sundvold, who is part of this year’s SEC Legends class. … Adam Amin, Sundvold and sideline reporter Laura Rutledge will call the game for the SEC Network.
No. 11 Kentucky at Missouri
When: 9 p.m.
Records: UK 22-5 (12-2 SEC), Missouri 7-19 (2-12)
Series: UK leads 9-0
Last meeting: UK won 88-54 on Jan. 27, 2016, in Lexington
TV: SEC Network
Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1