UK Men's Basketball

Tasmanian Wildcat? Calipari could inspire a cartoon character, Green says

Kentucky Coach John Calipari yelled during the SEC Tournament semifinals against Alabama.
Kentucky Coach John Calipari yelled during the SEC Tournament semifinals against Alabama. aslitz@herald-leader.com

He screams. He whirls. He stamps his feet.

To say the least, Kentucky Coach John Calipari is animated along the sideline during a game. Maybe animation is the best way to capture his in-game presence.

“They should make a cartoon character out of him,” teased guard Quade Green on Friday. “He’s hilarious.”

When a reporter suggested the Tasmanian Devil might be the cartoon character that captures Calipari as a whirling dervish, Green said, “No. He’s worse than that.”

Calipari, who worked for such coaches as Larry Brown and Paul Evans, said he has not tried to model his sideline demeanor after anyone. Each coach must be true to his own personality.

“I wish I was less animated,” he said. “I wish I was less emotional. But I was born this way.”

UK players said they’ve grown accustomed to Calipari’s, uh, outgoing personality. They are used to it seemingly being turned up full blast.

“Just crazy,” Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said. “His face almost turns red. His hair spikes up. You can’t listen to what he’s saying.”

Of course, coach-player communication would seem vital during games. That would be especially so with a freshman-dependent team that frequently plays grinding possession-by-possession games decided by poise and execution.

No worries, UK players said.

“I’m used to it,” Gilgeous-Alexander said of Calipari’s histrionics. “I don’t care about the screaming. I’m just trying to listen to what he says. I just move on.”

Sacha Killeya-Jones said it took him only a few weeks to adjust.

“It sounds crazy,” he said. “But it’s all positive reinforcement. He just wants you to do well.”

Punk UK?

No one with Buffalo said the Bulls’ intensity should be thought of an attempt to “punk” an opponent.

If that was the intent, it would not work, Hamidou Diallo said.

“I don’t think nobody can punk us,” he said. “I don’t think we’re that type of team. We don’t speak much or get into all that stuff. We try to take the court and play the game.”

Defensive game?

Buffalo ranks sixth nationally in scoring with an average of 84.9 points per game. But UK does not plan to try to get into a high-scoring game, Wenyen Gabriel said.

“I feel we have to make this a defensive game if we’re going to win this one,” he said.

UK had the same intent against Davidson on Thursday. But Gabriel saw Buffalo presenting a different challenge.

“Yesterday, (Davidson) ran a lot of good offense,” he said. “This team just scores really fast.”

RPI perspective

Going into the NCAA Tournament, Buffalo had a Ratings Percentage of Index of No. 25. That was better than every SEC team except Tennessee (No. 8), Kentucky (10) and Auburn (15).

Kentucky lost six games to teams with a worse RPI than Buffalo: Texas A&M (No. 29), UCLA (36), Missouri (43), Florida (46), Florida (46) and South Carolina (90). Of those losses, one came on a neutral floor (UCLA) and one in Rupp Arena (Florida).

15-for-30

Buffalo made 15 of 30 three-point shots in defeating Arizona. No big deal, said 6-8 forward Nick Perkins.

“I think that’s pretty much normal for us,” he told reporters. “Three or four or five times, you all can look it up, we’ve shot 60 percent from three. Or 50 percent. Something crazy like that.

“We’ve got some of the best shooters in the country in C.J. (Massinburg), Jeremy (Harris) and even Wes (Clark).”

The trio made 11 of 22 three-point shots against Arizona. For the season, each has shot three-pointers with 40-percent or better accuracy.

As for Perkins’ reference to past performance, Buffalo made 60 percent of its threes (12 of 20) in defeating Bowling Green and 50 percent (10 of 20) in beating Ball State.

Help wanted from BBN

Ohio State Coach Chris Holtmann, a native of Jessamine County, said he has a “great affinity” for Central Kentucky. He sounded willing to accept a reward from UK fans for his good tidings.

“We would love to steal a few fans because we know it’s going to be a road environment,” he said of the Buckeyes’ second-round game against Gonzaga on Saturday. “So, absolutely I would love to solicit extra help from the Big Blue Nation.”

Skiing anyone?

The view of mountains outside Boise reminded Kentucky’s Dillon Pulliam of an off-court ambition. He said he’d like to learn to ski.

“A lot of my friends ski,” he said. “They go to Perfect North (in Indiana). They say it’s a blast. Whenever it’s that season, I’m always playing basketball.”

The Boise Mountains, which run southeast to northwest, is the western-most portion of the Rocky Mountains. Ski resorts are open, but UK players are busy.

Etc.

More than once, Calipari has referenced a text he received from a player during the four-game losing streak. The text said the players needed Calipari. He said he would not reveal which player sent the text. … Brian Anderson, Chris Webber and sideline reporter Lisa Byington will call Saturday’s game for CBS.

Jerry Tipton: 859-231-3227, @JerryTipton

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