Monday saw John Calipari tell his Kentucky players that there would be no more morning workouts this season. That’s because spring semester classes begin Wednesday.
“It’s on now,” John Calipari said he told the UK players.
Camp Cal, the extra time for workouts provided by the semester break, is done. The players should be well-conditioned. Two games each week from now on means it’s time to show how lessons have been learned.
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Most immediately, Kentucky must learn from the loss at Alabama last Saturday and move on beginning with a home game against Texas A&M on Tuesday.
“We had some slippage the last game,” Calipari said. “Now, we’ve got to re-focus and get back on track.”
It was time to send a message about not letting the loss linger. Instead, learn and turn the page. So, Calipari said, the team reviewed the video of the Alabama game at 11 in the morning.
“So we could be done with it and move on to the next game,” he said.
UK players saw themselves miss “15 or 16 one-foot shots,” Calipari said. They saw that Alabama had 17 turnovers, yet Kentucky had only eight fast-break points. They also heard the coaches say they counted 270 passes at Alabama compared to 325 against Louisville a week earlier.
“How does that happen?” Calipari said of more than 50 fewer passes. “Why so many less passes?”
The UK coach cited poor spacing. And he proposed a couple of possible reasons: preoccupation with Alabama shot-blocker Donta Hall and/or inattention to the need for spacing when not possessing the ball.
This slippage, as Calipari called it more than once, re-opened another ongoing issue. The likelihood of close games enhances the importance of execution. He likened the loss at Alabama to the loss against Seton Hall four weekends earlier.
“You have your chances to win, and should win,” he said. “And you don’t.”
Of course, there’s the other team to consider. Alabama played well, Calipari said, adding, “I told them (opponents) are not going to play bad against us. And they made some shots. Now, all of a sudden it’s anybody’s ball game. I like the fact we fought and came back.
“You just move on.”
Kentucky (10-3) might be moving on to more of the same.
When reminded that he has suggested that this Kentucky team does not figure to often win by blowout margins, Calipari said of the game at Alabama, “We had some guys upset because they missed shots late. I said, ‘Listen, you gave up two offensive rebounds for baskets late. If we didn’t give those up ...
“Young kids don’t understand that every possession matters as you wind down the clock.”
Calipari also lamented a second-chance opportunity that Hall cashed on a tip-in that put Alabama ahead 72-61 with 3:12 remaining.
UK players acknowledged the slippage that occurred at Alabama.
Tyler Herro offered a big-picture view. He was philosophical about the loss. “We’re building toward March,” he said. “Every single day, we try to get better and better. We did take a few steps back in some of the areas we were making strides in.”
When asked if the players put loss in the context of hurting UK’s seed in the NCAA Tournament, Herro said, “not at all. Whatever seed we get, it’s still really early.”
Immanuel Quickley welcomed the likelihood of more close games. Calipari put Tuesday’s game in that category even though Texas A&M had the second-worst NCAA Evaluation Tool rating among Southeastern Conference teams after Saturday’s games. Only South Carolina’s No. 173 NET was lower than A&M’s 103.
“The more close games the better,” Quickley said. “That means we’ll just be ready come March, and all the March games are going to be close because all the teams are going to be good. That’s what we want.”
Texas A&M at Kentucky
When: 7 p.m.
Records: Texas A&M 6-6 (0-1 SEC); UK 10-3 (0-1 SEC)
Series: UK leads 9-4
Last meeting: UK lost 85-74 on Feb. 10, 2018, in College Station, Texas
TV: SEC Network
Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1