UK Men's Basketball

For UK basketball, practice did not come close to making perfect

John Calipari sees Kentucky on a gradual climb

Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari talks to the media after his team’s 71-63 win over Kansas in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, in Rupp Arena. UK has now won six straight and is 16-3 on the season.
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Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari talks to the media after his team’s 71-63 win over Kansas in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, in Rupp Arena. UK has now won six straight and is 16-3 on the season.

Kentucky’s season-low shooting percentage in Saturday night’s 71-63 victory over Kansas puzzled John Calipari.

“They live in the practice facility,” the UK coach said of his players. “They probably take 5,000 shots, maybe more, a week.

“Why would you be tentative shooting the ball? You deserve to make shots.”

Yet Kentucky shot with season-low accuracy overall (39.1 percent) and from three-point range (22.2 percent). The Cats also equaled a season low with four three-point baskets.

Kentucky made none of its eight three-point shots in the first half.

“Second half, we were 4-for-10,” Calipari said. “That was the difference in the game. If we go 0-for-10 in the second half, we lose the game.”

PJ Washington seemed to take the poor first-half shooting in stride.

“We couldn’t make anything: threes, layups, mid-range,” he said. “We knew we’d make some shots in the second half. We didn’t worry about it too much.”

Although UK made only four three-pointers in a game for the sixth time, Calipari continued to insist the Cats are a good three-point shooting team.

“That’s why I kind of get bothered at times,” he said. “Again, we’re a good post-up team. We’re a good driving team. You don’t need to rely on just jacking threes. But if you leave us alone, if you trap the post, if you collapse your defense, we’re good enough to make those shots.”

Kentucky forward Reid Travis talks about the key for UK in its 71-63 win over Kansas on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, at Rupp Arena. Travis scored 18 points and 12 rebounds while battling Kansas’ Dedric Lawson, who scored 20 points.

‘He reverts’

Although Reid Travis posted a double-double, Calipari saw bad habits repeated.

“He reverts when the stuff gets going and he brings the ball down and he gathers,” Calipari said. “And he can’t get (the shot) off.

“But you saw him play his best when he fights for rebounds and quick jumps. And you look and say, why didn’t he play like that all the time?”

Travis said Calipari’s advice is easy to understand. “He just tells me to go up quicker,” he said. “I think there are going to be times when I revert. I guess that’s the word he used. It’s just about being humble with the process.”

Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari praises PJ Washington after his team’s 71-63 win over Kansas in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, at Rupp Arena. Washington scored 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the UK win.

Double-double in triplicate

Washington (20 and 13), Travis (18 and 12) and Keldon Johnson (15 and 10) all posted double-doubles.

The last time three UK players had a double-double in a game? DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson and John Wall did it on Feb. 16, 2010.

It was Travis’ second double-double for UK. He had 27 for Stanford.

Kansas coach Bill Self talks to the media after his team’s 71-63 loss to Kentucky on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, at Rupp Arena as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge. The Jayhawks led 33-30 at halftime, but were outscored 41-30 in the second half.

Family affair

It was a friendly competition between Washington and Kansas big man Dedric Lawson. The two had an ongoing conversation during the game.

“I’ve been knowing Dedric since I was a kid,” Washington said. “I’ve been knowing his whole family since I was a kid. He’s a real good guy, and I love his family.”

Washington said he and Lawson played on the same Memphis-based AAU team.

Of Lawson and his younger brother and fellow Jayhawk, KJ Lawson, Washington said, “I love those guys to death. I’ll do anything for them.”

The Kentucky men's basketball team defeated Kansas 71-63 Saturday at Rupp Arena in Lexington.

35 and 20

Washington’s 20 points and 13 rebounds were not even close to the standard Calipari set for the sophomore forward. The UK coach once said Washington should score 35 points and grab 20 rebounds on a regular basis.

“I know I’m capable of doing that,” Washington said with a smile. “One night it’s going to happen. I just don’t know when.”

Feeling low

Kansas ranks in the top three among Big 12 teams in scoring, shooting, steals and assists. But it didn’t look that way against a Kentucky defense that has held three of the four most recent opponents to a season-low point total.

Kansas matched its second-lowest point total of the season. The Jayhawks lost 77-60 at Iowa State on Jan. 5. UK held Kansas to a season-low 36.5-percent shooting accuracy.

Challenge extended

The SEC and Big 12 conferences announced that the Challenge will be played in the next six seasons.

In a news release, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said the Challenge had become “a date everyone circles on the college basketball calendar.” SEC fans and teams enjoy the Challenge, he said.

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby called the Challenge a “preeminent basketball series.”

ESPN will continue to telecast the Challenge games.

The Big 12 won this year’s Challenge 6-4.


The announced attendance of 24,387 was the 15th largest in Rupp Arena history. The fans were emotionally involved.

When asked about the Cat-mosphere for the game, Washington’s eyes widened before he responded.

“I’ve never seen anything like that in Rupp Arena,” he said. “It was just great to see everybody in here cheering us on.”

Kansas Coach Bill Self sort of agreed.

“It was good,” he said before playfully adding, “It’s no Allen Fieldhouse.”

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