How well is UK basketball playing defense right now?
Five takeaways from Kentucky’s media availability previewing Saturday’s game at Mississippi State:
▪ Assistant coach Tony Barbee, who substituted for John Calipari, attributed Kentucky’s stout defense of late to the normal progression of young teams in a long season.
▪ Calipari was not speaking for effect when he said earlier in the season that the current Cats were his least effective defensive team, Barbee said. That was true at the time, Barbee said before adding, it is no longer true.
▪ When asked to explain his fondness for defending, Ashton Hagans said getting bullied by older brother Byron made him develop an in-your-face approach to disruptive defense.
▪ Mississippi State is coming off a come-from-ahead defeat to LSU. Barbee said this will make the Bulldogs “a desperate team.” The game is a sellout, but Barbee said UK players are conditioned to perform in a hostile environment.
▪ After taking Richards out of the South Carolina game, Calipari seemed to almost turn to dance in front of the big man as a teaching tool. Richards’ reaction? He said he wanted to smile, but he knew that would not please the UK coach.