UK Men's Basketball

Cats make good on Super Bowl Sunday promises to Cal

Darius Miller applauded a big play by Josh Harrellson against Tennessee. Miller, who had seven points and six rebounds, made some important plays of his own, especially on the glass.
Darius Miller applauded a big play by Josh Harrellson against Tennessee. Miller, who had seven points and six rebounds, made some important plays of his own, especially on the glass.

On Monday, Kentucky Coach John Calipari dismissed the idea of a meeting helping any team bounce back from adversity. "Waste of time," he said.

But that didn't mean Calipari was above calling a team meeting. Only the day before, the UK coach invited the players to his home, ostensibly, to watch the Super Bowl. The purpose was not so much to tell them to root for his beloved Steelers. Calipari wanted to engage the players in how the UK team should go forward after losing its two games the previous week.

After Kentucky beat Tennessee on Tuesday, Darius Miller called the gathering at Calipari's house a team meeting.

"Coach was talking it up," Miller said. "He basically opened it up to us.

"Basically just a discussion. He asked us what we were going to commit to. Everybody gave at least one thing, and we're trying to provide it."

In his post-game news conference, Calipari listed some of the player commitments:

■ Doron Lamb: "Sprint the floor."

■ Terrence Jones: "Rebound the ball."

■ DeAndre Liggins: "Rebound."

■ Brandon Knight: " 'I will run this team.' "

Miller said he would rebound better and play more assertively.

"They got to commit to each other," Calipari said. "This is all new. They've all been about themselves. Getting beat up a little bit hopefully made it good for us."

More than one player said that Kentucky's losses at Mississippi and Florida the previous week contributed to a renewed sense of purpose against Tennessee.

"I think that had a big part for us making that commitment," Miller said.

Calipari noted how Jones rebounded better and did not let offensive woes affect his overall performance. Liggins rebounded better. Knight ran the team. Lamb simply ran.

"I think it goes along with us trying to rededicate ourselves to the team," Miller said. "Be committed."

Miller described the mood as attentive and serious as the players talked about how they could improve individually and contribute more to the team's success.

"Everybody was listening," Miller said. "Whoever had the floor was shown respect."

He smiled when asked whether Calipari recorded each player's commitment on a note pad.

"I don't know if somebody else did," Miller said. "He doesn't really write a lot of stuff down. He memorizes it, really. It's like he catches everything."

Miller pledged to be more of a rebounding presence and play more aggressively. At one point early in the second half, he ripped a rebound from Tennessee's Brian Williams, a player 3 inches taller and 44 pounds heavier. With the bonus possession, the Cats got a layup from Josh Harrellson.

"Just trying to stand by what I said," Miller said of the give-me-that-ball sequence. "Stand by my word."

Calipari acknowledged Miller's assertiveness.

"I thought Darius made strides," the UK coach said. But there was a "but."

"There were three or four plays, I was like, 'How could you do that? You played so tough and rough (on) a couple rebounds,' " Calipari said. "I thought he played well."

Calipari noted how Jones achieved only his second double-double in a month (10 points, 11 rebounds), plus equalled a career high of four blocks despite making only two of nine shots.

"Terrence ... had four blocks and 11 rebounds and played awful offensively," Calipari said. "But that's why we won. Because he rebounded and blocked shots."

Harrellson saw Kentucky's play against Tennessee giving significance to Sunday's team meeting.

"We had follow-through," he said. "That's a big step for us."

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