UK Men's Basketball

Kentucky basketball notes: Calipari says Cats capable of playing grind-it-out style

Kentucky Coach John Calipari talked with guard Marquis Teague, who had six turnovers in the first half against Kansas.
Kentucky Coach John Calipari talked with guard Marquis Teague, who had six turnovers in the first half against Kansas. Lexington Herald-Leader

After his team lost Tuesday night, Kansas Coach Bill Self told reporters how best to compete with Kentucky. Slow the pace. Milk most of the 35 seconds off the shot clock. As much as possible, deprive UK of fast breaks and make it a half-court game.

In mid-November, it's too early to radically change playing style to win a single game, Self said, implying Kansas used the game to work on its customary style as well as win. But deeper into the season when the stakes are higher ...

"At least take away some of the athletic plays they can make that no other team can match," Self said of beating Kentucky.

This came as no surprise to UK Coach John Calipari. On a teleconference Thursday, he said he believed many opponents will try to slow the pace and make this latest freshman-oriented Kentucky team scrape its way to victory.

Calipari described Kansas' game plan as "We're going to bully these young kids."

UK had to adapt in what became a 75-65 victory.

"I'd imagine most teams are going to try to do that to us," said Calipari, who suggested the thinking would be, "If we let them just move freely all over, let them run up and down the court, you're losing. So you better get physical, knock people around, physically go at the rim, throw your body at them, hope they won't take a charge, which we didn't against Kansas."

A possession-by-possession style not only suited his previous teams, it has been the means to secure victories, Calipari said. After building a nine-point lead against Kansas, UK shifted to a more grinding style.

"We looked like we knew what we were doing," he said.

By Calipari's estimation, Kentucky will get more chances to look comfortable in a half-court setting.

'Not easy'

Calipari suggested the Kansas game signaled how Kentucky will face many challenges this season.

"I told all of you guys before, I wanted this at some point and some level to be easy," Calipari said. "And it's never easy."

Calipari said as he walked off the Madison Square Garden court Tuesday night, he offered instant analysis for bystanders to hear, "It's going to be another grind."

Cal on Teague

Freshman point guard Marquis Teague had no assists and six turnovers in the first half against Kansas. Calipari saw this as a continuation of what "about every guard I brought into the Garden has done.

"All of a sudden, you forget about what you're going to do to run the team, and you just start trying to do your thing. That happened to Derrick (Rose). That happened to John (Wall)."

Calipari noted that last season's freshman point guard, Brandon Knight, committed 13 turnovers in a two-game span in the Maui Invitational (eight against Washington, five against Connecticut).

"That's what happens when you play the way we play," he said. "We're playing fast and that guy will have his hands on the ball a lot."

'Full complement'

Calipari said he told the team he did not get enough playing time for backup big men Eloy Vargas and Kyle Wiltjer.

"You have to have a full complement of guys because you don't know what's going to happen throughout the season," he said.

Last season, Kentucky did not have a full complement of options, he said. This season, UK does.

Staying in NYC

Calipari chose to keep the team in New York this week. The Cats moved to Connecticut on Thursday to begin practices for this weekend's games against Penn State and either South Florida or Old Dominion at the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament in the Mohegan Sun Arena.

A return trip after the Kansas game would have meant an arrival in Lexington about 5 a.m. Wednesday, Calipari said. That scenario would have had UK fly to Connecticut on Thursday evening or Friday.

UK had planned to go to "Ground Zero" in New York on Wednesday. Rainy weather led Calipari to cancel the excursion.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader