UNCASVILLE, Conn. — Facing a pack-it-in zone defense throughout the game, Kentucky committed 21 turnovers. Against an aggressive man-to-man that included occasional trapping and pressing, Old Dominion committed 12 turnovers.
"Think about that," UK Coach John Calipari said after the Cats stayed out of their own way enough to beat ODU 62-52 Sunday.
The turnovers caused Calipari to ring an alarm bell. He hoped his players heard.
"I told them, 'We will not win in the SEC with 21 turnovers,' " Calipari said of the upcoming Southeastern Conference schedule. "... We should have 11 or 12."
He attributed the 21 to "guys wanting to make the hardest plays."
Turnovers continued to plague freshman point guard Marquis Teague. He committed six, which equaled the number he had against Kansas on Tuesday. That increased his season's total to 18 in four games, an average of 4.5.
Teammate Darius Miller noted that Teague draws added attention from Calipari. "He's probably tougher on the point guard than anybody else," Miller said of Calipari. "... After (Teague) settled down, I thought he played well."
Teague committed five of his turnovers in the first half. But he had only one in 19 second-half minutes.
Miller agreed with a reporter's suggestion that Teague's struggles resemble the rocky road encountered by last season's freshman point guard, Brandon Knight. In his first four games last season, Knight had nine assists and 18 turnovers. That puts Teague relatively ahead with 11 assists and 18 turnovers in the same span.
"A lot of people were talking about Brandon and Maui," Miller said in reference to Knight's zero assists and eight turnovers against Washington on Maui this time last season. "(Knight) turned it around to become a top-10 pick.
"In my opinion, (Teague) has gotten better every game."
Calipari took the blame for Teague's early struggle against Old Dominion. The UK coach explained why he took the freshman out at the 18:25 mark of the first half. Calipari uses the term "loop" to label how to attack a zone. But the term "loop" can also apply to transition offense. Teague confused the two.
"That's not his fault," Calipari said.
Different UK team
ODU Coach Blaine Taylor said that Kentucky will be a different team in a month or two.
A competitive struggle with ODU will benefit Kentucky in the long term, he said.
"Kentucky has as much talent as I've seen at Kentucky," Taylor said. "... When you're winning by 50, you can get cotton in your ears. When you see the result of what the coach is saying, you'll get better."
In a way, ODU reinforced Calipari's emphasis on execution.
"As Kentucky gets tested more, they'll learn more," Taylor said.
Chris Cooper, a 6-9 senior, led Old Dominion with 17 points and 12 rebounds. He came into the game averaging 8.8 points and 8.5 rebounds.
" 'Coop' can physically play with anybody in the country," Taylor said. "The 12 rebounds are indicative of what he can do. He can do even more."
Cooper held his own against UK freshman Anthony Davis, who was also busy (11 points, nine rebounds, three blocks and two steals).
But, as Davis said, UK's post defense was "kind of terrible."
Cooper, a relative unknown, took advantage.
"He doesn't have the reputation" of high-profile big men, Taylor said of Cooper. "But he has played them toe to toe."
UK improved to 51-1 under Calipari in games where the opponent scores 67 or fewer points. ... Terrence Jones took a charge. That gave him two of UK's three this season. Doron Lamb has the other. ... UK outscored ODU 38-22 in the paint and won the rebounding battle 43-33. ... The two teams combined for 18 assists and 33 turnovers. ... The attendance was announced as 4,128. The Mohegan Sun Arena's listed capacity is 9,518.