UK Men's Basketball

Kentucky-Texas A&M notes: Cats 'not competing like other people'

Kentucky coach John Calipari was unhappy with the play of his team late in the game at Vanderbilt on Thursday.  Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
Kentucky coach John Calipari was unhappy with the play of his team late in the game at Vanderbilt on Thursday. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff Herald-Leader

First, you must recognize there is a problem. Then you seek a solution.

That's the order of business Kentucky Coach John Calipari touted Friday.

"They have to recognize, first of all, they're not playing hard enough," Calipari said for the umpteenth time this season. "And they're not competing like other people.

"And then they have to make a choice that 'I'm going to change.' There's nothing I can do. They have to make the choice. My job is to get them to recognize where they are right now."

Calipari saluted the "huge, gutty plays" the Cats made Thursday to win 60-58 at Vanderbilt. But he also noted how the Commodores outrebounded UK 42-37 and grabbed 20 offensive rebounds. He cited "no effort, no attempt to go get balls" by UK players.

"You're not going to win in this league giving up 20 offensive rebounds and then not attempting to offensive rebound," Calipari said.

Kentucky continues Southeastern Conference play Saturday against Texas A&M.

"This is all about effort," Calipari said. "This is all about 'physicalness.' Why wouldn't you do this? Learn from it.

"I'm not mad. We won. But if we don't correct this, you're not going to win what you think you can win."

Offense vs. defense

In the latest NCAA statistics, UK ranked No. 14 nationally in field goal defense (37.1 percent). Texas A&M ranked No. 230 in scoring offense (65.5 points per game) and No. 268 in three-pointers per game (5.1).

Coach Bill Kennedy noted how leading scorer Elston Turner (15.5 ppg) is a key to the Aggies' offense. "If he's not getting numbers and getting opportunities to score, then the rest of our team struggles to score," he said.

Kennedy cited two factors impacting the Aggies' scoring: confidence and talent.

"We're rebuilding our program," he said. "Just trying to get our talent level up to the level we have to compete against. That's the main thing. That's the main two reasons. Maybe I'm too honest."

UK aura

As a former coach at Murray State (2006-07 through 2010-11), Kennedy is familiar with the aura of Kentucky basketball. He noted Vandy's victory over UK in the 2012 SEC Tournament finals as a key in the Commodores' belief that they could compete Thursday.

With eight scholarship players and a walk-on in its rotation, might A&M be affected by Kentucky's aura?

"That's my biggest concern," Kennedy said. "Just how we handle the first 10 minutes of the game is going to be critical."

Murray State

During his time as Murray State coach, Kennedy had the team practice at UK before games at Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State. Calipari and assistant coach John Robic are longtime acquaintances of Kennedy.

"We'd prefer to stay in Lexington and practice in Lexington rather than go to Richmond and Morehead, Ky.," Kennedy said.

Murray State is the only Division I team in-state to never play Kentucky.

"That was by choice," Kennedy said of his time as Murray State coach. "We'd much prefer to play someone else."

Shot clock

Although replays suggested that Nerlens Noel still had the ball in his hand when he ultimately made a key shot at Vandy, perhaps a shot clock violation did not occur.

The NCAA rule notes that a horn is part of the signal of a shot clock expiration: "This shot-clock horn shall not stop play unless recognized by an official's whistle. When the shot clock indicates zeros but the shot-clock horn has not sounded, the shot-clock time has not expired."

Gerald Boudreaux, the supervisor of SEC officials, said that the referees' judgment also plays a part in the decision once they hear the horn sound.

It is not reviewable by rule, Boudreaux confirmed.

However, if the game clock or shot clock malfunctions and there is knowledge by the officials, they can review scoring or timing issues which fall under the correctable error rule.

Poythress problems

Three charging calls complicated Kentucky freshman Alex Poythress's homecoming at Vanderbilt.

Poythress, who grew up in Clarksville, Tenn., fouled out after 23 minutes.

He began the game with noticeable assertiveness. He finished with a busy stat line: seven points, six rebounds, four turnovers.

But Calipari noted a lack of aggressiveness at times. Vandy grabbed 20 offensive rebounds and won the boards 42-37.

After the game, Calipari suggested Poythress adopt an attitude of "I have to make it a point: I'm not getting outworked."

On Friday, the UK coach sounded more resigned to the way Poythress comports himself on the court.

"Alex is what he is," Calipari said.

Calipari attributed the three charges to a lack of forethought by the team.

"We threw the ball back to him three times that led to charges," the UK coach said. "That was us."

To throw the ball backward to Poythress is to give the defense a chance to set itself, Calipari said. "He runs in and runs people over."

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