UK Men's Basketball

Calipari wants his Cats to 'Get mad,' match Ole Miss's intensity

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

As Barry Goldwater once suggested that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue, so Kentucky Coach John Calipari opined that poise under fire probably won't bring victory at Ole Miss on Tuesday night.

"Oh, I'd like us to lose our composure," Calipari said Monday. "That's what I'm looking for. Like, lose your composure. Get mad. Get angry. Be mad to be great."

Throughout this season, Calipari has prodded his freshman-dependent team to ratchet up the intensity.

Now, as Calipari saw it, the Cats face an Ole Miss team blessed with hardened veterans and a steely-eyed missile man in shooting guard Marshall Henderson.

No deficit is too big for long down-trodden Ole Miss, who at 17-2 overall and 6-0 in the Southeastern Conference is off to the best start in program history.

"They just seem to have a thing going, a feeling, a vibe," Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings said Monday when asked about the Rebels. "They believe they're going to win."

Coach Andy Kennedy, who entered the season three months ago on the metaphorical hot seat, now finds himself leading the league's feel-good story of the season. He applauded his team's ability to "find ways to win in a variety of ways."

Calipari admires, and perhaps envies, the Rebels' palpable willpower.

"That's what my teams historically have been," he said. "Those are my teams. We always liked to play front-running teams, which when you've got it going good, they're chest-bumping and doing it. When it goes (down), they wilt."

Ole Miss?

"Things get down, it doesn't faze them," Calipari said. "They get up. They bury you."

Calipari did not say Kentucky (13-6, 4-2) wilts, but he did call for more resiliency and determination in the face of inevitable surges by the opposition.

"When the other team makes a run, quit hanging your head," he said. "Quit slouching over. Just keep ballin'. Keep playing."

Calipari saluted Henderson, the SEC's leader in scoring and, no doubt, trash talking. However infuriating the out-there guard can be, he cares.

"I love his energy and excitement about playing," the UK coach said. "He loves the game."

Tennessee Coach Cuonzo Martin, whose team lost twice this month to Henderson-led efforts, echoed the sentiment. When asked about Henderson, he laughed. Then, he added, "Looking from afar, I'd like to play with him. Because I used to do a little trash talking. Not as much as Marshall (chuckle)."

Martin applauded the effort and energy. "You have to respect a guy who brings it to the table," he said.

After Ole Miss won at Auburn, Henderson taunted students sitting near the court by puffing out his shirt. Kennedy said Monday he wished that hadn't happened.

"I don't worry about whether Marshall is going to be ready to play in a game or practice," the Ole Miss coach said earlier this month. "Now, his focus. That's another question. But he brings great energy and he competes."

In terms of bottom-line winning or losing, Calipari acknowledged how Henderson is an X-factor, a player who distorts the normal game preparation.

"There may be special attention paid to him," the UK coach said before adding a cautionary note. "What you end up doing, if you pay too much attention, all of a sudden, there's two big guys (combining for) 20 and 20. And then you have no chance."

The senior inside tandem of Murphy Holloway (who averages a double-double) and Reginald Buckner (the program's career leader in blocks) play off Henderson. And vice versa.

"A lot of times, you want one guy to get 30," Calipari said, "and not let the others guys get any."

Then Calipari slyly added, "That's not how we played that kid, Turner."

Of course, Elston Turner scored 40 in leading Texas A&M to a victory at Kentucky earlier this month.

Not long ago, Calipari said UK had no defensive stopper. Point guard Ryan Harrow suggested Archie Goodwin, who had relative success containing Turner, would likely guard Henderson. Calipari was noncommittal.

To hear Harrow, more than one approach might be used against Henderson. "Whatever is going to work," he said. "Putting height on him, I think, will be the best thing."

Harrow also acknowledged Henderson as an X-factor. "We can't let him touch the ball," he said. "Because if a person drives, you can't leave him."

Calipari sounded more than willing to settle for a supreme effort. He called for the Cats, individually and collectively, to be the "best version" they can be.

"That's what Mississippi is," he said. "I don't want to say we're the least version of ourselves. But we're certainly not the best version."

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