UK Men's Basketball

Calipari says he'll simplify 'disconnected' offense

Kentucky coach John Calipari watched his team in action against Georgetown College in the Cats' final exhibition game.
Kentucky coach John Calipari watched his team in action against Georgetown College in the Cats' final exhibition game. Herald-Leader

Coming off a 41-percent shooting performance against Buffalo, Kentucky will "narrow" its offense going into a future that begins with a Tuesday game against No. 5 Kansas.

"We were a little disconnected ... ," Coach John Calipari said Monday of UK's offense the day before against Buffalo. "There were some things I think we can do to get them to better understand things, especially offensively."

When asked to define the disconnect, Calipari said, "We just didn't create good shots for each other."

Thus, Calipari said UK will alter its approach on offense.

"We're going to narrow it a little bit, so they are more connected," he said. "So they understand a little bit better. ... It doesn't mean I don't want them to have freedom to play."

To explain a more narrow offense, Calipari suggested the Cats needed to better understand what scoring opportunities were available in a given possession.

"We didn't run enough stuff when we could have," he said of UK's play against Buffalo. "We just kept trying to go (and forcing the action). When we did run our stuff, either group, we were good. We got the ball wherever we wanted. We scored. We got great shots. We got fouled. We were in great position to offensive rebound."

With a "narrow" offense, the coaches will give the players "more specifics of what they're looking for," the UK coach said.

Left unsaid in the question-and-answer sessions with the media Monday was the possibility that some credit should go to Buffalo. Led by former Duke point guard Bobby Hurley, the Bulls executed a game plan that stressed getting back on defense and making Kentucky play offense against five defenders in the half-court.

Calipari rejected the idea that Buffalo's adherence to half-court defense played a significant role. The Bulls limited UK's fast-break offense to eight points, none in the first half. That sounded like precious few until a check of box scores showed that Kentucky had only two fast-break points in two Final Four games last spring and only 12 in its five NCAA Tournament games.

"I wish we played half-court offense the whole game," Calipari said of the Buffalo game. "We'd probably have shot a bigger percentage."

That sounded odd given how Calipari stressed speed and transition offense throughout the off-season. He memorably said he ordered a five-second rule for pick-up games. If a team did not cross half-court within five seconds (or five fewer seconds than allowed in regular-season games), it would be considered a turnover.

While Buffalo took pride in its transition defense, Calipari sounded similarly pleased with Kentucky's lack of fast breaks.

"When we ran half-court offense, as a matter of fact, we were really good," Calipari said. "When I watched the tape, I said, 'Shoot! This is a grind-it-out type of team.'"

Grind-it-out or fast-breaking, Kentucky needs to play with one purpose, Calipari said.

In response to a question about Karl-Anthony Towns, Calipari said the freshman must not stray from the set offenses and defenses.

"He has to play more in the schemes we're doing on offense or defense," Calipari said. "And he's not. He's kind of breaking things off. He's the odd man out on a lot of things because he hasn't learned there are five guys playing off each other."

Kansas may test that thinking and UK's hopes of connecting better on offense.

"They play hard," Calipari said. "They're pressing. They're denying (passes). They're pushing up on defense. They're trapping randomly at times. They're trapping pick and rolls. They're being very, very aggressive."

Calipari likened Kansas to the Michigan State of last season. UK went into that third game ranked No. 1, fell behind 14-0 at the start, then rode Julius Randle in a second-half comeback that fell four points short.

Kansas Coach Bill Self saluted Kentucky.

"They have all the pieces to be a great team, obviously," he said. "But, certainly, we're going to have to be smart. We're going to have to attack, pressure. We're going to have to do a lot of things, but on the flipside, hopefully, we can be sound enough (to) cause some problems for them, too."

Calipari recoiled from the suggestion that UK's veterans could benefit from that experience when playing Kansas under similar circumstances.

"No, no, because they're playing exactly like Michigan State," Calipari said of the Jayhawks. "We could start out 10-0 same way. And it wasn't 10-0 we were up. I would hope those veterans understand what they're walking into. Look, teams are going to play like their life depends on it. And we have to do the same."

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