John Calipari on Alabama game
Knowing that the blame game is on Kentucky’s schedule every season, especially whenever the Cats lose, Coach John Calipari said Friday that he is responsible for what happens.
After noting UK’s pedestrian 2-3 record away from Rupp Arena, Calipari said, “We’ve got to do this a little different way. I keep coming back to most of this is on me to figure stuff out. When things are going good or a team gets it all of a sudden, you guys will throw it at me. That he’s figured this out.
“Well, the same thing has to hold true when we’re not doing (well) or when a Skal (Labissiere) is not playing well.”
Marcus Lee objected to the idea of Calipari shouldering the entire blame for reversals this season.
“It’s on all of us,” he said. “We are a team. It’s not one individual. It’s not one coach.”
Sink or swim
UK continues to work with Labissiere with the goal of improvement day by day.
“A lot of it (is) he’s got to swim,” Calipari said. “We’re here for you. But you’ve got to swim. You’ve got to get lower, and understand what’s happening to you. And then you’ve got to change. But he’ll be fine.”
Prior to the LSU game, transfer Mychal Mulder had made little impact for Kentucky. He hadn’t scored since the opener against Albany. In that time, he’d made one of four shots.
Then Mulder came off the bench at LSU and helped steady Kentucky. After the Cats made only three of 14 shots and scored eight points in the first 10-plus minutes, he scored five points.
Mulder, who came to UK billed as an outside shooter, hit his first three-pointer.
“It was just opportunity,” he said of his contribution. “I was waiting for it. When it came to me, I seized it.”
When asked if the game could be seen as turning the metaphorical corner, Mulder said, “I would hope so.”
Mulder apparently elevated his stock with Calipari.
“Right now, I would say he’s in that three-guard rotation,” the UK coach said.
Calipari downplayed his post-LSU game comment about needing to go back to the drawing board.
The UK coach amended that statement to say the Cats needed to return to the gym and re-commit to improving.
At this stage of the season, Calipari said, “Not a whole lot of changes that we’ve made.”
Marcus Lee interpreted a return to the drawing board as a call to unite.
“When hard times come,” he said, “we have to become one, and not separate.”
Truly foul shots
On the plus side, freshman Isaiah Briscoe can hardly shoot free throws less accurately. In UK’s last five games, he’s made four of 20.
Calipari acknowledged that Briscoe may have developed a mental block about foul shots. Overall, he’s made 35.3 percent.
“I would say so,” the UK coach said. “When you’re playing in high school, and whatever I do is fine. Then you come here and you’re on this stage. It kind of gets you thinking a little bit.”
For comparison sake, Briscoe made 79.8 percent of his free throws during Nike’s 2014 EYBL summer league. He made 103 of 129 free throws.
In three summers in the EYBL, Briscoe made 71.8 percent of his free throws.
Alabama officials hope the game will be something of a “red out.” Or maybe “Keep the Blue out” would be more precise.
During a news conference this week, Alabama Coach Avery Johnson appealed to Tide fans to attend the game.
“Don’t sell your tickets,” he said, presumably meaning to UK fans. “Keep your tickets. We want all Alabama fans here on Saturday.”
To help bolster a home-court advantage, Alabama opened its dorms early so students returning for the spring semester could attend the game. The spring semester starts Wednesday.
Johnson asked Tide fans to “get loud and proud and rowdy.” He also suggested “scream Roll Tide the whole game and buckle up.”
The game is a sellout.
Alabama snapped a 21-game losing streak against ranked teams with a 64-60 victory over Wichita State on Nov. 27. Two days later, Alabama beat No. 17 Notre Dame 74-73. Prior to those games, the Tide’s most recent victory over a ranked team was a 68-66 victory over No. 12 Kentucky on Jan. 18, 2011. That was the game TV cameras caught Calipari, uh, urging Terrence Jones to share the ball.
▪ UK is the only other SEC team to beat two ranked opponents (Duke and Louisville).
▪ Dave Neal, Jon Sundvold and sideline reporter Laura Rutledge will call the game for the SEC Network.