UK Men's Basketball

UK-Alabama notes: Calipari says post presence a must for Cats

Alabama after loss to UK

Alabama coach Avery Johnson and players Riley Norris and Retin Obasohan talk about 77-61 loss to visiting Kentucky.
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Alabama coach Avery Johnson and players Riley Norris and Retin Obasohan talk about 77-61 loss to visiting Kentucky.

In coaching as well as comedy, timing is everything.

Kentucky Coach John Calipari seemed to prove that Saturday. He chose the news conference following a 77-61 victory at Alabama to bluntly talk about the importance of post play.

“Bottom line, if you don’t have post presence, your team is a fraud,” Calipari said.

Then, as if to make sure no one missed the point, he added, “Can I tell you that again? If you don’t have post presence, your team is a fraud.

“We should have it. And the games we haven’t had it, those games we lost.”

After those losses, especially at UCLA and at LSU, Calipari chose not to emphasize the need to score and defend from the post. Maybe he didn’t want to put undue pressure on his struggling big men.

Look at last year’s national champion. I don’t want to mention any names. My point is serious post presence.

Alabama Coach Avery Johnson

With Alex Poythress and Marcus Lee giving UK 33 points and 18 rebounds worth of front-line production at Alabama, Calipari picked that high note to say, yes, the Cats cannot rely solely on guard play.

Alabama Coach Avery Johnson echoed the sentiment.

“Very important,” he said of post presence. Alabama is trying to get credible low-post play from Jimmie Taylor (four points, six rebounds) and freshman Donta Hall (three points, six rebounds).

“Look at last year’s national champion,” Johnson said. “I don’t want to mention any names. My point is serious post presence.”

Skal feisty

Calipari continued to use freshman Skal Labissiere sparingly. The freshman played a season-low four minutes. He stuffed three fouls in that cameo appearance.

In the last four games, Labissiere has averaged 11 minutes.

4 minutesSkal Labissiere’s season-low playing time against Alabama

A telling moment seemed to come early in the second half. When Alabama closed to within 44-40 and Lee was struggling at the foul line, Calipari sent Labissiere to the scorer’s table.

Then the UK coach apparently thought better of it. He ordered Labissiere back to the bench and put Derek Willis into the game.

Willis was the third player in UK’s rotation of “bigs” in the second half.

Labissiere went scoreless and grabbed one rebound, but the lack of stats masked a feisty first half.

Early in the game, referees had to separate Labissiere and Hall. Later, the UK freshman picked up two fouls on one play. After being whistled for a foul while trying to grab a defensive rebound, he received a technical foul.

Free throw woes

When Marcus Lee missed a free throw with 15:24 left in the second half, Calipari could be heard shouting, “You’re better than that!”

Lee missed all five of his free throw attempts in the game. That lowered his accuracy from the line this season to 36.8 percent (14 of 38).

“You can’t go O for six from the line and play basketball,” said Calipari, who apparently misread Lee’s stat line. “You just can’t.”

Later, when Calipari advised getting more comfortable at the line, Lee shook his head.

Teammate Alex Poythress came to Lee’s defense. When a reporter asked Lee what the problem was, Poythress said under his breath, “Nothing.”

Then Lee answered. “We’re trying to figure it out,” he said, “and I’ll get it done eventually.”

Lee’s career accuracy at the line is 36.7 percent (29 of 79).

Poythress then said under his breath, “He’s going five for five the next game.”

To which, Lee said, “Yeah, 100 percent next game.”

Briscoe finds shot

Freshman Isaiah Briscoe had made only five of 23 shots in the five most recent games. Then he hit six of 10 against Alabama. That included several pull-up jumpers.

It makes us a different team.

UK Coach John Calipari on Isaiah Briscoe finding his shot

“It makes us a different team,” Calipari said.

Briscoe still struggled at the foul line. He missed his only two free throws. That made him 18 of 53 (34.0 percent) for the season, and four of 22 (18.2 percent) in the last six games.

Ghost writers

Alabama’s game Monday for the football national championship seriously drained the media contingent covering the Tide’s basketball game against Kentucky.

Alabama media contact Aaron Jordan said that 99 percent of the reporters who would normally be covering the basketball game were in Arizona for the football game against No. 1 Clemson.

“Almost all of them,” Jordan said. “People I’ve never heard of are covering us. From our main outlets.”

Jerry Tipton: 859-231-3227, @JerryTipton

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