Defense the name of Kentucky's game as Florida comes to town
Referees are calling more fouls on Kentucky than the opposition. Opponents are shooting more free throws than UK.
But Marcus Lee said this unusual happenstance won’t cause the Cats to be passive.
“We’re not going to change our aggression,” he said Friday, “or how we get things done. It’s just how they want to go about it that day.”
Lee ruled out the possibility of Kentucky defenders being too aggressive. He said the Cats simply must adjust.
Kentucky hasn’t shot fewer free throws than the opposition in a season since 2007-08. Going into Saturday’s game against Florida, UK has shot 510 free throws. Opponents have shot 515.
Kentucky hasn’t committed more fouls than the opposition since 2003-04. Going into Saturday, UK has committed 465 fouls. Opponents have been whistled for 450.
After the loss at Tennessee in which the Vols shot 11 more free throws and committed seven fewer fouls, Calipari declined comment on the officiating. “I can’t,” he said.
On Friday, Calipari deferred judgment on the refs.
“I know our fans watch (game) tape three times,” he said. “They’d probably give you a good opinion.”
Score or facilitate
Tyler Ulis is one of Kentucky’s leading scorers and has almost double the number of assists of any other Cat.
“He’s a better player this year,” Calipari said.
How Ulis can improve is in taking what the defense gives: Either scoring or facilitating depending on the defense.
“This may be a 15-assist gamer because of how they play,” Calipari said. “Another game may be a 30-point scoring game because of how they play.”
Conservatively counting each assist as leading to two points, the three star guards have accounted for about 83 percent of Kentucky’s scoring.
Ulis, who averages 16.2 points and has a team-high 129 assists, accounts for 599 points. Jamal Murray, who averages a team-high 17.5 points and has 53 assists, accounts for 492 points. Isaiah Briscoe, who averages 10.3 points, has 65 assists, accounts for 335 points.
That adds up to 1,426 points. UK has scored 1,719 points.
Cal on Skal
Calipari may have reached double figures in urging Skal Labissiere to compete harder.
“He’s getting better,” the UK coach said. “He’s going to have opportunities. (He must) get in there and fight. . . . I can’t do it for you. I can’t fight for you. I can’t battle for you. I can cover for you. I can say it’s my fault.
“But at the end of the day, you have to get in there and you’ve got to do it.”
Florida ‘old school’
Florida ranks among the SEC’s best defenses. In league play, the Gators are No. 3 in points allowed (70.4 per game), No. 5 in field-goal defense (40.7 percent) and No. 1 in three-point defense (28.4 percent).
“They look like my old UMass teams,” Calipari said. “They give you one tough shot. When you drive, you’ve got five guys near you, and they rebound with five guys. . . .
“It’s old school.”
ESPN sets times
ESPN set the times for two upcoming Kentucky games. Those times make UK’s second Thursday-Saturday swing less compacted than it could have been.
UK’s home game against Tennessee on Thursday, Feb. 18, will start at 7 p.m. The Cats will play at Texas A&M on Saturday, Feb. 20, in a 6:30 p.m. start.
Both times are Eastern Standard Time.
When UK played two games within 48 hours earlier this season, assistant coach John Robic stressed the positive that the Thursday game (at Arkansas) did not tip off at 9 p.m., and the Saturday game (against Vanderbilt) was not an early afternoon game.
Shot of momentum
Florida has used better shooting to win five of its last six games.
In the last four games, the Gators have made 80 of 101 free throws. Previous to that, Florida had made only 61.1 percent of its free throws.
Help seemingly came out of nowhere in last weekend’s victory over No. 9 West Virginia.
Freshman Brandone Francis-Ramirez made three of three shots from beyond the arc as Florida beat the Mountaineers 88-71. He had made only two of his previous 34 three-point shots.
When asked about this unexpected bonus, Florida Coach Mike White quipped, “You are assuming that wasn’t the game plan.”
Then, White added, “It was nuts. Huge factor in the game. Sometimes your number is called, and you’re not ready. This, obviously, wasn’t the case.”
Francis-Ramirez, a native of the Dominican Republic, can be a capable shooter. He won a three-point shooting contest at the Gators Madness tip-off event. He beat Lee Humphrey, the dead-eye shooter on Florida’s national championship teams of 2006 and 2007, in the finals.
▪ Kentucky and Florida face difficult games in the season’s final month. After Saturday, UK has road games at South Carolina, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and Florida. The Gators play at South Carolina and LSU, plus a rematch with Kentucky.
▪ Florida guard Kasey Hill wears a mask because he broke his nose against West Virginia last weekend.
▪ Spero Dedes and Bill Raftery will call the game for CBS.