Three takeaways from Kentucky’s 87-63 win over Valparaiso:
1. Ramping up the energy
Energy is what John Calipari talked about to his team the last couple of days. Need more energy. You have to play with more energy. The UK coach thought that was the difference in Saturday’s home loss to UCLA. Calipari had to call timeout just a minute or so into the game. Cal blamed many of the defensive breakdowns on that lack of energy.
Wednesday night was much, much better. Calipari’s team hustled. It was more aggressive. The visiting Crusaders managed just six assists compared to 19 turnovers. Valpo shot 27.6 percent the first half, when falling behind by 21 points, and 34.3 percent for the game.
On the offensive end, UK committed 17 turnovers, but seven of those came in the first five minutes. Kentucky had 15 assists and beat Valpo on the boards 48-41.
“Energy shows our athleticism,” Calipari said afterward. “Lack of energy shows all the warts that we have.”
2. Keeping Alec Peters in check
The Valpo star, a 6-foot-9 senior, came into the game second in the nation in scoring, averaging 25.3 points. He nearly finished with his average, scoring 23 points, grabbing eight rebounds. He was nine-of-20 from the floor and made one of his two three-point attempts.
Only seven of those points came in the first half, however, the half where the Cats went on a 21-0 run to take a 25-4 lead and ended up with a 45-24 advantage at the half.
Peters is a nice player. He has a big body and finds ways to get points. But he had trouble with UK’s quickness and Calipari’s switching defense. In a game Valpo coach Matt Lottich credited Kentucky’s “supreme athleticism,” Peters had some trouble dealing with that. He won’t be the only one, however.
3. Looking forward to Camp Cal
Kentucky plays Hofstra on Sunday in Brooklyn, but Calipari is already looking ahead to next week, to the end of finals, to when he can get his team into the gym for “three-a-days,” he said Wednesday.
In other words: Camp Cal.
That’s the time when there is no 20-hour rule and the Kentucky coach can focus his team on nothing but basketball. It’s also typically the time when his teams, especially his young teams, get better.
That certainly should be the case with this team. UCLA exposed some holes. The way UK bounced back and played with energy encouraged Calipari. “This was a good win for us,” he said.
He also said, “we’ve still got a ways to go.” And no doubt Calipari believes Camp Cal will help get them to where they want to go.
Kentucky men’s basketball 2016-17
Stephen F Austin