Sidelines with John Clay

Kentucky basketball: Three things from Friday’s Alabama preview

Kentucky forward Marcus Lee (00) talked with Kentucky head coach John Calipari after he fouled out in the second half of the Kentucky at LSU basketball game at Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rogue, La.,, on Jan. 5, 2016. LSU beat UK 85-67
Kentucky forward Marcus Lee (00) talked with Kentucky head coach John Calipari after he fouled out in the second half of the Kentucky at LSU basketball game at Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rogue, La.,, on Jan. 5, 2016. LSU beat UK 85-67 Lexington Herald-Leader

Three things from the Kentucky basketball media opportunity on Friday previewing the Cats’ game Saturday at Alabama:

1.Returning to the road so soon is a good thing

With an 0-2 record in true road games and so closely following Tuesday night’s decisive 18-point loss at LSU, you might not think it’s such a positive that UK is packing its bags for a road date Saturday at Alabama.

Actually, it should be a positive. After the beat down in Baton Rouge, the Cats should be more determined to show that they are capable of winning on the road.

“Historically, my teams have played better on the road,” John Calipari said Friday. “I’ve had one or two teams not do that. We played better because there’s always been such an expectation at home, where on the road it’s alleviated. You could just go play basketball. We've haven’t felt that yet.”

Calipari’s disappointing 2013 team lost its last five regular-season road games, then infamously lost on the road at Robert Morris in the NIT. The 2011 team lost four straight road games, the fourth being a 77-76 overtime loss at Arkansas, before making it all the way to the Final Four.

Kentucky basketball indvidual game-by-game stats

“Away games are definitely a lot tougher,” junior foward Marcus Lee said Friday. “Other teams are definitely more willing to give you their all on away games. That’s something you have to learn to figure out.”

Bad things happen on the road, said Calipari, adding “You’ve got to be mentally tough enough to bounce through that and change.”

By the way, Alabama is 5-0 at Coleman Coliseum. The Tide’s one “home” loss actually came at Birmingham when Alabama lost to Oregon 72-68.

2. Need to crash the glass

The Kentucky coach said he put his team through a tough, physical practice on Thursday, two days after the loss at LSU.

“Put them through one of our tougher practices,” said the coach. “Body-to-body, physical stuff.”

The reason? Cal pointed to the need to rebound better. LSU outrebounded Kentucky 46-32 on Tuesday. And before SEC play began, LSU was 13th in the conference in rebounding margin. The Tigers are currently 168th nationally in rebound margin.

One aspect that has hurt Kentucky of late is protecting the defensive glass. Going back to the Duke game, the Blue Devils claimed 40.5 percent of their offensive rebounds, a high number for a Calipari opponent. Louisville's offensive rebound percentage number was 52.5. That was just the ninth time in the Calipari Era that the opponent posted an OPR of better than 50 percent.

LSU’s OPR was 43.2 on Tuesday. The Tigers are now 108th in offensive rebound percentage. UK is sixth. By the way, Alabama is 253rd in offensive rebound percentage.

3. Why the foul trouble in Baton Rouge?

Marcus Lee, who fouled out in just five minutes on the floor, confirmed Tuesday night was the most frustrating game in which he has played. The junior said it was tough sitting on the bench for so long watching his teammates struggle.

There were some bad fouls; like ‘Why did you do that?’ There were a couple when I look back on the tape were questionable whether they should have been called. But they outfought us. I’m not going to argue when you’re getting beat every which way but loose.

John Calipari on LSU game

The last UK player to foul out in so few minutes was Daniel Orton, who lasted just three minutes on the floor before fouling out against Connecticut on Dec. 9, 2009 at Madison Square Garden. Kentucky won that game 64-61. John Wall scored 25 points and Patrick Patterson 16 in the win over the Huskies.

“Mismash of me being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Lee, who fouled out for the fourth time in his UK career. Three of those have come this year. He fouled out after playing 22 minutes against Duke in Chicago and after playing 30 minutes against Ohio State in Brooklyn.

“There were some bad fouls; like ‘Why did you do that?’” Calipari said. “There were a couple when I look back on the tape were questionable whether they should have been called. But they outfought us. I’m not going to argue when you're getting beat every which way but loose.”

Tuesday was the 11th time Alex Poythress has fouled in his career. It was the second time this season. The senior also fouled out in UK's loss at UCLA last month. Poythress has never scored in double digits in a game in which he fouled out.

Kentucky at Alabama

When: 6 p.m. Saturday

Where: Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, AL

TV: SEC Network with David Neal, Jon Sunvold and Laura Rutledge

Radio: UK Radio Network with Tom Leach and Mike Pratt

SEC men’s basketball standings

Team

W

L

W

L

Texas A&M

2

0

12

2

LSU

2

0

9

5

South Carolina

1

0

14

0

Kentucky

1

1

11

3

Ole Miss

1

1

11

3

Georgia

1

1

8

4

Florida

1

1

9

5

Tennessee

1

1

8

6

Auburn

1

1

7

6

Arkansas

1

1

7

7

Alabama

0

1

9

4

Miss State

0

1

7

6

Missouri

0

1

7

7

Vanderbilt

0

2

8

6

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