Sidelines with John Clay

Why John Calipari wants this Kentucky team to have fun with NCAA Tourney wins

Kentucky forward Alex Poythress (22) and guard Tyler Ulis (3) had a laugh on the bench as Kentucky defeated Stony Brook 85-57 in the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament on Thursday March 17, 2016 in Des Moines.
Kentucky forward Alex Poythress (22) and guard Tyler Ulis (3) had a laugh on the bench as Kentucky defeated Stony Brook 85-57 in the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament on Thursday March 17, 2016 in Des Moines. Lexington Herald-Leader

Three more quick things from Kentucky’s 85-57 win over over Stony Brook in the Cats’ NCAA Tournament opener on Thursday night:

1. Fun, fun, fun. Every year, UK coach John Calipari says he wants his team to be having the most fun heading into the NCAA Tournament. He said that Wednesday during the day-before press conferences at Wells Fargo Arena. He said it again Thursday night after the win over the Seawolves.

Is that even more important with this team?

“You know what, it probably is,” Calipari said after the win. “It is because guys can be a little fragile at times. What I’m trying to get them to do is coach each other because when I coach them sometimes they look at me like deer in the headlights, like, oh, my God!

“So I’m trying to coach less even though I got on guys pretty hard today. But I got on them when we were at 30. I didn’t get on them early in the game. I let them play through it.”

2. First half, sluggish. Second half, sizzling. After shooting just 32.4 percent the first half, the Cats scorched the nets for 75.9 percent the second half, making 22 of 29 shots. On the night, the nation’s No. 1 team in terms of offensive efficiency ended up averaging 1.196 points per possession.

After missing eight of his nine field goal attempts in the first half, Jamal Murray ended up seven-of-16 on the night, including two-of-seven from three-point range.

Derek Willis was a perfect three-of-three from the field, including two-of-two from three-point range. Skal Labissiere made six of his 10 shots. The freshman center also swatted six shots, a couple which helped the Cats score at the other end in transition.

Saturday against Indiana, UK is going to have to play up to its offensive potential. Indiana is going to score points. The Hoosiers are not the greatest defensive team, but they do know how to put the ball in the basket. Despite holding Stony Brook to 0.775 points per possession, UK is not the vintage defensive team we often see under Calipari.

3. The offensive glass. To be fair, Stony Brook had a lot of opportunities at offensive rebounds considering the Seawolves missed 56 of 76 shots. But the America East champs claimed a lot of offensive rebounds -- 25 on the night for an offensive rebound percentage of 42.4.

Protecting the defensive glass has been a problem for this Calipari team. Stony Brook is the third straight foe to post an ORP of 40 percent or better. Texas A&M’s was 41.5 in the SEC Tournament championship game. Georgia posted a 41.9 ORP in the SEC semifinals. In fact, seven times in the last 14 games the opponent has an offensive rebound percentage of 40 or better.

Meanwhile, Indiana ranks 15th in the nation in offensive rebounding, getting 37.6 percent of its misses. The Hoosiers got 35 percent of their misses in IU’s 99-74 win over Chattanooga on Thursday.

Kentucky vs. Indiana

When: Saturday, 5:15 p.m.

Where: Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa

TV: CBS with Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and Tracy Wolfson

Radio: UK Network with Tom Leach and Mike Pratt

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