…and a little team effort can go a long way.
Tonight’s matchup against Alabama will show whether Kentucky has permanently improved, or if the game at Auburn was just a fluke “whomping.” After a season of frustrating effort levels, and sloppy guard-play, the Cats seemed to click against the Tigers, running up a 20+ point win. What was the difference?
Coach Cal voiced his opinion on what set this new look apart from the early going: a focus on the team, instead of on the stat sheet.
I was really pleased with Archie’s play. His shot selection was really good. He played and drove to make his teammates better instead of just trying to shoot the ball. And then defensively, he took some pride in his defense. Now you have an attacking player who’s taking pride in his defense versus a player who’s taking bad shots, an unenthusiastic defender.
Archie had 12 points, trying to score about half as much as he’s been trying to score. And he scored two or three points less than his average—and that’s because he missed free throws. So what I say is: You can do less and score more if you’re efficient and you’re playing for your team. He’s learning that.
Is it really that simple? You’ll remember one of Cal’s go-to phrases toward the end of last year was mentioning how Anthony Davis and MKG, the top two picks in the Draft, took the 4th and 5th most shots on the team. I wonder how many times he’s mentioned that in practice to these guys? However often it is, it looks like it’s finally starting to click.
And did you notice the Cats having fun on Saturday? All the smiles and 3-goggles and the like? It looked like the way last year’s team used to play; it looked like they enjoyed basketball. And that’s hard to do when you’re trying to focus on your own numbers.
So they’re starting to do it, and they had fun doing it. They enjoyed playing. They bounced and jumped and they chest-bumped each other. We’ve been waiting all year for it. But see, when you’re concerned about how you’re playing and you miss two shots, it’s hard to chest-bump somebody. If you’re more about the other guys on the team, none of that matters.
It’s hard to believe that the solution may be that simple, but it looks like the Cats have finally turned a corner. I’ll knock on wood for saying that, but maybe the Texas A&M loss was the jolt that got the guys thinking about the team more than the box score. And when you think about the team, you share their successes, and when you share their successes, you have more fun playing.
And when you have fun playing, you “whomp” SEC teams. And we have fun watching. Let’s keep it rolling at Alabama. (See what I did there? “Rolling” at Alaba- Nevermind.)