Going into last night’s game, Cal said that he wanted his team to show off all the good habits they had learned during Camp Cal, their month-long training and conditioning program. He wanted to see “demonstrated performance.” Cal said his players got bigger, stronger, and formed some much-needed team chemistry. And to the team’s credit, you could see some of that in the first half.
And then they took two steps back. In the second half, Kentucky let a very bad Vanderbilt back in the game mostly by being outhustled, something Willie Cauley-Stein admitted to in his postgame remarks:
“The second half they came out with more smash-mouth basketball (than us). They just came out straight up like, pushing us under. We didn’t respond like we were supposed to and push back and go get it. We kind of let them push us under …I felt like at times, I let the kid play harder than me.”
Cauley-Stein said that one of the primary lessons during Camp Cal was playing harder than they guy you’re up against. That just didn’t happen against the ‘Dores in the second half. Cal agreed, saying that all the good habits they formed over the break might as well have gone out the window:
“They outworked us. They beat us to 50-50 balls, they beat us to rebounds. We were lucky to win the game. Alex gets no offensive rebounds. His guy gets five. Now who’s outworking who? It’s exactly the stuff we’ve been talking about, but some of the stuff didn’t carry over.”
One of the things this team lacks, especially when compared to their predecessors, is a player who refuses to give up. A warrior who puts the team on his back and carries them to the end, no matter how hostile the environment or dire the situation. Okay, fine: someone like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Many expected Alex Poythress to fill that role, but all that progress we’ve heard he’s making in practice didn’t translate. Alex fouled out with seven points, six rebound and four turnovers. Cal is done making excuses for the talented forward: “No alibis. Please don’t alibi for him. He just got outworked.”
Another player whose effort Cal questioned last night: Kyle Wiltjer. “Figure it out. You either don’t stay in the game or figure it out …You play lower, you play tougher, you do anything you can to stay in the game. Or you accept it and you’re not playing.” As we’ve seen throughout the season, if Kyle’s not making his shots, he is a defensive liability. Cal was visibly frustrated with both Wiltjer and Poythress during postgame remarks, throwing his hands up in disgust more than once.
Is there a Camp Cal refresher course these guys can take before tomorrow?
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Bill Keightley Report : Never to be forgotten.
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