Coach Cal didn’t sound good this morning. His voice was gruff and he sounded like he hasn’t slept since the Georgia game. So, it wasn’t surprising that when he was asked about if his team was deflated by the Kanter ruling prior to their game in Athens, he offered some of the criticism he said last week is made public for his team to see. As tends to be the case with Kentucky’s head man, he didn’t speak to X’s and O’s or put specific aspects of the game into his reasoning as to why his team lost. After giving tons of credit to the Bulldogs for both out-playing and out-coaching the Cats Saturday, Cal identified what he thinks is his team’s biggest issue at the moment.
Calipari said that his team is not playing what he called “committed” when they’re on the floor. He said that the team met last night and he stressed the importance of playing committed and not being content with their performance to this point or with the numbers they’re putting up in the game. He said that his players have started to develop that complacency with their minutes and their scoring and it was on display against Georgia as the Bulldogs turned up the intensity at the end when they smelled the blood and Kentucky never found fire to match it. He stressed last night that they need to find that accountability to each other and commit to their teammates on a nightly basis and, right now, too many guys are happy with their stats and their playing time. According to Cal, that attitude caused defensive breakdowns and allowed Georgia to get four or five dunks and layups after the Cats climbed back into the game.
Later in the response, though, Cal dug a little deeper and subtly singled out DeAndre Liggins and Darius Miller as two players who need to step it up in that regard. Cal expressed his displeasure in his team failing to huddle together down the stretch during stoppages in play and said that there were “kids that were 2-9 and 2-11 and worried more about how they looked” than committing to their teammates. Miller’s play has been up-and-down for two years under Calipari and he spends as much time commenting on Miller publicly as anyone on the team. Liggins, however, has always seemed to earn the coach’s praise, but is shooting 5-23 (22%) from the field in the last two games and isn’t giving the production that the team needs from him.
It’s obviously not a point lost on Calipari, who went on to say that “If I had more guys, there are guys that wouldn’t be getting as much playing time” before adding that the Cats are starting guys that “don’t need to start”. After playing a different card just a week ago and talking about how the four non-rotation guys are going to get a chance to crack the rotation if they improve individually, it seems that Calipari is reaching a point of frustration. Whether or not this translates to improved playing time for the quartet that hasn’t seemed to be ready to play remains to be seen. But, Calipari held no punches when talking about how his team needs to “commit” itself to each other for the remainder of the league play.
And someone give Coach a Halls.