For his weekly look at the SEC, Jason King over at Yahoo Sports/Rivals checks in with the Cats, who credits Kentucky’s tough performance against Tennessee to boxing sessions during practice.
Instead of shooting free throws and running plays, some of the team’s practice time was spent throwing haymakers into punching bags that were stationed on the court.
“It was fun,” Harrellson said. “It got us loose, and I think it got our mindset different.”
That was certainly Calipari’s goal.
Kentucky is one of the more talented teams in the country with future pros such as freshmen Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb. More than once this season, though, Calipari has questioned his players’ fire and toughness.
Calipari said it was one of the key issues in Saturday’s overtime loss at Florida. Three days later — after only a few sessions with the boxing gloves — Calipari’s squad played with a different mentality in Tuesday’s 73-61 victory over Tennessee.
“You’ve got to be rough,” Calipari said he told his team. “You’ve got to be willing to fight.”
Calipari’s ploy worked, as the undersized Wildcats outrebounded Tennessee 38-28 in a game it led by as many as 19 points.
“It made us tougher,” guard DeAndre Liggins said of the boxing. “We’re just going to try to continue to be tough and make plays down the stretch like we did [against Tennessee]. We need to do it on the road.”
Indeed, even though the Wildcats (5-4) trail Florida (8-2) in the league standings, there is still plenty of time to go on a run and win the East division title. To do that, though, Kentucky will have to learn to win away from Rupp Arena. Calipari’s squad is 1-4 in conference road games — and it’s not like the schedule is going to get any easier. The Wildcats take on No. 23 Vanderbilt in Nashville on Saturday.
Hopefully Calipari will break out the boxing gloves a few more times between now and then. Hey, it worked before.
“I showed them how to box, how to jab,” Calipari said. “I wrote on the board before the game, ‘Refuse to Lose.’ It’s that time of the year. Refuse to lose. Figure out a way.”
So “Refuse to Lose” is the team motto again? Good…I still have the tshirt.