Two Kentucky teams showed up to Rupp Arena on Tuesday night for the game against Samford. The first team came out like a team pissed off after losing two consecutive games last week and dropping out of the rankings for the first time under John Calipari. That team went on an 11-0 run and a 12-0 run in the first half and took a 45-14 lead into the locker room at halftime. The second Kentucky team, however, was quite the opposite. That team allowed 42 points in the second half and looked more like the team we saw against Notre Dame and Baylor. That team, the second half team, is the one that had John Calipari very frustrated in the postgame press conference. Let me tell you about it…
Coach Cal’s message was very clear after the game: His team is out of shape. Cal said it over and over and over and over again. It was his response to almost every question from the room full of Lexington’s finest media members. “We must not be in shape,” he said of Kentucky’s collapse in the second half. “I guess they’re not in shape,” he said of his team’s mediocre point guard play. “I can’t think of any other reason you’d come out in the second half and not play.”
It sounds like it’s going to be a tough three weeks for the basketball team. They’ll be off Wednesday and then Cal plans to run them to death, beginning Thursday morning. The team will have conditioning every morning at 7:00 a.m. for the next three weeks, followed by the regular two-hour practice in the afternoon.
“We’re going to be the most in-shape team in the next three weeks,” he said. “They don’t have a whole lot of choices here.”
Cal will have Rock Oliver join him in the gym every morning to push the players through 20 to 30 minutes of running. He said their heart rates will be high; not like 120, like 170 or 180.
“This is what they need,” he said. “They’re not in shape.”
The team’s new morning routine should get them ready for Camp Cal in a few weeks. Cal smiled when talking about his plans for Christmas break. “No classes, no time frame, like three practices a day. Conditioning in the morning, practice in the afternoon, and come back at night time.”
I almost feel bad for the guys. Cal is way too excited about pushing them.
Oh, there’s more… “If they play a full game, both halves, maybe we won’t condition. But I don’t think they can. We have three guys who, literally, can’t play three minutes at a time.”
Enough with conditioning hell; there were some bright spots from the evening. One thing that stands out is Kentucky’s ability to finish at the rim, specifically Nerlens Noel. After missing 11 of his 14 shot attempts on Saturday, Nerlens responded with a 6-for-8 night against Samford. He also added five blocks — Why did they keep challenging him?! — and six rebounds in 25 minutes. There were some floor burns in there, too. Good job. Good effort.
Twitterless Willie Cauley-Stein also played well and recorded his first career double-double. Calipari wasn’t too impressed with Willie in the first half — he said the bench went 0-for-9 before halftime — but liked the way Willie battled in the second half when virtually no one else was.
Cauley-Stein agreed with what Calipari said after the game, that the team lacked energy. He said he’s looking forward to the impending three weeks of conditioning.
“If you dread them, then they are going to be worse,” he told reporters. “You have to approach it like it’s going to help you. A lot of guys don’t do that. You approach it like it’s going to make us better and three weeks it’s going to be crazy how good we are. If you approach it in a good way then it is going to be a good outcome.”
Kyle Wiltjer Slump Watch: Wiltjer hit just one of his five three-point attempts, but he made up for it with seven rebounds and four assists without turning the ball over. His defense? It is what it is.
Fans hoped to see more Ryan Harrow on Tuesday night, and they did, but Jarrod Polson was the first off the bench to run the point. You can read into that however you’d like. The two played equal minutes (21 each) and even shared the court at times in Calipari’s new fascination with a smaller lineup. Neither showed signs of moving up or down the proverbial totem pole, though.
Calipari used Polson and Wiltjer as examples of his disappointment in this team’s work ethic. He said the two “veterans” were in the gym with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Davis all the time last season, but haven’t been in there once this year. Maybe it’s time we hang that WWMKGD banner outside the Craft Center.
The Archie Goodwin/Alex Poythress Show returned on Tuesday night after a two-game hiatus; the two combined for 34 points. After the game, Poythress said, “I see us getting better each and every day. If we continue to get better every day we will be fine at the end of the road.”
Samford head coach Ben Seltzer caused a stir during the game when WKYT’s Steve Moss overheard him say, “This is the worst Kentucky team I’ve ever seen.” He was asked about that comment after the game, of course, and he answered as well as he could have. Seltzer called it a motivational tool for his players and it wasn’t meant for outside ears. He wanted his guys to not be so afraid of Kentucky and “they’re human, just like you.” The young coach said he’ll have to do better about watching what he says, especially when he’s in Kentucky. “You guys love Kentucky here.”
Nothing to see here, folks. No drama.
Calipari also addressed the comment from Seltzer: “I haven’t seen every Kentucky team but I can’t imagine there weren’t at least a few more worse than us.”
Quote scoreboard from the press conference:
“I like my team.” — 2
“We’re still not very good.” — 2
“Everyone’s Super Bowl.” — 1
That’ll do it for now.