Tony Barbee met with the media this morning to preview tomorrow’s game vs. Mississippi State in Starkville. Jack already brought you some of his comments about how the team’s buying in on defense, but there are a few leftovers worth sharing.
Trap game? “Not with this team”
With big games looming against LSU and Tennessee, could Kentucky overlook a team they’ve already beaten by 21 points?
“I don’t think so. I’ve heard a couple of times trap games and this and that. Not with this team. This team is focused. I mean, you see it every day in practice. Practices are so competitive that you can’t expect a letdown in the games. These guys have been practicing, going after each other, competing against each other, they’re having fun together, and so, it doesn’t matter the opponent on the floor, they’re going to come to play every night.”
Someone go knock on wood because that makes me nervous.
Rim protection is coming along
One thing this team needs to make a deep run in the tournament is rim protection. The Cats have made strides in that area, tying a season-high of eight blocks vs. Mississippi State last month and again vs. Kansas, and Barbee feels confident they’ll only get better as time goes on.
“We’ve got it in spots. Again, you see the emergence of EJ (Montgomery) coming along, and he’s provided some shot blocking. Nick (Richards) is getting a better understanding for the timing of it. Those are two guys that are good shot blockers. You have PJ (Washington) with his length is a good shot blocker when he needs to be, and Reid (Travis) is the ultimate rim protector because he just does a great job of the vertical jump, which you can be inside that circle as a secondary defender and as the driver comes at you and as big and as barrel-chested as he is, and he jumps us vertical and chest at the guy trying to lay the ball in. It’s not a foul and it causes a lot of misses. Even though we don’t block shots like Karl Towns, Anthony Davis and those guys, we do have some significant amount of rim protectors in the paint.”
Fewer “let the other team back in it” plays
A few weeks ago, Kentucky was still giving the other team chances to get back in the game, but as time goes on, the number of errors and lapses is decreasing.
“Yeah, it has shrunk, it has shrunk. Again, it’s sometimes its playing through fatigue. When guys get tired late in games you can have some mental errors and subbing yourself early in the game and different things. It proves in practice that we do so many situations in practice, and then they see so many different situations in games now that they are getting used to playing in those moments.”
Mississippi State’s going to be “desperate”
Mississippi State has been ranked for most of the season, but fell out of the AP Top 25 on Monday and then lost a heartbreaker to LSU on Wednesday. Barbee said he expects the Bulldogs to be desperate for a win over the Cats to get back on track.
“You know, they are going to be desperate. They are as talented and as big, and as physical and talented on the perimeter as any team in the league. That probably stung giving that one away on their home court, so it’s going to be obviously a sold-out arena like we face everywhere and our guys are getting used to playing in those kinds of environments on the road. We’re going to come out and give them our best and I’m sure they’re going to do the same as us.”
He didn’t see Calipari’s sideline dance on Tuesday
On Tuesday night, Calipari had us all laughing when he did this shuffle to show Nick Richards what he should have been doing on defense. The moment went viral, but Barbee claims he didn’t see it.
Here you go, Coach:
What was Cal trying to show Nick? Reporters asked him during player interviews.
“He was just trying to get across that I should have done my work early before I caught that foul even though I didn’t think it was a foul.”
How did he keep a straight face?
“I really wanted to smile but I knew I couldn’t because he would have got mad.”
Now there’s a sophomore.