John Calipari met with the media this afternoon to give his thoughts on the Cats’ win over Mississippi State and Saturday’s game against Vandy. Cal turned the postgame press conference duties to John Robic last night while he went to the hospital to be with his son Brad, who had ACL surgery earlier this week, so it’s the first time we’ve heard what he thought about the Cats’ tale of two halves. Here are some quick hitters:
1. Cal may shake up the starting lineup after another slow start
In what is becoming a troubling pattern, the Cats got off to another slow start against Mississippi State, letting the Bulldogs storm out to a 12-2 lead. Like Robic, Cal thinks they were rusty, and reverted to bad habits: “We were really rusty, and when you watch the tape, it’s amazing how they revert.” He emphasized the importance of his players dealing with the “everyone’s Super Bowl” mentality from opposing teams and stepping up to match the intensity.
Cal is so worried about the slow starts that he’s thinking of shaking up the starting lineup: “You know, maybe I’ve gotta start different people who understand it. But this is like every game now.” Minutes later, Cal stepped back a bit from that statement. “Right now, I look at it and say ‘hey, let me ride this a little bit'” because he’s happy with the production he’s getting from his bench.
2. Dakari was great, but those free throws…
Cal raved about Dakari Johnson’s performance last night (8 points in 8 minutes), but said that in order to play him more, Dakari has to hit at least some free throws (he missed both yesterday): “You gotta be able to get up there–and the same with Willie–you don’t have to make them all, you just can’t miss them all.”
3. Everyone’s happy about Alex’s play
Alex Poythress was a beast last night. According to Joe Dean Jr., he set a record for dunks (on January 8th, 2014 in Rupp Arena, at least). Cal joined the chorus of praise for Alex’s play, attributing it to a change in mentality: “Yeah. I love it. Nothing makes me happier. And again, it took him awhile to accept he had to change.” However, he wants more jumpers and a lethal jump hook from Alex that he apparently hits all the time in practice, but has yet to bring to Rupp Arena.
4. Too many threes
The Cats were 4-20 from behind the arc last night, and Cal said they shot so many threes because they were “settling”: “But we started the game shooting seven threes. Now, what do you think one of our weakest areas is? So why would you start the game shooting ‘em? Because it’s easier than being down and ready and driving the ball.” In the second half, if a player shot a three without driving the middle or to the post, he took them out.
5. Cal couldn’t care less if Vandy has only seven scholarship players
The best line from the whole press conference came when someone asked Cal’s thoughts on Vandy being down to only seven scholarship players:
“Stop, I don’t want to hear it. I had seven last year. I could(n’t) care less and you know everyone felt sorry for us.”
Baha. I love this man.