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Could Kentucky’s shooting woes be solved with a single word?

Following Kentucky’s first loss in Las Vegas, John Calipari and his players discussed the team’s shooting woes. Ashton Hagans said the team hadn’t “100 percent” found their offensive identity, while Coach Calipari said “I don’t have the answer. I wish I did.”

After the Cats’ second loss in Las Vegas, it seems Calipari has come up with some answers. The solution? It could start with a single word.

“I was trying to get them to just say one word in your mind when you go to shoot it – straight, straight, straight,” Calipari said. “Because if you’re thinking ‘straight,’ you can’t think ‘I’m going to miss this, too.'”

Calipari went on to say it doesn’t have to be the word “straight,” specifically. It can be any word that gets that individual player in the right mindset to make shots – “Maybe it was a high school team you got 40 against. [Say] ‘Saint Alysosis’ and then shoot it,” Cal suggested. The important thing is simply getting in the frame of mind to put the basketball through the hoop, even if the first few shots didn’t quite hit the mark.

“Because of the mentality of shooting, you cannot be afraid if you miss one or two, then pass on the next three, because you kill your team,” Calipari said. “But if I miss five in a row I’m embarrassed. Excuse me? Get in the gym then. The one way [to get better] is to get in the gym and master your craft.”

Even when he suggests his players need to get in the gym, Kentucky’s head coach isn’t implying they aren’t already putting up enough shots in practice. In fact, Calipari said “we made 50 threes” in practice on Saturday. Unfortunately, his team was far from that mark once it actually counted. Against Ohio State, the Cats were 7-23 (30 percent) from behind-the-arc, which – although still pretty average – was a vast improvement from their 2-17 (11 percent) outing against Utah earlier in the week.

Still, a lot of that improvement can only be attributed to Nate Sestina’s hot hand, as he finished with five successful three-pointers against the buckeyes. Players not named Nate Sestina (Hagans, Maxey, Quickley, Whitney and Juzang, to be exact) were still 2-15 (13 percent) from deep.

The Cats shot slightly more “straight” from the field against OSU than they did against Utah, connecting on 42 percent of their field goals against the Buckeyes compared to 41 percent against the Utes. When asked about the team’s necessary improvements, the Cats’ point guard didn’t call out shooting specifically, but sharing the ball is definitely a big part of it.

“I would just say just coming together more, having each other’s back more, helping each other out,” Ashton Hagans said of the team’s top priority right now. “But other than that, I think we’re getting it. Everyone’s getting their role coming into it, but obviously also we’ve just got to start sharing the ball. That comes with getting closer on and off the court. But it’s just small things right now.”

One of those “small” things Calipari is honing in on now is creating – and emphasizing – more assists. While the Cats recorded 17 Saturday night, Coach Cal pointed out “there could have been three more assists in the last four minutes… And it would have been, like, a good night.”

“But I’m not spending much time on it. We’re just taking a lot of shots and we chart every shot,” Calipari added. “And at some point you say: fall back on your training. You made 60 in five minutes; you made 67 in five minutes [in practice]. You can’t make them when you’re wide open? But I think I’ve got a good shooting team. Thank goodness for Nate today.”

If the Cats want to keep improving, now and come late February and early March, they’ll be thankful for Sestina’s long-range abilities. But they’ll also need to get a few more “straight” shots from the rest of the roster, too.

Article written by Maggie Davis

I love sports, podcasts, long walks on the beach and Twitter (@MaggieDavisKSR)

42 Comments for Could Kentucky’s shooting woes be solved with a single word?

  1. Thetruthshallsetbennyfree
    1:11 pm December 22, 2019 Permalink

    Accountability is the single word he’s looking for. If he’d accept a loss or 2 by benching a player/s who won’t go into the gym to “master his craft” then they’d realise they’re not the superstars they are In their head and try harder.

    • syrin23
      5:36 pm December 22, 2019 Permalink

      Maybe. Look at the shots. Maxey is almost NEVER square to the basket with one foot in front of the other causing him to be twisted slightly. Plus, Maxey shoots a very flat shot which leads to a lower shooting percentage. The worst of his sins is shot selection. He seems to think the three point line is four feet deeper than the line actually is. if moving the line back 1.5 feet has lowered accuracy, why does he voluntarily move it back 5.5 feet? Stupid. Quickley seems to rush his shot trying to get it out of his hands as fast as possible. Hagans just is a bad shot. He’s square to the basket, nice form, no rush, and misses. He split a double team yesterday, got into the paint and had a WIDE open ten foot jumper and shot an air ball. How? How does a five star basketball player shoot an air ball uncontested from 10 feet? Our “best” shooter with the lowest shooting percentage seems to also rush his shot, and consistently leaves the shot short. Whitney has no touch or feel for his shot. He misses FT’s by two feet or more. He has no touch whatsoever. Sestina has good form, squares to the basket, takes quality shots, has good arch, and has a pure stroke. Ultimately this comes down to coaching. Players are used to being benched for missing shots even if they took WIDE open shots, the kind you HAVE to take to help your team out. That leads to tension which leads to more misses. Honestly, if it is in their head, the way to fix this is to MAKE them take 40 threes in one game against a lesser opponent meaning there is no fear of being benched for shooting the shot which means getting a tone of in game looks and shots from that distance so it becomes and feels natural.

      By the way, I see the fan base is waking up to the fact Cal has massively under achieved for years now and is terrible at in gaming coaching. The Cal felators here targeted Mash and me for making this point when it was obvious as could be 4-5 years ago. Scahdenfruede to all you.

    • CrystalBall
      6:03 pm December 22, 2019 Permalink

      syrin23. Agree with you about Maxey. But remember JJ Reddick at Duke. His shooting motion was very similar and he was an excellent three point shooter. Sure wish he would shoot from about two steps closer. Made that one against MSU, makes him think he can make them all.

    • Thetruthshallsetbennyfree
      7:43 pm December 22, 2019 Permalink

      Actually the only reason I jumped on anyone who said something about Cal was because in one sentence they would bash Cal but act like Stoops was the next Sabin after losing to a team he was dominating until he let off the gas. In Stoops defense he seems to have learned his lesson.

    • runningunnin.454
      1:39 pm December 23, 2019 Permalink

      Hey Genius, fellator has two ‘L” s in it.

  2. VirginiaCat
    1:20 pm December 22, 2019 Permalink

    That’s the solution, think of the word “straight.” That’s worth every penny of $10 million.

  3. BigBlueFoo42777
    1:27 pm December 22, 2019 Permalink

    20 wins this year looks like a possibility. The most prestigious basketball program in the world is depending on a grad transfer from Bucknell to win games. Say that out loud without laughing if you can. I love this program but I have to think everything that’s going on falls in the coaches lap from the recruiting process to game preparation thus far has been a complete failure. I dont see our biggs improving that much come march and without a inside presence we have no hope of a successful season. But there’s always next year. Go cats

  4. JT55
    1:47 pm December 22, 2019 Permalink

    He is simply not a good in game coach. When he doesn’t have an overwhelming talent advantage, his true coaching colors show.

  5. VirginiaCat
    3:08 pm December 22, 2019 Permalink

    I think you underestimate Cal. It takes a lot of effort to lose to a team like the Evansville Purple Aces, a squad that subsequently lost to Jacksonville State by 26 points, or Utah, another unranked team that lost to San Diego State yesterday by 28 points. Yes, I know…upsets happen…I agree, but it seems that lately we are taking beatings instead of administering them.

    • syrin23
      5:41 pm December 22, 2019 Permalink

      Utah is a decent team. Quality shooters, well coached. Have you watched SDSU? I have. They have three lights out shooters, and FOUR players who are 6’10″+, are athletic and run the floor. The are undefeated and ranked in the top twenty. Teams tend to lose right after beating us since all their energy and emotion went into beating us. There is no dominant team right now. Gonzaga looks great, but they always do then lose in the tourney. If this team shoots “whopping” 31% from beyond the arc, they could win it all.

  6. Irish son
    3:11 pm December 22, 2019 Permalink

    I wish my job paid me $10 million a year to say I don’t know what i’m doing

  7. CJKAssassin123
    3:13 pm December 22, 2019 Permalink

    Cal you need a word for them to use how about Beef. Ballance,Eyes, Elbow’s Follow through!!!

    • syrin23
      5:43 pm December 22, 2019 Permalink

      This is 100% true for Maxey.

      I would use Beefs with the S being “Selection”. A shot four feet behind the line 10 seconds into the offense is garbage and should be a benching whether he makes it or not.

  8. bosch8184
    3:45 pm December 22, 2019 Permalink

    Always a gimmick with our $10M a year salesman. “My team is young.” “I like my team.” “We didn’t fight.” “Players first program.”

  9. eyebleedblue
    5:58 pm December 22, 2019 Permalink

    Maxey and Hagans don’t have pretty shots.
    Quickley has to have space to shoot and he can’t get it on his own.
    Sestina and Juzang are their best hope for 3s. EJ should be getting 15-20 foot looks consistently a la Darius Miller .

  10. BluKudzu
    6:53 pm December 22, 2019 Permalink

    One word – Recruiting.

  11. timer2
    7:28 pm December 22, 2019 Permalink

    The word is “care.” They don’t care and it shows.

    • VirginiaCat
      7:45 pm December 22, 2019 Permalink

      In fairness, they care. They don’t bleed blue like in the past, but they put forth a lot of effort yesterday and want to win.

    • syrin23
      8:32 pm December 22, 2019 Permalink

      Not true. The effort is there (except for Richards sometimes), they are just unskilled. EJ hasn’t learned in two years to stop jumping on every pump fake, and not to reach in and swipe at anyone shooting.

  12. kjd
    8:47 pm December 22, 2019 Permalink

    One word: recruiting. So maybe next year shooting will improve. Remember one word: recruiting.

  13. MrFlip41129
    10:24 pm December 22, 2019 Permalink

    Love these Cats, and 100% trust in Cal!! These Boys will get it together.

  14. wadmalawcat
    10:37 pm December 22, 2019 Permalink

    In the past two years we have had arguably two of our most embarrassing losses, the beatdown against Duke and a loss at home, while ranked #1, against Evansville. We have never lost in Las Vegas, until the past two games. Other five star talent elsewhere seem to be contributing, not ours. Not a decent big man recruit since KAT. Horrible basketball to watch early, then we think they’ve figured it out only to fizzle out in the elite eight. We ran Tubby out of here for the very same reason and he wasn’t making that kind of money. The guy is too stubborn to change his style. Coming down the stretch against Utah and Ohio St., nothing but chucking(and that’s what they’re doing) threes. Oh by the way, we’re very near the worst in the country at shooting threes in case Cal didn’t know. We’re young, his fault. We’ve had a couple injuries so we don’t have enough players to field a scrimmage in practice, his fault. I’m done with the Cal experiment, was really hoping he stuck to his 10 year plan. Been robbing us for four years. Time to move on from Cliche Man.

    • CJKAssassin123
      9:08 am December 23, 2019 Permalink

      Yeah who do you replace him with? Seriously list some names of coaches? Your the expert right?

    • You Wish
      12:51 am December 24, 2019 Permalink

      He’s more of an expert than you are at recruiting. What are at now 10%. The second you said I’m hearing he’s leaning towards LSU I knew we had him.

  15. CrystalBall
    11:01 pm December 22, 2019 Permalink

    We didn’t run Tubby out. His contract was up and he accepted an offer from Minnesota.
    He stayed here just long enough to get his million dollar bonus. He had a lot of fans who wanted him to stay.

    • ScoggDog
      6:54 am December 23, 2019 Permalink

      This divorce is going to make the last couple of Tubby years look pretty good by comparison. It’s going to get worse. It has to.

    • wadmalawcat
      7:06 am December 23, 2019 Permalink

      Don’t be naive. We started grumblings, much like now, a couple years before he accepted the Minnesota job. We gave him the name Ten loss Tubby and most wanted him gone and he knew it. Feels much the same to me.

  16. CahillsCrossingNT
    5:36 am December 23, 2019 Permalink

    This can’t be solved unfortunately. They will be lucky to make the NCAA Tournament.

  17. dave1964
    7:37 am December 23, 2019 Permalink

    Lord Tubby geeks really.

    • jim tom
      8:19 am December 23, 2019 Permalink

      Just as many titles has Pope Cal. I’m over him and this team

  18. theoph
    8:26 am December 23, 2019 Permalink

    I think the word Cal should be using is “practice.”

  19. makeitstop
    8:55 am December 23, 2019 Permalink

    There is no sense in arguing with the 12 people in the state who don’t think Cal can coach. It’s futile. Like “don’t bother me with facts, my mind’s made up.” Fact is that it’s the most successful program in the country the last decade. Team of the decade. One guy, a certain roofer, cost them 2 banners. Not sure they would’ve won’t it all on 2017 but they were going to the FF until he intervened. Nothing Cal can do to fix that. Last year they go to the FF if they hit FTs. ANY FTs. He can’t shoot for them and guys who normally hit didn’t. We have injuries in practice? It’s Cal’s fault? Get outta here. That said, the results aren’t what they were prior to 2015. After that, the coaching staff got re-shuffled. U don’t have to throw the baby out with the bath water. If u can “tweak” ur offense every year maybe u should “tweak” ur staff too to get just a little more out of them bc while missing FT and getting hurt aren’t coaching, rebounding position, rebounding with two hands, squaring up to shoot, balance etc and shot selection ARE and it’s not the head coach, who has a program to run, it’s the assistants. That bench needs tweaking now.

    • VirginiaCat
      9:54 am December 23, 2019 Permalink

      Twelve people in the state who don’t think Cal can coach? Add a bunch of zeros. I run into a bunch of Cat fans on a daily basis and, unsolicited, they express concerns that the program has been moving in the wrong direction in recent years.

    • bluebew
      11:54 am December 23, 2019 Permalink

      And in what has to be the most ironic facet of this under-performing troupe, they CAN hit FTs – at least overall as a team. It’s all the other “noise” they’re struggling at: Shooting, defending, rebounding, etc.

  20. EdC
    9:10 am December 23, 2019 Permalink

    LOL at him saying the team made 50 3s in practice as if that means ANYTHING. They were on pace to make 50 3s in th OH St. game if they had shot 165 times.

  21. Rod Crandler
    9:14 am December 23, 2019 Permalink

    …or we could run an offensive set that actually gets the ball to a set three point shooter instead of driving into the lane one on three hoping the refs blow the whistle when you throw up an off balance toss at the basket.

  22. loservilletard
    9:41 am December 23, 2019 Permalink

    the one word should be “practice” and they should be at the gym hour upon hours until they learn to hit a shot.

  23. bluebew
    11:55 am December 23, 2019 Permalink

    I think that one word is: Strategery