On Saturday night against Auburn, Kentucky forward Nate Sestina was the lone player on the roster without a basket, finishing the loss with zero points on 0-3 shooting to go with just one rebound and one block in 18 minutes.
To make matters worse, the Bucknell graduate transfer also finished with a team-low plus-minus of minus-21, meaning the Tigers outscored the Wildcats by a whopping 21 points in the 18 minutes he saw action.
While the advanced numbers seem to indicate Sestina has been solid on the floor this season – he has the highest offensive rating (117.6 points scored/produced per 100 possessions) and lowest defensive rating (94.8 points allowed per 100 possessions) of his five-year career – but it’s no secret his play, especially on defense, has left plenty to be desired in recent weeks.
This afternoon during his pregame press conference to preview Mississippi State, Kentucky associate head coach Kenny Payne came out rather bluntly to describe Sestina’s play over the last several games and what they need from the 6-foot-9 big man moving forward.
“We need Nate Sestina to play better,” Payne said matter-of-factly.
How does he do that? The UK assistant said the Emporium, PA native simply needs to “relax and play hard,” which is exactly what he did at Bucknell before transferring to Kentucky this year.
“We need him to relax and play hard,” Payne said. “The things that he did before he got here – the fight, the toughness, the energy, the effort to get things done – we need that.”
While he’s not the first or second option in the frontcourt, Payne said this team desperately needs Sestina to play well if they want to reach their goals to close out the season.
“This team sorely needs him. And he’s trying,” Payne said. “We need more.”