No one is harder on Nate Sestina than Nate Sestina. After getting burned on defense the past two games, Kentucky’s fifth-year senior shouldered the blame for the Cats’ woes, specifically letting opponents get easy buckets in the lane.
“I’ve got to be able to guard somebody,” Sestina said. “That’s where a lot of my stuff came with, getting blown by again. I’ve got to work on that. I’ve got to get back in the gym working on defensive slides, get explosion off that, coming to a complete stop, push off, being able to guard somebody. I do play with a lot of energy, I’ve just got to keep my hands up. A lot of those fouls at the end of the game, the guy drove in, I’d get my hands up and try to block at the last second and that late little slide down your hand, that’s a foul every time. So, I’ve got to get my hands up.”
After Evansville’s guards ran around him last week en route to an upset, Sestina went straight to the gym to work on defense. Judging by his remarks, he probably did the same thing last night.
“It was just frustrating. Something I struggle with is moving laterally and I knew that coming into Kentucky in June and I worked my butt off all summer to be able to do it and for the last two games, I haven’t been able to do it and I don’t know what’s going on, so as soon as the game ended, I was back in there doing defensive slides. Made it a point in practice to not get blown by, close out, hand high, move my feet. And again today, I don’t know what it was, just kept getting blown by and that’s on me. It’s not on the coaches. It’s not on my teammates. It’s a personal thing that I have to do and I have to get over in order for us to make big strides moving forward.”
Sestina had eight points and a team-high twelve rebounds last night. In what is a microcosm for Kentucky as a whole, he made all four of his free throws, but was only 2-8 from the floor, 0-3 from the three-point line.
“I have to make shots. Everybody has to make shots, especially when we are open. We practice it all the time. They are rhythm shots. I think guys legs were just tired, and my legs were tired. There isn’t any excuse for missing any open shots, but we will be good.”
Kentucky’s got some major issues right now, many of which boil down to only having seven scholarship players available. A short bench has forced John Calipari to alter his practices and guys are being asked to play way more minutes than usual, which leads to physical and mental fatigue. Sestina played 34 minutes last night — well above his average of 27.7 minutes per game last season at Bucknell — but refused to use that as an excuse.
“It’s just all about me taking it as a personal thing. I cannot get blown by and I have to do a better job; otherwise it’s going to kill me, it’s going to kill the team late in the season, and that’s something I don’t want to do. I don’t want that to be a reason we lose the game.”