After three straight wins, Kentucky is playing its best basketball of the season, which is only making the Cats push themselves harder. Today, Nate Sestina was asked what this team needs to do to take the next step. The wise veteran he is, he started with the man in the mirror.
“Just getting back on transition defense instead of celebrating points. I do it too. You hit a three or something and you want to do something, get the crowd involved, but just hit a shot, get back, sprint back. And then, just communicate everything. Every once in a while, we get caught up in screens, caught up in a switch and one guy didn’t talk through it, so just stuff like that. Other than that, we’re in a pretty good spot right now for January. Plenty of room to improve and a lot of time to do it.”
On ESPN’s broadcast of the Georgia game, Jay Bilas noted the number of times Kentucky got caught watching the basketball instead of going after it. Sestina put his hand up for that one too.
“I think, especially for help-side, like the back-side defense, I got caught doing it too, where I should have been two feet in the paint and I was two steps outside the paint or a foot outside the paint. It was my rotation to go and try to contest the shot. I think that’s just one thing that — you get caught up in the game or you’re so worried about your guy — at least for me. I was so worried about letting a three get off that I was kind of hugging my guy a little bit and I should have been over. I’ve got to trust help-side defense. That’s just one thing that I know I’m working on it and I know Immanuel’s been talking to me about it. ‘You’ve got to trust it.’ I’ve got to go help and he drops down and we rotate out and just play basketball as a team.”
There is plenty of work to be done before March, but given how far Kentucky has come since November, Sestina is encouraged.
“It’s pretty much night and day,” Sestina said. “We play defense much better for 40 minutes. We’re kind of a hard-nosed team. We’re starting to click offensively and mesh well offensively. Get stops. Guys are communicating. When we come together in the huddle, it’s not just one guy talking, everybody is talking. Talking about what they see, what we can do to get better. I think we’ve made big strides in that and, moving forward, will be even better.”