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The Leach Report: Louisville

From Tom Leach, the voice of the Wildcats…


How about some props for the head coach in Kentucky’s 73-66 win over Louisville?

Players win games but it’s the coach’s job to put them in the best position to succeed, both strategically and mentally, and I think John Calipari did some of his best work both within the game and leading up to it.

On the court, Calipari had to dramatically alter his gameplan after losing a player who scored 17 points in the first half.  And since Julius Randle’s cramping issue didn’t surface until early in the second half, Calipari did not have the luxury of making those adjustments during a halftime break.  And Cal kept his team focused on how to win the game without the big man in the middle.

Andrew Harrison told reporters after the game that “coach didn’t really talk about it (Randle).  He just coached the game.”  And so his players just played the game to win it, rather than worry about the impact of losing it.

Louisville made six of its first 11 second-half shots to wipe out a seven-point UK lead.  But Kentucky played its best defense of the season, forcing the Cardinals to miss 14 of their final 17 shots.  In the metric of efficiency, holding an opponent under one point-per-possession is a job well done.  For the first time in a matchup with a ranked opponent this season, the Wildcats hit that mark, limiting UofL to 0.94 points-per-possession (and Louisville was the nation’s top-ranked team in offensive efficiency going into this game).

Kentucky had given up 80 or more points in back-to-back games and since Calipari’s second season at UMass in 1990, he’s only had one team give up 80-plus in THREE consecutive games.  John Calipari’s best teams have been able to get stops down the stretch of close games and this UK team finally showed an ability to do that in a big game.  That’s a very important breakthrough.

Now, let’s look at how Calipari helped his team win this game before it was played.

Despite the high stakes and the looming BBN panic over a potential fourth straight loss to a ranked foe, Calipari did not break routine.  He gave his players time off for Christmas as he always has done.  During shootaround Saturday morning, after a session of working against Louisville’s full court press schemes, Calipari told his players they couldn’t be more prepared to attack it if they had two more weeks of practice.  (And against a team ranked second in the nation in the percentage of possessions on which it forces a turnover, UK gave the ball away only 11 times, two fewer than Louisville).

If Kentucky makes it to the national title game, it will be the second-youngest team ever to do that and yet Calipari has put them through a schedule ranked the 18th-toughst in the nation (compared to Louisville’s, which was ranked 150th coming into o this matchup).  Kentucky was younger, yes, but it was battle-tested, which helped negate any advantage the Cards had with their experience.

The Cats aren’t “there” yet.  Calipari often talked about “demonstrated performance” and UK must still show this kind of mental toughness away from Rupp Arena.  But this was a very good win over a good team and let’s see how they build from it.

–listen to Tom each weekday morning at 9:06am eastern on “The Leach Report” radio network

–check out for more of Tom’s coverage of the Cats and follow Tom on Twitter @tomleachky and @leachreport + via Facebook for “The Leach Report”

Article written by Ally Tucker

I once successfully requested "The Wobble" to be played 6 times at one wedding.

9 Comments for The Leach Report: Louisville

  1. $
    5:47 pm December 29, 2013 Permalink

    2 things for leach:

    1) Louisville aint a good team.

    2) you are a FAT dude.

    • 2 Things for You
      7:19 pm December 29, 2013 Permalink

      1) You are a Tool
      2) You ain’t got sense

  2. bluegrass rebel
    6:26 pm December 29, 2013 Permalink

    Touchdown green eyes! Great to see RC smile after the td.

  3. BravoBigBlue
    6:34 pm December 29, 2013 Permalink

    Tom is a total class act. And he shows it here taking up for Cal. I certainly don’t have a problem with that. But I will say that Cal is deserving of much of the criticism he has gotten both last year and this year. His mouth is his worst enemy. Shut up and coach your team, Cal. That’s what you’re getting $4 Mil per year to do. At some point, the coach has to be held accountable when his players aren’t “getting it”. Last year was a total fiasco. This season has been less than stellar. This was a good win for the Cats. Let’s let the season unfold before we elevate Cal to genius.

    • 2mites
      7:16 pm December 29, 2013 Permalink

      I can only assume that you did not watch the second half of the UL game or you would have seen how this team responded without Randle. That my friend is coaching. Say all you want but the Cats are just missed FTs away from being undefeated. They may have played badly in the loses but the opposition did also. That is what a lot of people overlook. Cats only lost those at the line not from bad coaching.

  4. Daniel
    7:06 pm December 29, 2013 Permalink

    I’m excited about this team

  5. Shelbyjoe
    7:08 pm December 29, 2013 Permalink

    Cal is 10-3 against a VERY tough schedule with the youngest team in the nation. If we were 3-10, then you would have a point #3. But you don’t. Cal has said all season that this team has. LOT to learn.

    #1, you are a POS. Tom Leach has more class than you can fathom.

  6. 2mites
    7:27 pm December 29, 2013 Permalink

    The best thing that happened to the Cats in this game is winning without Randle in the second half. These young, very young, players learned what team ball is. The guard play by the Harrison’s and Hawkins was stellar. The Cards had no way to keep our guards out of the lane and their size I think really hurt them. Going forward this team will be dangerous to defend and the Cats size makes them a defensive nightmare for opponents. Best of all it only gets better every game now.

  7. Bec
    8:56 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

    I love the unguarded look of hate and jealousy on Richard Pitino’s face. What a sad family.