This season, UK Men’s Basketball has taken the term “second half team” to a new level. However, is that something fans should worry about?
Fans were left less than satisfied Wednesday with the lack of aggressiveness from the starting five as the Cats took on Mississippi State. Since Mississippi State is 10th in the SEC, many fans expected the Cats would dominate the Bulldogs the entire game. However, as you know, the Cats fell behind early and took 12 minutes before they tied the game and then took the lead.
Throughout the entire season, the Cats have had issues starting games strong. Here are flow charts from the past four games to prove that:
Although the first half slump has been part of all the games this season, many hoped the 13 days of Camp Cal would fix that issue.
One thing that has been consistent with the team this year; their short-term memory loss. The team seemed to forget about their losses quickly by not letting them affect their performances in the games they had ahead of them, which is great and something a good team should be able to do. However, the memory loss hurts them as well, since they cannot seem to remember what they learned at Camp Cal.
Even Cal said, “We were really rusty. When you watch the tape it is amazing how they revert back.”
A lot of the rustiness could account for the 10 day break in the schedule, as well.
Energy and aggressiveness are key components to defeating teams as the Cats get deeper into SEC play. Every team Kentucky has faced this season has opened with energy Kentucky has been unable to find out of the gate, and this has left Cal worried.
“This is every game now, and it’s the same reason. They out run us, they out work us, they’re more alert to play then we are. And then we kinda kick it in,” he said. “I told them after the game, [do this] against a really good team, and you’ll be down by 20 and you’re not coming back”
Not to worry, however. There are plenty of things that will help the team with their first half woes.
For one, the Cats have a history of playing rusty after a break in the schedule. Lucky for them, their breaks are over for the rest of the season. The upcoming schedule pace should help the Cats stay on track as they progress as a team.
While the scheduling might be out of Cal’s control, there are a couple of things he plans on doing to help make the team better out of the gate.
At his pre-Vanderbilt press conference, Cal said he was thinking about starting different people who understand what he expects from his players. He also stated he was happy with the performance with his bench players more so than the starters.
In his weekly call-in show, Cal said team members need to start thinking differently. Throughout the season the players have been selfish by trying to run down the clock and shooting the ball when they feel most comfortable. Calipari is hoping that by changing that mindset, he will be able to fix the opening jitters.
“My challenge to them now is you’ve gotta think different. When you have the ball think pass and you think score when you don’t have the ball,” he said.
Much of the team’s roster has come from schools where they did not have the talent to pass to, which explains where this bad habit came from. While bad habits might be hard to break, if anyone can break them….it would be Cal.
While it might seem a bit like nit-picking, it is the small technical things like this which divide National Championship teams from all the rest. These small things will help the Cats come out of the gate strong and help them be able to play a full 40 minutes of ball.