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What was Calipari’s message to the bigs after Saturday?

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Kentucky’s loss to Vanderbilt Saturday lies largely on the shoulders of the frontcourt. Marcus Lee, Alex Poythress, Isaac Humphries, and Skal Labissiere combined for 9 points, 11 rebounds, and 14 fouls vs. Vandy, unacceptable numbers that had John Calipari very discouraged after the game. When asked about the bigs not contributing enough, Cal quipped, “I don’t think that’s true. I don’t think they contributed anything.” Ouch.

After a day of reflection, Calipari said he sat down with his bigs and told them “assert yourself and insert yourself in how we’re playing”:

“We’ve got some guys that we have to help them build confidence. Some if it’s just teaching them how to assert themselves,” Cal said. “I told the big guys that, I said, you’ve got to figure out ways as we’re playing, whether you can post, whether you can get it in transition, you’ve got to assert yourself and insert yourself in how we’re playing. So we’re talking about it and trying to help them through that.”

The most troubling thing to me? Calipari’s still having to build confidence in players who have been here three or four years.

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

24 Comments for What was Calipari’s message to the bigs after Saturday?



  1. theWilkman
    12:23 pm February 29, 2016 Permalink

    At this point, Poythress and Lee are what they are – complimentary pieces. They are nice bench players that you can insert for a boost, but if you have to rely on them as your main frontcourt, their inconsistency will lose you games. I already knew this was the case for Poythress, I was hoping we’d see Lee take the next step this season. I hate playing the “if this player had stayed” game but man…we need Dakari.

    In retrospect, Humphries should’ve been getting all of Skal’s minutes this season. He still has a lot of potential but is too green to rely on this far in the season.



    • A_Blue_Wildcat
      1:01 pm February 29, 2016 Permalink

      Biggest issue with Humphries right now is how unathletic he is. It showed against Vandy on every pick and roll and every time he switched. He needs a full offseason to really get in better shape. Once that happens I think he’ll be a good big man.



    • somerset bill
      1:19 pm February 29, 2016 Permalink

      right on everyone, wilkman. a_blue, i think humphries would be making it work fine with his current level of athleticism if he had only gotten the minutes a little sooner in the year. i never understood why he didn’t get skal’s minutes once cal went away from skal somewhere around midseason. he would have been much more of a solid middle presence by now with that many 20-25 minute games under his belt.



  2. mj7juice
    12:48 pm February 29, 2016 Permalink

    Lee & Poythress are so frustrating to watch. I understand that Poythress is recovering but his performance against Vandy was utterly embarrassing. Somebody take it personal.



  3. W F Reserve
    1:03 pm February 29, 2016 Permalink

    I know Poythress’s play all year has been a roller coaster. He is either playing awesome, coming back off an injury, or in foul trouble. With that said, I am not sure there is a big man in America that gets more cheap fouls called than him. That might have been the weakest 5 fouls called on a big man in the history of the game Saturday night. Might have committed his fourth with an arm bar if you want to get picky – a play you can call a foul on most every time down the floor if you want to. The third foul for tripping when a player cut behind him and caught his foot was horrible as well as his fifth. Hard to be productive on a night like this. Will be so glad when we are out of SEC play – hard to watch a game anymore with the officiating like it is.



    • thabeast
      1:06 pm February 29, 2016 Permalink

      It really is getting bad, and it’s all over the country. Officiating is at an all-time low and it makes any game hard to watch.



    • @BallBlog_Chad
      1:15 pm February 29, 2016 Permalink

      I said the same thing about that game yesterday talking to a friend … I said I’m not sure if Alex ever committed a foul, but he fouled out … I feel like he’s had a lot of games like that, where’s he had 2 legitimate fouls, but fouled out. I’d really like to see somebody take his 5 fouls and put them together in like a 1 minute video.



    • blueboots
      1:50 pm February 29, 2016 Permalink

      Lets not forget home cooking it has got so out of hand it is impossible to watch college
      basketball. Teams can’t win away from home at all.I suppose because Duke and Kansas has been home cooking for so long, all the other teams have started to do it also. Anyway hard to watch



  4. Catfan99
    1:12 pm February 29, 2016 Permalink

    I have noticed that the bad games Poythress has had usually have 2 common factors. He gets in foul trouble, usually several cheap fouls. And he is not involved in the offense, usually no plays designed to get him going. The games where Briscoe is aggressively looking for his shots are the worst. But certainly Murray getting off to a hot start against Vandy seemed to limit plays designed to get Alex involved. And while Poythress always is complimentary towards Cal, Cal never hesitates to throw him under the bus or defend him when asked about bad games. It is always “you will have to ask him” rather than offer an excuse about limited touches.



  5. BK
    1:12 pm February 29, 2016 Permalink

    It is too bad that Alex has struggled with injuries; but even when he’s healthy I think the old Tubby line unfortunately applies: “Looks like Tarzan and plays like Jane.” Roar Alex!



  6. Willis talkin bout....
    1:23 pm February 29, 2016 Permalink

    How about we “Insert ourselves” in a Zone…. maybe all these non-athletic bigs we have won’t get drug out from under the goal and burnt on every damn play.. I love you Cal, but maybe you need to adapt a little to this season. You ain’t gonna win the Derby with a mule…



  7. channell
    1:25 pm February 29, 2016 Permalink

    I never thought I would say this, but UK’s front court is average at best. I have not seen any urgency in Lee’s play at all. If he can’t dunk, he’s useless, Can’t hit free throws, no outside shot. Poythress thinks it’s not his responsibility to come prepared to play. How do UK end up with the kids that are so highly rated before they arrive and then disappear when season starts. Willis came as a three star player. No doubt the reason Cal would not play him is because of the stars. Now he had to insert him out of necessity, and we see a kid that shoot from outside, rebound, run the floor, play defense. Cal says you earn your spot. Bull! A five star rating automatically gives you a starting spot at UK. Auburn beats us, Vandy, Tennessee, No 5 star players there. Tired of only a couple players coming ready to play.



    • UK Big Board Update
      1:31 pm February 29, 2016 Permalink

      LMAO. This post shows that everyone’s an expert if you have the internet.



    • J-Dub421
      3:21 pm February 29, 2016 Permalink

      From an article in the Courier Journal:

      Willis admitted he had not put in the work to deserve more minutes.

      Willis guaranteed he would remain at Kentucky throughout his collegiate career despite the battle for minutes, but he agreed he had not always acted like he wanted to be at UK.

      He thinks that issue is behind him.

      “I had a lot of personal things going on with myself and that distracted me from how I’m feeling now,” Willis said.

      Willis didn’t play more because of Willis; stop blaming Coach Cal.



  8. drewfranklinsbeer
    1:31 pm February 29, 2016 Permalink

    I think the most frustrating part of all of this for me is Cal. I love the guy and what he has done for the program but it’s become obvious that he is going to do it his way. He HAS to make some sort of change. I’ts like the old saying, “if nothing changes, nothing changes” I would love to see him implement some zone into our next 2 games. Offensively, its no secret. 2 man show.. I understand our bigs are not offensive beasts but at the same time, I honestly don’t thing I’ve seen a big catch a pass on the block more than maybe 10 times in 5 games lol. How can we ever expect production from a guy who doesn’t get a chance. At least run plays to get Lee and Humphries the ball on the block every few trips down. If they can put a few thru the net then all it does is open up the kick outs.Sorry for the rant



    • RogerW
      1:57 pm February 29, 2016 Permalink

      Agree. I made a post yesterday that mentioned our bigs took a combined 5 shots against Vandy. This has to be some kind of record for fewest shots taken by the front court.



  9. cbeard7
    1:39 pm February 29, 2016 Permalink

    Poythress was supposed to be a stretch four like Patterson but necessity has him guarding 7ft centers. He’s out of position and its killing his production because he’s best when he’s facing the basket but the front court is so terrible he’s the best option. Would’ve loved to see what he could’ve done this year with a decent center behind him. It’s another example of how Skal’s slow progress is hurting the team in all areas. Skal deserves the chance to grow like any other student-athlete but he jumped into the fire at UK. It was the same when Nerlens went down, everybody was forced to do things they weren’t good at.



    • 2thepoint
      2:28 pm February 29, 2016 Permalink

      Good comment cbeard7, positioning mean a lot to players and they are often placed at a wrong position. We only have one true center playing in Humphries. Skal, Lee and Poythress are forwards. One game they play a 5 another 4 and with Alex a 3Cal. It makes you think too much rather than just play your position.

      We did play zone this year when Ulis ran the team and it was devastating to SC. I agree Cal needs to play zone. I know he doesn’t want to because he is preparing guys for the NBA where they don’t play zone legally. I will fault Cal for that, but other criticism about Willis and other players in the past who weren’t 5 stars is off base and not looking at reality. Willis refused to guard when he was out there. He would quit looking for a shot if he missed one so couldn’t stay on the floor especially because of lack of defense. Cal asked him to play defense but he refused. When a switch flipped Willis decided he could and has been a different player. That shows it was mental with him rather than physical. Matthews isn’t a 5 star either, but has been given an opportunity yet has failed to be an instant star. I do believe he will be a really good one perhaps next year, but will have a hard time finding the floor if he doesn’t step up more.

      Finally, front court players can’t receive the ball if the post is packed in daring the guards to best them. Murray can only carry the team so far before he gets too tired. The same with Ulis. Vanderbilt has the height to stop UK from inside hoping the guards have an off day. I don’t FL can do that if the bigs are active.



  10. W F Reserve
    2:01 pm February 29, 2016 Permalink

    Good point on how Skal’s play has hurt this team in another way.



  11. jaws2
    2:27 pm February 29, 2016 Permalink

    Al I know is this: the SEC sucks and EVERY year the conference does EVERYTHING it can to get more teams in at the expense of UK. Example:

    Last week was a MUST win for Vandy to get in and it was discussed by everyone all week including game day. Winner with too many phantom fouls called? Vandy.

    This week FL is on the ‘bubble’ last team in, NEEDS a big win to get in. Guess who the scapegoat is? Yep, the Cats.

    For the SEC it’s all about the money; more teams in, more cash in. Why is it that the SEC home teams are #1 in the nation in wins in conference? The league has the worse officials in college basketball and no way the league wants Cal and the KY to rule the league. This has become way to obvious to any objective fan.

    The SEC makes me puke when it comes to basketball and for the first time in my life, I hope every team except KY goes out in the first round. The league should be embarrassed by what they’ve done for the sake of the dollar.



    • W F Reserve
      3:43 pm February 29, 2016 Permalink

      Hard to disagree with you. Money has become the root of all evil in basketball, as well. In addition to UK, I used to rearrange my schedule to catch a top ten matchup. Not anymore. I might watch bits and pieces of some of the bigger games, or see if UL or IU is losing, but can’t say I have watched 40 minutes of a non-UK game all season. The “sake of the dollar” you are referring to above hits home on many issues: ESPN, one and dones, coaches salaries, NCAA profits, conference profits, etc. If this keeps up, they will eventually lose most of their audience that grew up loving this game. I think all avid UK fans would love to have their players around for more than a year or two, but in this day and time, why not be the best under the rules they give you to play with?

      Regarding officiating, it’s as bad as I have ever seen it. I think it is evidenced by all the commentary on social media, TV, and other media sources. When will this billion dollar industry make this a full time position, where training, review, and accountability is present? Or, does the NCAA want to fully control this part of the game for some of the reasons you mention above. Let’s hope not, but the evidence is pointing the other way.



  12. blueballs80
    4:12 pm February 29, 2016 Permalink

    This team does not have an animal in the paint. Lee and Skal are nowhere close. They have to be lead and are not in that mould yet. Same with AP. We need some bruisers out there.



    • theSkinny81
      5:31 pm February 29, 2016 Permalink

      Neither did UCONN in 2011 and 2014.