When everyone else was worried about the sky falling, John Calipari was the calmest person in the media room following Kentucky’s disappointing loss last night to Florida.
The phrase “we’re fine” was uttered several times, with Cal saying the team’s turnaround on defense, along with overall improved health makes him feel confident going forward with this team.
One of the newest additions to the lineup, Jarred Vanderbilt, has the Kentucky head coach excited. He has averaged five points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in nearly 14 minutes per game in his first two outings, and that’s with little to no conditioning, scrimmaging, or plays set up for him.
“What we end up doing is saying when he’s in, we’re only going to run these three for four things, and then we try to figure out what they should be,” Calipari said. “I need his energy and his rebounding and his toughness and his ability to pass balls.
“He scrimmaged like two times with us, so now we play again Tuesday. So, what do we do tomorrow, and we’re off Wednesday, and then we practice Thursday, fly Friday, play Saturday. It’s hard to get him acclimated.”
With Vanderbilt and Quade Green back, Kentucky now has the healthiest roster they’ve had this season, and Calipari feels that will motivate those on the floor to put forth their best effort. If not, there’s someone itching on the bench to replace him.
“The good news right now, I’ve got a full roster,” Coach Cal said. “So, if you are really not giving it this game, I can play somebody else. So, there’s no arguments on the bench, no back and forth. You don’t have to. Out. Next.”
Even with guys playing winded and extremely rusty, the Cats were in position to win right up until the end. Because of that, Cal said he feels better about this game than he did with the team’s road win vs. Vanderbilt and the tough loss at South Carolina on Tuesday.
“We had a full roster (Saturday),” Calipari said. “Quade doesn’t shoot the ball first game back. If he makes a couple 3s, the game’s different. But you know what, first game back, what do you expect? I thought Jarred did some good stuff but he got winded again. But like I said, this is very, very much encouraging, and we went 1 out of 11 attempts to end (the first) half. Think about that. And we still had a chance. It’s because we guarded and we did some good stuff.”
Aside from the game itself, the Big Blue Nation did their part. Roughly 3,500 fans showed up to the College GameDay morning show yesterday, and then a season-high 24,394 fans filled Rupp Arena for the game last night.
Check out KY Wildcats TV’s recap of the event:
We’re on to Mississippi State.