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Kentucky has plenty to work on, but it starts with defense

The Cats may have brought home a 94-66 victory over Transylvania, but it definitely wasn’t always pretty. In fact, the second half was a bit of a drag, and the game in general definitely gave Coach John Calipari some ideas about what the team needs to work on in the coming weeks, saying tonight’s performance would make for “great teaching tape.”

But what exactly will the team see from reviewing tonight’s at-times sloppy performance?

“Missed laps on defense. People in the wrong spot; people too early in the wrong spot. They’re in an area at a point when they’re not supposed to be there,” Quade Green said. “There’s going to be a lot of that on the tape tomorrow.”

Kentucky held the Pioneers to 38 percent shooting from the floor and 29 percent from the three-point line, but Transy had plenty of opportunities with wide-open lanes and even shots from behind-the-arc. In tight games, the Cats won’t be able to afford giving up those “easy” buckets. They’ll also need to amp-up the aggression: Kentucky forced just 12 turnovers tonight while committing 14 of their own.

Fellow sophomore PJ Washington agrees defense was an issue throughout the game. And, since he is a sophomore, Washington knows defense is what his coach will hone in on throughout the next few weeks, despite tonight’s occasionally lack-luster shooting performance.

“That’s the biggest thing in the second half – our defense. [Calipari] is not really going to say so much about the offense, especially since we didn’t really play well in the second half on the defensive end,” Washington said after the game. “We were pressing the whole game and they were attacking off the dribble… it just got in our legs.”

Calipari also mentioned the decision to press Transy the entire game, citing conditioning as his main reasoning. And even a big guy in elite shape – Reid Travis – could feel it.

“Can you hit a shot after you’ve been running up-and-down trying to press a team for a couple of minutes? I thought it was good – obviously it affected us and it really made us work through that and work even harder on defense,” Travis said. “Going forward, once we really do get our cardio and our legs get strong enough, we’re going to be a good team because we’re going to be more conditioned than other teams.”

Did the Cats really need to use the press against a team like Transy tonight? Probably not. But will they come March or in the upcoming Duke game? Most likely. So the preparation starts now.

“We know what we need to work on,” Washington said. “The defensive end is really big for us. I feel like if we’re a great defensive team this year, we can go a long way in the tournament.”


Article written by Maggie Davis

I love sports, podcasts, long walks on the beach and Twitter (@MaggieDavisKSR)