LEXINGTON, Ky. – December 11, 2020 – KEITH TAYLOR
(KT) — John Calipari expects things to be different when Kentucky takes on Notre Dame Saturday.
Because of inexperience and pandemic restrictions, Calipari admits the Wildcats “don’t have a whole lot of room for error” and wants fans to come away with a different impression than the previous three games.
“My hope is that people watch this game and say, ‘All right, I see what he’s trying to do. It looks different,’” he said Friday. “If it doesn’t look different, we’ve gotta go next week and stay in camp. I just want it to look different. If it looks different, we’ve set the stage of where we’re going.”
The Wildcats (1-3) are in the midst of a rare three-game losing streak and dropped a 79-62 setback to Georgia Tech, the team’s second double-digit loss of the season last Sunday. The biggest issue for Kentucky has been turnovers. Through the first four encounters, Kentucky has committed an average of 18.3 miscues per game, leading to easy baskets in transition for the opposition. The first four opponents have averaged 20.5 points per game off the Wildcats’ miscues.
“Everybody is trying to make the hardest plays,” Calipari said. “I call them hero plays because it means more to them because that’s how they’ve played their whole life. Now it’s about the easiest play. The second thing, when you don’t have the ball, do you make it easier for your teammate to find you? Do you get open? Do you get open with timing? That’s all toughness. Do you play with a high motor, like a sense of urgency? That’s toughness. If you don’t, you have no toughness. Those are some of the things. And we worked this week.”
Calipari said the solution to eliminating turnovers is to “work at it.”
“In coaching in all my years, if it’s important to me, it will be important to them,” he said. “And now they know this is important to me. I’ve held them accountable in practice. We’re doing some different things to let them know what’s acceptable.”
Freshman guard BJ Boston agrees the turnovers have been an issue for the Wildcats this season.
“I feel like that’s part of the reason why we’re losing so many games because we have so many turnovers,” he said. “Coach has preached to us that you’ve got to make the easy plays and not try to be the guy that makes the neat play. Just slow down when you get the ball.”
To emphasize the importance of taking care of the basketball, Calipari has delved into his “bag tricks,” what he considers the good news of coaching for 35 years. He also added his current squad “needs me more than any team I’ve coached.”
“I’m doing things where it’s them and me personally together, whether it’s film or meetings to where it’s us,” he said. “I’m trying to get them to turn the phones off and get together because we’re not talking to each other enough. I’m doing more individual meetings than I’ve ever done.”
Boston has changed his routine and added the three losses have “brought me back to myself” and the Kentucky freshman guard has been getting up at 6 a.m. to shoot and work on his game. He also has initiated this year’s version of the “breakfast club” and is joined by classmate Cam’Ron Fletcher.
“It’s just making me lock in even more (and) changed my mindset on how I approach the game,” said Boston, who eats breakfast after the early-morning workout and meditates. “(This season has) definitely been a surprise. It’s another level. It’s a different level than high school. But just staying the course, taking it day by day and get better every day.”
Calipari is confident the Wildcats will respond against the Irish and is eager to see how the Wildcats handle the adversity of three consecutive setbacks.
“Let’s go,” he said. “I’m not afraid of it.”
Gametracker: Notre Dame at Kentucky, noon Saturday, CBS, UK Radio Network.