Calipari wants more energy from stars in win


Kentucky freshman guard Tyler Herro goes for an open shot during the game against Winthrop University on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Last year’s UK basketball team was undisciplined, unconditioned and the youngest ever since the inception of KenPom. This season’s Cats, though more mature and somewhat better conditioned, are still struggling to maintain discipline on the court, particularly when it comes to turnovers and maintaining energy on defense. Against Winthrop on Wednesday, they took a step forward, but not all the way.

“The defense wasn’t bad for 18 minutes in the first half,” head coach John Calipari said. “And then the last couple minutes of the first half we just let down. And then we went for five, six minutes. So this team’s just played 24 minutes of the way I need them to play. About 24.”

Calipari went on to say that during those 18 minutes, UK was able to separate themselves from Winthrop and get into a rhythm. When that fell off, however, the Cats got much worse. After going on a run and leading by 17 with nine minutes left in the first half, UK relaxed some and ended up leading by 14 at halftime.

“We’ve just got to end the half better,” forward PJ Washington said, “and just come out in the second half like we did.”

The way the Cats came out of halftime was a 9-0 run that made UK’s lead significantly more comfortable as they pulled away from Winthrop. As the Cats separated, so did Washington, and his status as a “separator” that Calipari desires hangs in the balance of a 40-minute performance.

“Again, he goes a double double, but I still, I want more from him. I just, I want more from him. I want him to — don’t ever let up ever or sub yourself. If you don’t feel like really, just go, man. And when he does it he’s as good as any player in the country. And when he doesn’t, he’s okay. But he doesn’t have an impact on the game,” Calipari said.

Washington ended the game with 19 points on 7-11 shooting, 11 rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block, but the Hall of Fame head coach believes he can get more. Washington said that “[Calipari] just wants more rebounds, more blocked shots, just being more aggressive.”

On the flip side, players that weren’t doing so well experienced and energy shift during those 24 minutes that Calipari described where they became players they were projected to be. Guard Tyler Herro picked up 15 points in 25 minutes after getting hurt in the first half. He racked up seven assists on top of that, but Calipari once again knows he can draw more from the freshman.

“Believe me, I was all over [Herro],” Calipari said. “If he brought that ball down or if he dipped before he shot, I was, no. Now he doesn’t make as many because he hadn’t ever practiced that way, he’s never ever worked that way… The one he missed I thought he wound up again, like he thinks, well if I slow down I got a better chance — no, you don’t. Catch it and get it off.”

UK will have a chance to extend their well-played minutes closer to 40 on Friday against Tennessee State.