Killing bad habits: Calipari creates new system to encourage defensive pressure


Kentucky freshman guard Ashton Hagans guards the ball during the game against Monmouth on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

It’s no secret that the defense for Kentucky has had its problems to start the season, and the coaching staff is doing everything it can to straighten out the defense before the tougher tests come to town.

Head coach John Calipari’s newest initiative to get his players to play with more intensity on defense is the new “kill” system. Basically, the more kills a unit of five gets, the longer they will stay on the court.

“Three stops in a row equals a kill,” Calipari said. “Now we had two stops in a row probably eight times, seven-eight times, nine, but we had five kills. That’s how you stretch games out.”

The kill system was implemented before Wednesday’s game against Monmouth, which the Wildcats won decisively 90-44.

Kentucky’s defense had eight separate stretches when Monmouth missed shots on three consecutive possessions. Five of the kills came in the second half, including a stretch in which Monmouth missed 11 consecutive shots in an eight-minute span.

During that span where the Hawks missed 11 shots, Kentucky’s lead grew from 29 to 45. Monmouth also missed nine consecutive shots near the end of the first half rolling over into the early second half, in which Kentucky saw its lead grow from 12 to 26.

“It really just made us play more aggressive on the defensive end, he was saying if he kept getting stops then he’s just going to leave that group in,” Ashton Hagans said of the kill system.

Keldon Johnson, E.J. Montgomery, Reid Travis, Tyler Herro and Immanuel Quickley all played double-digit minutes in the second half, when Monmouth only made seven of its 31 attempted shots.

Montgomery actually set a new career high in minutes played, mostly because of the things he was able to do on defense. Montgomery grabbed three defensive rebounds, blocked two shots and came up with a steal during his time on the court.

The 44 points scored by Monmouth was the lowest point total an opponent has put up against Kentucky all season. Monmouth also shot 28 percent from the floor, also a season-low from Kentucky opponents this season.

Calipari had the coaching staff keep track of the kills during the game and informed the team about the total after the game. Was there a prize waiting for the players with the most kills in the locker room? No, the prize the players received was on the court.

“It’s just a pride thing really, the prize is you stay on the court,” Quade Green said. “The more stops you get, the more minutes you get.”