Cats crush Chattanooga, Calipari critiques

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Head coach John Calipari had opened his press conference by saying his team played OK and closed it by saying he wasn’t happy.

“He’s a liar,” Chattanooga head coach John Shulman, whose team had just been beat by 25 points.

Maybe not a liar. It’s just Calipari’s nature. Earlier this season, he called himself an alarmist. It’s what coaches do: their perfectly designed plans are eradicated, play after play, by player imperfection. And so he tries to make them better. Always.

Even when the stats say UK outrebounded Chattanooga by six. Even when the stats say UK held Chattanooga to 33.3 percent shooting. Even when the stats say UK had 17 assists and 13 turnovers.

“I look at us right now and say, okay, you know, what are we going to have to do to take this to another level?” Calipari said.

Here’s what Calipari saw as impeding the Cats from being at another level.

UK left the shooter in the corner too many times. Players “ran for the hills” as the game got physical. These are areas of concern that did not pop up against Chattanooga. And so Calipari wants them fixed.

“That stuff I have a right to be angry about,” Calipari said.

“One of my many, many, many flaws is that when I get mad at one or two guys, I get mad at the whole team, and it’s not fair,” Calipari said. “We had some guys play well today.”

Anthony Davis was one. He scored 14 points and had 18 rebounds. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was, as usual, another. He scored 17 points, had eight rebounds and six assists. Kyle Wiltjer, who Calipari said Friday was holding back on offense, loosened up for nine points on seven shots. Marquis Teague had eight assists and zero turnovers.

But even with the scoring leader, Doron Lamb, Calipari had visions of improvement.

“We need him to speak more,” Calipari said. “This team doesn’t talk enough, and it starts with him. When you don’t talk, you’re into your own self. You must talk on offense and you must talk on defense, and that’s what we are trying to get him to do.”

Now’s the time to do it. With Samford, Loyola-Maramount and Lamar looming small on the schedule, and with no classes to get in the way, now is the time to work on everything. Calipari said the team will practice twice most days. Three times if needed.

“It’s where we really buckle down and zero in on what we have to do,” Calipari said.

Calipari has projects for every player. For Davis, it’s getting tougher. For Darius Miller, it’s snapping him out of a shooting slump. For Teague, it’s “zeroing in” on his defense and control of the game.

“Sometimes I get frustrated,” Teague said, “but I just continue to listen to him.”

Keep listening, and the end goal of having the players be less dependent on the coach will be more attainable.

“One of the things this team isn’t doing is, too much of the stuff is coming from me,” Calipari said. “And I’m telling you, until this team gets empowered, they are not going to be as good as they need to be.”

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