Cats hold player meeting, talk end of game

After the bus ride back from a loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday that dropped UK to 5-5 in the Southeastern Conference, Josh Harrellson sent out a text to his teammates calling them into the lobby of the Coal Lodge for a players-only meeting.

It was the second players-only meeting UK has held this year. The first took place before the season began.

The main point: How to get better at the end of games, a deficiency that has cost UK in nearly every defeat.

“That’s the question we were asking ourselves,” Jarrod Polson said. “What do we need to do?”

Down the stretch, a variety of errors have inhibited the Cats. Against Vanderbilt, it was turnovers that gave Vanderbilt a free four points.

And now, UK has that reputation of wilting late in the game.

“It’s nervous when you keep losing on the road and you’re known for losing on the road like we are right now,” Terrence Jones said.

That reputation has set up a mental roadblock for the players. Jones said he sometimes finding himself placing too much importance on certain plays, more importance than he needs to ascribe them, when “any basket can take the lead.” He finds himself glancing up at the scoreboard. And he said “everybody” has those feelings of nervousness.

“It has to do with being nervous about losing when it’s so close and so little time,” Jones said.

“It’s just something we have to overcome by playing without looking at the score and being nervous.”

Waiting and waiting for that breakthrough moment on the road has led Jones to thoughts of “we have to win this one” late in games, he said.

Head coach John Calipari said in a Lexycast that UK needed to stop looking at the scoreboard and worrying about whether or not they can actually pull off a win.

He talked during the media session about some changes UK needs to make, and briefly mentioned that aspect.

“Some of those things is mentally, these guys getting by it,” Calipari said.

Jones said UK will need to have that breakthrough moment by closing out a game.

“We’ve proved to ourselves that we can take a lead and be up,” Jones said. “We just need to take the next step and close it out.”

That’s what the meeting was about. Calipari said he didn’t know it happened — he is the coach, and the name would dictate he isn’t involved — but said if the players thought it would work then he is in support.

“Well, I hope it brings about change,” Calipari said.

For the players, they talked about eliminating distractions and focusing entirely on basketball, no easy feat for college athletes.

“We told each other, from here on it’s all basketball,” Polson said. “Focus all on basketball and nothing else.”

Calipari, Part 1:

Calipari, Part 2: