Forgetting Ole Miss



UK head coach John Calipari is one of a few who remained optimistic through his team’s loss to Ole Miss Tuesday night.

Though all focus has been on junior Darius Miller’s indecisive play in the final seconds of that game, Calipari hasn’t followed suit.

“There were about four or five plays before that that (Miller’s no shot) wouldn’t have been a factor,” he said. “We had a bunch of plays like that.

“’I score so I’m gonna go down here now and I’m not going to get in a stance, and he’s going to drive and score.’ We had a bunch of those … and then they score on us quick because the guy is not ready to play. Young guys and inexperienced guys do not understand every possession is important.”

But executing correctly each time the team has the ball is something UK’s upperclassmen know something about, though the young guns have overshadowed them as of late. Miller, who apologized and took responsibility for Tuesday’s loss via Twitter, is one of those leaders who haven’t yet caught their stride.

“I believe in him, and I keep telling him that,” Calipari said. “ He’s trying, but he’s got to do it in practice, he’s got to change habits.”

Unlike most fans, UK’s coach said he was thinking about Saturday’s game at Florida the moment Rebels’ guard Chris Warren’s shot rattled in.

“It’ll be a hard game,” Calipari said. “They’re playing well, they play well at home. Their two guards will control the tempo of the game. Their big kids are good; they run a lot of pick and rolls. (Florida head coach) Billy (Donovan) has done a great job.”

Florida’s tendency to use its big men was a focus of UK’s practice this week.

“The bigs are going to have to talk because (the Gators) are going to be throwing us into a bunch of pick and rolls,” Calipari said. “If we choose not to talk, it’ll be a really hard game for us.”

Freshman Brandon Knight, originally from Florida, described the week as “intense,” saying it was the hardest the team has worked between games this season.

“It was,” Calipari said. “Jarrod Polson and Twany (Beckham) put unbelievable pressure on defense … (The players) were going after each other, which is what we have to do.”

Calipari and the coaching staff also put an emphasis on drawing charges, something they believe is key to UK’s success.

“(Senior) Josh (Harrellson) needs to put his body out there,” Calipari said. “He’s not taken one charge all year. He now has a goal he has to reach or he runs (in practice). He’ll be flopping all over that court.

“But you know what, it’s not his fault. I accepted that for 20 games. Now I’m not accepting it, it’ll change. It always comes backs to me. What I accept is what I get.”

Knight disagreed with his coach’s insistence that UK’s faults ultimately fall on his shoulders.

“It’s a collective thing,” Knight said. “Maybe there were things (Calipari) could have done differently, but if we would have come out and played harder, the results would have been different.”

Calipari said the team doesn’t quite have desire to focus on its fundamentals, the things that brought UK to where it is at this point in the season.

“I have been hard on (the team), believe me,” Calipari said. “But there are things they are doing we must have let go … We’ve accepted certain things and for us to move forward, we can’t accept those things.”

The coaches urged the players to make the Florida game the one in which UK proves its determination to succeed.

“It’s a great game for us to play right now,” Calipari said. “It’s a bounce-back game, and you better bounce back, and you’re going to have to do it against another team and you’re not going to go away.

“We have to find out at some point this year when we will play a 40-minute game. We’ve played 30 minutes and 32 minutes, but we have not gotten close to a 40-minute game. This one, you better challenge yourself.”