UK still looking to improve final minutes of play



Heading into a suddenly crucial road game for UK, head coach John Calipari showed his team film of their loss to Alabama.

Not the bad parts — to show what they could do better. But the good part, the part where UK stormed back from an 18-point deficit to within one, to show what they can do.

“Coach told us if we play like we played in that little segment we should beat every team in the league,” Terrence Jones said after beating one team in the league in South Carolina on Saturday.

Calipari said on Lexy the day after the win he told his team to approach it like they were 4-0 instead of 2-2, because he believed in their abilities.

“If you think about it, we had our chances against Georgia and Alabama and could have easily won each game if we executed down the stretch,” Calipari said.

That same execution issue at the end of the game almost caused UK to lose the game to South Carolina. The Gamecocks trailed by 18 with 11 minutes left, but rallied to within five points.

While UK sealed the victory with four free throws by Doron Lamb in the final minute, UK was a little troubled by allowing South Carolina to mount a comeback.

“The reason I was still coaching and getting on guys was because they didn’t understand we could lose the game,” Calipari said. “They’re not veteran enough. We turn it over, we take bad shots.”

One of those bad shots, by a non-veteran, was Brandon Knight’s floater in the lane with 1:20 left and UK leading by eight.

“Why would you do that?” Calipari said. “‘Well, I was open.’ No kidding. They want you to shoot.”

South Carolina came down and got fouled on a three pointer, then made all three free throws to cut the lead to five.

“I wish I could take it back, and just dribble it out,” Knight said. “Just a lack of focus. I didn’t really look at the time. I thought I would have either gotten a goaltending call or make it.”

For UK to get better at finishing games, Calipari said he may have to exert a little more direct control on the team.

“We may be an execution team who has to grind it a little bit more than I like,” Calipari said. “Because I think if we play a little too wide-open, we make too many decisions that are tough shots, tough passes. But if that’s how we have to play, that’s how we play.”

Calipari will want to find an execution between getting his plays to execute diagrammed players and allow them the freedom that unleashes his players.

“We need to make sure we’re a little more in control of the shot selection and what we’re doing,” Calipari said. “Yet I don’t want to take away their freedom to play, that’s why my teams play well. Because they have freedom to play something. But you can run something and then attack from there.”

Calipari noted UK had its chances to win in comeback attempts against Georgia and Alabama. He also noted UK was able to hold on because it built such a large cushion against South Carolina. Going forward, he wants to see his team come back and then be able to come out on top.

“I’m on them to make the right decisions so we can win a game that is an opponent that’s better than us that we have to try to win,” Calipari said. “So you can’t make the errors we made down the stretch.

“I’m not coaching you for to win just this game. It’s a bigger picture for us. This is Kentucky. There’s a bigger picture.”