UK basketball intensifying practice



UK head coach John Calipari saw too many rebounds go ungrabbed, too many drives conceded and not enough fight in the exhibition against Pikeville College.

So Calipari intends to amp up the practices.

“I’ve said I’ve got to make these practices rougher,” Calipari said. “We have to get more physical—physical without fouling—but we got to get more physical. Guys got to accept it.”

DeAndre Liggins sounded like he expected it after the performance against Pikeville, a game which UK won 99-66 but looked exactly like it should: a talented, but young, team.

“I think there is going to be more fight in practice tomorrow,” Liggins said. “Let’s try to be more scrappy, tough. We need more fight.”

Calipari continued circling back to toughness, physicality and conditioning as problems evident in both the Pikeville game and the team in general.

“The biggest thing is, are we in shape? I’m not sure we are. Are we physical enough? I know we’re not. We’re not tough enough. We don’t play vicious enough. Do we find each other on the court? We don’t,” Calipari said, before coming back to perhaps the redeeming factor that plays into all this. “Are we skilled enough? Yeah, this is one of my more skilled teams, no question about it. They should be playing together better.”

The coach’s calling out of the energy levels was a welcome criticism to freshman Doron Lamb, who apparently has not been mentored by Allen Iverson.

“I listen to that and just want to get better,” Doron Lamb said. “We will just work on it tomorrow. I see why he was upset because we just didn’t play hard and play to the best of our ability.”

Despite the fact UK was getting its first chance to play against an outside opponent, in front of Rupp Arena, UK came out flat. Calipari used a timeout with the score tied 4-4 after two defensive breakdowns, and UK trailed 13-11 with about five minutes elapsed in the game.

“Our intensity wasn’t where it should be today and we didn’t play as hard as we thought we should have,” Darius Miller said. “We have to work on that and make it a habit by going at it everyday.”

The lack of intensity at the start of the game undermined the small lineup Calipari used to start the game. Terrence Jones, Darius Miller, Liggins, Lamb and Brandon Knight were the starting five at tip-off, with the 6-foot-8 Jones playing center.

“Small lineup wasn’t particularly good today,” Calipari said. “I mean, if there’s no energy, you can’t play small guys. Doesn’t work.”

With freshman Enes Kanter still unable to play, the idea of using a smaller lineup has been considered. But for the majority of the Pikeville game, UK used either Josh Harrellson or Eloy Vargas as a center.

“We were better with one of those big guys in there with the smaller guys, and one of them has to come off the bench,” Calipari said. “That’s just how it is. Unless they really want to go in there and fight and go crazy, you can play that (small) lineup then.”

It’s early. Calipari said he stressed to the team that as long as they didn’t make excuses and acknowledge their shortcomings, things would work out.

“What you have to have is a player understanding that it’s one of two things: He outworks me or I outwork him,” Calipari said. “This isn’t about cool. This isn’t about style points. Either he outworks me or I outwork him. So now we got to go to practice and make it that way.”