Kentucky worked almost exclusively on offense for “two to three weeks” during January practices, a move that helped create an identity for the Wildcats. But John Calipari thinks he may have overcorrected.
“By doing that,” he said Monday morning, “we got away from what we do defensively.”
An overtime loss to Kansas, and a meltdown at Tennessee earlier this month, revealed a lack of focus on the defensive end, and while Kentucky has outscored its past three opponents by a combined 90 points, Calipari is still not satisfied.
To match the success of his previous teams, he’s asking for a simple change.
“Like all my teams,” he said, “when we really guard, we have a chance.”
The coach admitted his squad is “defending better” since switching the practice plan’s focus from offense to defense.
“All we’re doing is really focusing on how we’re guarding, the schemes that we’re trying to use,” Calipari said. “We’re working on our zone in case we need it because of foul trouble. We seem to have a lot of fouls called against my team. So we’ve gotta be prepared for that. We’ve gotten better because of those things.”
Kentucky has certainly found its rhythm on offense; the Wildcats served up a brilliant performance after Calipari’s ejection against South Carolina. Tyler Ulis is now in the national Player of the Year conversation, while Jamal Murray — 25 averaging points over the past two contests — has shored up his efficiency as of late.
“It starts with us on our defensive end, which leads us to play a little bit faster when we guard and rebound, which is what we’re trying to do,” Calipari said. “But we’re also efficient in the half court. We’re grinding it better. We’re creating the shots that we need to create. We’re offensive rebounding.”
The ‘Cats get another shot vs. Tennessee on Thursday night (7 p.m. ET, ESPN).