Kentucky’s 14-point win at Arkansas was a great sign for the struggling Wildcats, but a pair of older players are facing the prospect of limited minutes after disappointing performances against the Razorbacks.
Senior Alex Poythress and junior Marcus Lee (11 points and eight rebounds combined) are facing heat after strong performances by junior Derek Willis and freshman Skal Labissiere.
“They’re fighting for their lives now,” coach John Calipari said postgame. “If these other two play like they play… (shrugs shoulders) I love Marcus Lee and I love Alex Poythress, but if those other two are better, they’re playing. Just how it is.”
Calipari’s message was the same during his Friday morning presser.
“Look, if Marcus and Alex don’t give us what we need in a game—it appears as though when they start going down that road they can’t change,” he said. “They are what they are. In other words, if I’m bad, I am bad for 40 minutes. I cannot mentally change. I can’t change and it’s almost like, give those guys a chance then. Let those guys play. They gotta be ready.”
Despite those comments, Lee and Poythress won’t be afraid of losing serious minutes to Labissiere until the 5-star freshman finds a consistent role in the offense.
“He cannot be in the game tired,” Calipari said of Labissiere Friday. “He’s now learning: Just take myself out. Why fight it and look foolish and take away my own confidence? Just come out, which is what he did, in that game. He subbed himself two or three times. First time. The other times, you gotta sub him.”
Until the Wildcats establish an efficient frontcourt rotation, Kentucky will continue to be full of surprises — good and bad.
“My biggest thing for all these kids: You gotta lose yourself in the team,” Calipari said. “What does the team need you to do? What is your role on this team? And they’re starting to get it.”
What’s next: Sat., Jan. 23 vs. Vanderbilt (4 p.m. ET, ESPN)