Kentucky basketball: Toughness in question after ‘street fight’ in Knoxville
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LEXINGTON, Ky. — John Calipari said Kentucky was “out-toughed” in a 76-65 loss to Tennessee on Saturday, and that brings us to the question of the day: Will a lack of toughness be a problem for the Wildcats moving forward?
It’s impossible to measure an intangible such as toughness, but Kentucky assistant coach Joel Justus said the Cats have to be the more desperate team when they face Texas A&M at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Rupp Arena. It’s a sort of desperation they didn’t exhibit against Tennessee.
“We got thrown out of a basketball game into a street fight, and we took a step back,” Justus said of the loss in Knoxville. “That’s the bottom line. Anyone who was there or watched it and didn’t see that obviously was sleepy and not watching the game because that’s exactly what happened.
“Basketball wasn’t played. It wasn’t dirty, it was just a straight-up ‘we’re gonna out-tough you for the next 20 minutes’ and that’s what they did.”
The coaching staff watched the game with individual players whose toughness was a concern, Justus said. And then they watched it collectively.
“And made them kind of answer the questions, ‘OK, what happened here?’ ” Justus said. “The other piece to that is you just have to say, ‘OK, well how do we move forward? How do we stop this from happening again?’ ”
Texas A&M will enter Rupp Arena winless in the SEC. The Aggies, who haven’t been at full strength for much of the season, fell by way of buzzer beater to LSU on Saturday.
Tennessee exposed something Saturday that Texas A&M will surely look to exploit — a lack of toughness.
“For us as coaches or for them as players to think that that is not being shown in their locker room or in their film session is somewhat reckless, because that’s what I would imagine was said in the locker room at Thompson-Boling Arena the other night.”