LEXINGTON, Ky. – The sneaky, strange thing about Kentucky basketball’s recent rough patch is that the Wildcats looked great in stretches of almost all those games. Downright dominant even, until they weren’t.
“I’m spending time right now watching tape on when we’re up 18, 20, 25, 16, then we give back those points,” coach John Calipari said Monday. “I spent yesterday breaking all that down and coming up with ideas.”
Kentucky’s game Jan. 17 at Mississippi State is where the trouble started and the blowout victories stopped. The Cats led that one by 18 with 12:20 to go, then by just three with 7:49 remaining. They led South Carolina by 15 with 7:41 to go in the first half, then by just three with 4:39 left before intermission.
Kentucky was up 12 on Kansas with 4:58 to go in the first half, then down by one less than a minute into the second. The Cats led Georgia by eight with 6:26 in regulation, then were tied just two and a half minutes later.
They were up 25 on LSU an 18 on Alabama, and both of those dwindled to six points in the final moments. So what gives?
“A bunch of stuff that we’re gonna work on. And it’s not just defense. It’s both sides of the ball,” Calipari said. “I think it’s as much technical as it is mental. They’ve got to have a plan. OK, you’re up 18, here’s how we play. They don’t know. We met (Monday) morning with some film stuff and I asked a guy, ‘Why didn’t you do this.’ He said, ‘I didn’t know I was supposed to.’ Not his fault. If he doesn’t know, we gotta teach him.”
The good news for Kentucky is Calipari seems confident the issues have been consistent in each collapse – and they’re fixable.
“I came up with some ideas,” he said. “I don’t want to walk into a room and have people tell me, ‘This is what I think it is.’ Why don’t we just watch the six games, the five games, watching it go away, the lead, and now tell me what you think it is. You don’t throw things out that were working and you don’t make up reasons.
“So I watched those on an airplane and came back with an idea of how we’re going to attack it.”