Five days after losing its first game of the season, Kentucky still seems a long way from establishing its identity.
Freshman guards Isaiah Briscoe and Jamal Murray have been inconsistent. Freshman post Skal Labissiere failed to step up after junior Marcus Lee went down against UCLA on Thursday night.
The Bruins thoroughly outplayed the Wildcats in Los Angeles, handing them a 10-point loss that forced Kentucky coach John Calipari to up the intensity in Monday’s practice.
“It was really brutal, to be honest with you,” Calipari said of the session. “But it’s what they need. And we’re trying to hold them to a high standard.”
The biggest roadblock, according to Cal, is effort.
“They have to bring this out of each other,” he said. “If it takes you being mad, then be mad. I don’t really care. If it makes you happy, doesn’t matter to me. But something has got to bring that out of them. That ‘Here I go! I’m going to get that ball!'”
Lee has still not returned to practice after hitting his head against the Bruins.
In his absence, Labissiere will need to step up. The future NBA lottery pick has shown plenty of scoring ability, but has struggled to a make consistent impact on the boards.
“Skal’s gonna take time,” Calipari said. “It’s a process. I’ve had guys here before. Some guys get it quicker — Karl (Anthony Towns) — some guys don’t get it quicker. It takes two or three years. It has nothing to do with skill. It has nothing to do with his ability to score in the post or block shots.”
No. 5 Kentucky (7-1) takes on Eastern Kentucky (8-2) at Rupp Arena on Wednesday (7 pm ET, ESPN2).