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The University of Kentucky wasted no time rebounding from its loss at Indiana last week Saturday in a 87-62 win versus Chattanooga.
The Wildcats scored 13 points before Chattanooga scored its first basket and ran out to an 18-2 lead in the first five minutes of action, but UK head coach John Calipari spent most of his post-game news conference questioning his team’s effort and performance at times Saturday.
“I look at us right now and say, ‘okay, you know, what are we going to have to do to take this to another level,’” Calipari said. “What do we have to do to get guys to understand, let’s just be a vicious team, let’s go out and fight. We are just not that right now.”
Five different UK players finished the game with double-digit point totals. UK sophomore guard Doron Lamb led all scorers with 24 points and added six rebounds. Freshman forward Anthony Davis scored 14 points, grabbed 18 rebounds and blocked five shots. Freshman forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 17 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dish out six assists. Freshman point guard Marquis Teague scored 11 points and dished out eight assists.
While Calipari was unhappy with his team’s overall performance, he admitted several players had good games.
“One of my many, many flaws is that when I get mad at one or two guys, I end up getting mad at the whole team,” he said. “And it’s not fair, because we had some guys that played well today. We did.”
The Wildcats shot 48.5 percent (33-68) from the field in the game and 36.4 percent (12-33) from three-point range. Chattanooga’s defense forced UK to take more three-point shots that it normally would, Calipari said.
“This team forced us to shoot a lot of threes,” he said. “We are not a team that shoots 33 threes. But what they did it they double-teamed the post and gave you three-point looks. You have to take those.”
Calipari’s message that UK needed to increase it’s toughness was noted by several players after the game.
“Some people were just not playing hard, not going after some balls, just playing sloppy a little bit, just giving up sometimes,” Teague said. “For the most part, I think we played hard, played pretty well.
“He just wants us to play with toughness, go after every loose ball, dive on the ball sometimes, take a few more charges, things like that. He just wants us to be tougher.”
Teague said he know the players realize Calipari is trying to make them better.
“He’s always trying to coach us, help us learn,” Teague said. “We just listen to anything he’s telling us.”
Freshman forward Kyle Wiltjer — who had nine points — said the instruction will help in the long run.
“It’s a long season and our goal is March, the March Madness,” he said. “We’re just working every day, just to make strides and become a better team. It’s definitely a long process, and we’re definitely a long way from where we can be.”
One player who was not able to put his poor performance at Indiana behind him was sophomore forward Terrence Jones. Jones had just four points and one rebound against the Hoosiers and played only 10 minutes Saturday and did not score after injuring a finger on his left hand early in the game. Calipari described the injury as a dislocation, but UK said in a statement Jones was still being evaluated by the medical staff and is considered day-to-day.
In UK’s last five halves of basketball, Jones has just four points and six rebounds. Calipari said he does not know Jones’s status for UK’s next game on Tuesday, but he hopes the struggles don’t carry over into future games.
“I hope not, because he’s one of those guys we are counting on,” Calipari said. “I think he’ll be fine.”
Despite his unhappiness about elements of UK’s performance Saturday, Calipari said he knows some positives came from the game.
“We hold a team to 33 percent, and I’m not happy. We had 13 turnovers and 17 assists, out-rebound them, I’m not happy,” he said. “Because, this team should be one of those teams that every night out, you’ve got to strive to be that.”
Photos by Mark Boxley.