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The UK men’s basketball team will not win many experience battles, but the Wildcats head to New Orleans as the only team in the field with any Final Four experience.
Five current Wildcats played in UK’s loss to Connecticut in the 2011 Final Four, including four of UK’s top six scorers.
Head coach John Calipari plans to consult with those players to see what went wrong in their Final Four experience last season.
“Something got us off kilter because we didn’t play very well,” he said. “What happened was that we went out — I don’t want to say gun shy — but we just weren’t the same team that left New Jersey.”
The Wildcats posted a season-low 55 points in the Final Four loss to Connecticut and shot just 33.9 percent from the field.
Calipari said he noticed something was wrong almost immediately after UK took the court versus the Huskies.
“We (had) some guys that weren’t the same,” he said. “That’s okay. First time for those guys, and now it’s the second time. They’ll be fine. It’s how are they going to teach these (freshmen) to watch the landmines.”
UK players said returning to the Final Four for a second time will help them prepare for some of the hoopla surrounding the game.
“It could probably help just because we’ve experience it before, we know how it’s going to be,” said senior guard Darius Miller — who had four points on 1-7 shooting versus Connecticut. “Just have to do a good job of managing your time, especially when you need to get rest.”
Sophomore guard Doron Lamb — who scored 13 points, including 3-5 shooting from three-point range versus Connecticut, said he knows what to expect from the media this time.
“We’ve got like two hours of media and a lot of commercials (to shoot),” he said.
Lamb was one of the Wildcats who performed well in the Final Four last season, something Calipari is hoping to build on.
“Doron Lamb played really good in that game last year,” he said. “Like, Doron Lamb was outstanding.”
At least one other returning player showed some potential versus Connecticut as well.
“Terrence (Jones) couldn’t make a free throw, but he had 15 rebounds,” Calipari said. “Now if you told me he’s getting 15 rebounds, I’m really happy.”
The Wildcats will face additional attention this season as UK faces arch-rival Louisville in the Final Four for the first time.
UK players said they’re approaching the game like any other, and Calipari assured media on Tuesday that the matchup with the Cardinals didn’t hold any extra allure for him or his team.
“When you’re playing a game at this stage of the season, a win or a loss doesn’t matter if the school is 12 miles from you or 1,000 miles from you,” he said. “It really doesn’t matter.
“We’re playing a terrific basketball team that has terrific players that play a style that is aggressive and fast and they’re really good. It doesn’t matter how close they are to us. They’re a good team, and it’s going to be a hard game for us.”