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Calipari steps back, uses ‘old-school’ approach to move Cats forward; North Dakota game tonight

By Keith Taylor
Kentucky Today

John Calipari has taken a step back in an effort to get his team back on track.
The Kentucky coach admitted he might have gotten too far ahead too soon after the 10th-ranked Wildcats suffered a 118-84 loss to top-ranked Duke, followed by a 71-59 triumph over Southern Illinois last week.
“We went back to some old-school (workouts) for a couple of days,” Calipari said Tuesday ahead of his team’s contest against North Dakota set for Wednesday night. “I’m going back …. we went too far and tried to do too much. We really didn’t get established in what we want to be. Hopefully when you watch us, you will see a little different team, and then you say, ‘ok, I get it.’”

John Calipari (Photo by Tammie Brown/Kentucky Today)

Calipari admitted he could’ve put too much emphasis on the opener against Duke, which jumped to No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll this week. The Wildcats, previously second, fell to No. 10. The Kentucky coach pinned the 34-loss on himself.
“That’s not their fault, it was me, and maybe I was trying to get ready for a game that I thought was important and move them too far,” he said. “Now all of the stuff that makes us who we are, we didn’t do any of it and is we’ve gone back and just said, ‘let’s just get this stuff down.’’”
Calipari said the Wildcats took a step back and zoomed in on all areas to establish an identity in moving forward. He added that when you are winning, “you put you’re head in the sand and know you have issues, but you’re winning and you don’t want to screw it up and there are issues (but) you are winning.”
“Anytime I think these kids know something, I’m more than likely making a mistake,” he said. “That’s with about every team that I’ve coached here. … (we) just took it back a step and (used) a little bit of (an) old-school approach. … It’s a lot of teaching on things you think they should know, but they don’t. That’s normal here. I’ve done this more than once. … I thought were fine until you get smacked.”
Kentucky freshman Keldon Johnson said the first two games provided a “learning lesson.”
“I think we learned a lot from each game and it’s just up from here,” he said. “We’re just going continue to get better as a team and as individuals and I think that it will be great.”
Kentucky sophomore Quade Green agreed and has been providing guidance to Johnson and freshman class to keep them focused and ahead of the curve, especially following the embarrassing loss to the Blue Devils.
“I just told them to go out, play hard,” Green said. “You’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to have some mental lapses on defense and you’re going to get tired. You have to overcome that.”
Calipari and his staff have been working on several issues, including eliminating unforced turnovers and metal preparing on both sides of the ball.
“You can’t be the greatest half-court man-to-man team, full-court pressing team, unbelievable in the zone, and you trap, and your out of bounds, you’re unbelievable out-of-bounds plays, side out of bounds you’re even better than that, but man, your zone offense – you’re not going to be good at everything,” Calipari said. “And you have to decide, what is this team’s strength and how can we be good at those things and try to stay away from the things that we don’t do well? Well, it takes me normally a season – at least months to figure it out and figure it out with these guys. But, we’ve got a good group of kids. We’ve gotta have a couple of them stand up and step away from this pack.”
Green has no doubt things will improve as the season progresses.
“We’re just trying to figure it out, that’s all,” Green said. “It’s November. We just need to keep winning.”
Gametracker: North Dakota at Kentucky, 9 p.m. Wednesday. TV/Radio: SEC Network, UK Radio Network.
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.

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