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December 17, 2011
Calipari critical despite Cats' 87-62 rout
The scoreboard said Kentucky 87, Chattanooga 62. It sure looked lopsided.
The boxscore showed that No. 3 UK outrebounded the Mocs Saturday night in Rupp Arena, that the Wildcats (9-1) shot a solid 48.5 percent, made 12 three-pointers and stifled Chattanooga (3-8) so severely that the Mocs made a third of their shots.
Statistics would seem to say John Calipari should be pleased.
The stat sheet lies.
"We hold a team to 33 percent (shooting) and I'm not happy," Calipari said. "We have 13 turnovers and 17 assists, outrebound them, I'm not happy. Because this team should be one of those (great) teams, and every night out you've got to drive to be that."
So Calipari didn't gush about the way his team jumped out to an 18-2 lead against Chattanooga. He was reserved in his praise for guard Doron Lamb, who led all scorers with 24 points. He harped on his team's defense, its effort and its toughness.
The Kentucky coach is a self-professed perfectionist.
His displeasure with the Cats' 25-point win is hardly a news flash to his team.
"He said he's not going to be satisfied until we have a perfect game," said forward Anthony Davis, who had 14 points, 18 rebounds and five blocked shots in Saturday's game. "He wants us to be perfect, but he knows it takes a lot. We just try to go out there and play and do whatever he asks us to do. We know he's going to get on us, but we've just got to be prepared for it."
Perhaps they should have seen Calipari's criticism coming.
For most of the week of practice following last Saturday's loss at Indiana, Calipari hammered home a pair of points: play defense without fouling, and defend the three-point line.
The points of emphasis: opponents will struggle to score inside against UK's long, athletic front line. Three-pointers and free throws are their best bets to spring upsets.
"He pretty much says that's the only way teams can beat us, so keep them off the (free-throw) line and guard the three," said point guard Marquis Teague, who had 11 points, eight assists and one turnover against the Mocs.
Chattanooga shot 17 free throws, three more than Kentucky. It got some clean looks from three-point range and made 8-of-27 from behind the line.
"So today, they went to the free-throw line, hit free throws, were hitting threes," Davis said. "(Calipari) really got on us about that as well, because we worked all week in practice (at) defending that, knowing that guys only want to shoot threes against us and go to the line to shoot free throws."
Calipari said his team left the corner open for shooters "five times." He lamented a lack of toughness on his team's part.
"That stuff I have a right to be angry about," Calipari said. "Not coming up with loose balls where guys won't stick their nose in there, I have a right to be angry about that. 'Well, let him stick his nose in there, but I am not going to put my nose in there because I might get hit.' We can't be that way."
Still, Calipari could admit the night wasn't all bad.
His team came out with intensity after a week off. Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist - who had 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists - stuffed the stat sheet. And Kentucky cruised despite getting virtually nothing from Terrence Jones.
Jones dislocated a finger on his left hand early in the game, and though he returned and tried several times to play, his stints typically were short. He played 10 minutes, had one rebound and failed to score for the first time in his UK career.
Calipari saw some good things in freshman Kyle Wiltjer, who had nine points. He said Lamb "played hard" on a solid shooting night.
For the most part, though, it was a nitpicking night.
The Cats could have rebounded better, Calipari said. Some players "weren't ready to play" and struggled to execute a game plan UK worked on the past two days in practice.
These don't sound like such challenging problems for the coach who was on the other side of a 25-point margin.
"He's a liar," Chattanooga coach John Shulman joked. "He's just trying to find something that he can kill his guys for. ... He's got to keep those guys going, so he's going to try to find something he can blast them about."
There's some truth in that.
Even Calipari's players know it.
But they've been braced for post-blowout tirades. The Cats see the purpose in the perfectionism.
"He wants us to be great," Davis said. "He says we've got a chance to be a special team, and it's just the little things - going after balls, rebounds, diving on the floor, taking charges. It's just the little things that we need to do that he really gets on us (about). We really understand where he's coming from."