Calipari marvels at improvement
Published 11:52 am Thursday, February 28, 2013
LEXINGTON There may be plenty of life left after all in this basketball season for the Kentucky Wildcats.
Coach John Caliparis team continued a remarkable turnaround with a dominating, 85-55, Southeastern Conference victory Wednesday night at Rupp Arena.
Just 12 days ago, the Wildcats were struggling with the loss of freshman center Nerlens Noel, out for the season with a torn ACL, and got blasted by Tennessee, 88-58, in Knoxville.
Kentucky has rebounded, no pun intended, with a three-game winning streak to improve to 20-8 overall and 11-4 in the SEC.
Mississippi State, down to just eight scholarship players, is 7-20, and 2-14.
The prodding Calipari has done all season to try to make these young Wildcats step up appears to finally be kicking in.
Five Wildcats scored in double figures Wednesday. Sophomore point guard Ryan Harrow enjoyed another sterling performance with a team-high 19 points, seven rebounds, four assists and no turnovers in 30 minutes.
Freshman forward Alex Poythress added 16 points and eight rebounds in 28 minutes; freshman center Willie Cauley-Stein had 12 points and six rebounds, and senior swingman Julius Mays and freshman guard Archie Goodwin added 11 points each.
Calipari marvels at his teams improvement.
Look, this team, what weve been through the last 10 days … think about it, Calipari said. What weve had to do to adjust to all the things happening around us.
We had dirt thrown on us 10 days ago. The coffin was nailed shut, and the dirt was thrown on us. Now, all of a sudden, were like: Wait a minute. What just happened?
And theyre feeling good about themselves. They should. Im proud of them.
Harrow indicates the Wildcats saw their basketball life, at least the collegiate version, pass before their eyes after the Tennessee loss.
We just all got together and talked and said we need to turn this around, Harrow said. Were starting to have fun and playing better together.
Everybody is playing well, Poythress echoes. We all play as a team, and we can be very hard to beat. We are having fun out there and making plays.
One big reason for the improvement is on the boards. Kentucky out-rebounded MSUs Bulldogs, 42-29. Seventeen of the winners rebounds came from guards.
Coach told us since Nerlens is out, we just had to start rebounding more, Harrow said of Kentuckys back court players.
Especially with teams that shoot a lot of 3s. The ball is going to fly out farther to where the guards are at.
It helps you (fast) break, and it relieves pressure on your fours and five, Calipari said. He (Harrow) and Julius, between them, had 10 rebounds. I think theyve had 25 between them the last two games.
Kentucky plays at Arkansas 4 p.m. Saturday in a game to be televised by CBS.
Wednesday was also special for UK because university officials honored the schools 1996 national championship team with rings at halftime.
Eleven members of that team were on hand for the ceremony.
The ones that couldnt get back were playing or coaching tonight and couldnt get away, Calipari said.
Let me just tell you one thing. They were terrific players. They sacrificed more than any team Id ever seen. When you talk about guys getting 20 minutes who deserved 40 minutes, and accepting it, its incredible.
Anytime I see them, theyre always kind to us and this program. Im just happy the university stepped up and did what they did. I think it shows a lot that we do reach back.