- Mississippi State Bulldogs - January 17, 2017 - 7:00 PM EST - Humphrey Coliseum, Starkville, Miss. - ESPN
John Calipari said he couldn’t play Kyle Wiltjer if he didn’t make shots.
How did Wiltjer respond Friday night? By making a career-high seven 3-pointers. The seven treys led to a game-high 23 points.
“It was a great feeling,” Wiltjer said. “I really wanted to give credit to my teammates just finding me the ball. In our new sets, we really worked on spacing and it’s a great Coach Cal teaching us where to go when we don’t have the ball so we’re not just standing around.”
Wiltjer is shooting 63.2 percent (12 of 19) from 3-point range through the first three games of the 2012-13 season. Calipari knows Wiltjer isn’t going to hit 7-of-11 3-point attempts every night like he did against Lafayette, but he does expect Wiltjer to hit four or five if he takes that many attempts.
“I believe he’s that good,” Coach Cal said.
The key for Wiltjer, Calipari said, is getting open without the ball. Calipari said Wiltjer has a tendency to stand around at times when he doesn’t have the ball.
“He has to work hard to create the shot before he catches,” Coach Cal said. “If he doesn’t, I’m going to play Willie (Cauley-Stein). That’s just how it is. I’m telling you what I told him. If you don’t work hard to create space and a shot for yourself — before you catch the ball, and I’m watching, you’re out. So (Friday) what he did, he is personally in the second half, he saw gaps, erased to those gaps and guys found him also, and he made shots.”
When Julius Mays decided to transfer to Kentucky, the book on him said he was a prolific scorer who could shoot the long ball and would add valuable leadership to a team short on experience.
What the scouting report didn’t include is he is a decent distributor.
Mays dished out 10 assists on Friday night and had zero turnovers. It’s the first time a UK players has recorded 10 or more assists without a turnover since Rajon Rondo dropped 12 dimes and no turnovers on Feb. 22, 2006.
It’s also just the second time a UK player has dished out 10 or more assists since the 2009-10 season.
Coach Cal credited Mays for finding Wiltjer on several of his career-high seven 3-pointers.
“Julius had an idea to find him,” Calipari said. “Even the last one when Julius had the 3, and he passed it to him for the 3.”
Polson steadies the ship again
Without sophomore Ryan Harrow, who missed his second straight game with an illness, junior Jarrod Polson played a big role again in the rout of Maryland.
Polson played a career-high 26 minutes, scoring seven points, dishing out three assists and committing just one turnover.
At times, Kentucky’s offense ran smoother at the point when Polson was in the game. For the season, Polson is averaging 20 minutes a game, 5.7 points and 2.0 assists.
While it remains to be seen if he’ll play that many minutes the rest of the season, he and junior Jon Hood will likely get more opportunities to cut down on the minutes of the freshmen.
Hood played 11 minutes Friday.
“He’s got to get those minutes to cut minutes from everybody else so they’re not playing 35 minutes a game,” Coach Cal said. “Especially right now, they’re not ready.”
Coach Cal has coached big men like Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson and Marcus Camby.
He has never been afforded the luxury that he has this year in Nerlens Noel and Cauley-Stein.
“I’ve coached all kinds of ways over 20-something years, (but) I’ve never had two guys like this in the post,” Calipari said.
For all the elite big men he’s coached, he’s never had two true back-to-the-basket players who want to pound the ball on the block and try to score.
“I’ve had DeMarcus Cousins, but he wanted to shoot 3s,” Coach Cal said. “Now you have these two guys and they’re truly post players. I have two of them, so we’ve got to play that way. Force you to double team and then we’ll kick it out and shoot 3s.”
Calipari has been trying to identify what type of team this is – Dribble Drive, handoffs, pick-and-roll, etc. – and he seems to have settled on the fact that this is a post-up team because of the bigs’ ability to score.
Noel is averaging 11.7 points through three games and Cauley-Stein is averaging 8.7 off the bench.
“What I liked is their ability to score the ball,” Calipari said. “They can score. They can take you left-handed, right-handed, and they can score. They’re quick and agile. They can pass, but I want them to first of all score the ball in there.
The Scouting Report with Coach Robic (Lafayette game)