One group of Cardinals down, one more to go.
And yet if what John Calipari said postgame following his team’s 86-64 win over Lamar on Wednesday night is true, it will be the only group of Cardinals to fall in Rupp Arena this week. Coach Cal wasn’t pleased after his team rolled to 12-1 heading into the New Year’s Eve Dream Game with archrival Louisville.
“I’m not very happy,” Cailpari said postgame.
Not happy? Had the reporters not watched UK’s 40-minute dismantling of Lamar, you would have thought Kentucky had lost Wednesday.
“I’m not in a great frame of mind to talk about Saturday,” Calipari said. “I’m like, right now, there are no excuses. I don’t want to hear it.”
In particular, Calipari doesn’t want to hear any more excuses from his players. Calipari didn’t mince any words in the bowels of Rupp Arena, telling reporters that if his players can’t play better than they have been, he’s got a spot for them reserved on the bench.
“We had a guy that said, ‘I couldn’t get open.’ ‘Good, you’re out and I’ll play somebody else. How about that? Your job is about to get open,’ ” Calipari said.
Calipari said he’s not “babying” his players anymore. Although UK has won its last four games by an average margin of 23.3 points per game, Coach Cal said his team should be playing better than it is right now. He said if his team plays Saturday like it did Wednesday, it will lose to the Cardinals.
“Oh, you want me to tell the truth? Well, let me tell you the truth. And so, we either cure this or we are going to start taking L’s. You start taking on water, and when you do start taking on water and you start getting deer-in-the-headlights look, and now every game becomes a war.”
Believe it or not, Kentucky rolled fairly easily Wednesday. The Cats shook off any cobwebs of the holiday break and stormed to a 7-0 lead and 44-28 halftime margin.
Five players scored in double figures for UK, led by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with 18 points, six rebounds and four assists. Anthony Davis also pitched in with his sixth double-double of the season (10 points and 13 rebounds).
Kidd-Gilchrist scored seven of Kentucky’s nine points after halftime to put the game out of reach. It was the sixth straight game the freshman forward has scored in double figures, but the third straight game he’s done it while picking up two fouls in the opening minutes.
Calipari said he normally doesn’t play guys in the first half once they reach two fouls and said Kidd-Gilchrist has got to find a way to stay out of foul trouble.
“I just think it’s how he plays,” senior guard Darius Miller said. “He plays 110 percent all the time and you can’t fault him for that. Maybe a few questionable calls, I don’t know. I don’t know what it was, but we need him to continue to play like that and continue to play aggressive. That does a lot for our team and that’s a big part of our team.”
Miller continued to bust out of his early season shooting slump, knocking down a season-high-tying four 3-pointers. He hit three before halftime, giving UK all the cushion it would need to hand Lamar its fifth loss of the year.
“I never really lost confidence in my shooting or anything like that,” said Miller, who finished with 15 points. “I just felt like I put in some time trying to get everything right and it paid off today.”
Calipari was pleased to see Miller knock down his shots, but he continued to harp on Miller and the rest of his team to be more aggressive.
“What we are doing right now, unless Michael or Anthony (Davis) gets the ball, we are not getting the ball,” Calipari said. “We have other guys that are flinching going after balls, or ducking, or hoping Anthony or Mike will get it.”Lamar head coach Pat Knight, son of Hall of Fame coach Bobby Knight, took a different view than Calipari. Knight’s team has played and lost to both Louisville and Ohio State, but Knight was impressed with Kentucky’s balance and ability to score in different ways.
Knight said that no matter what Coach Cal could have told his players before the game, it was only natural for them to look ahead to their archrival.
“This is a special team that could get Coach Cal his first championship,” Knight said. “I think they are that talented.”
Terrence Jones, who has missed the last two games with a dislocated pinky finger on his left hand, returned Wednesday with mixed results. The sophomore forward, with his pinky finger wrapped to his ring finger, came off the bench to score nine points and six rebounds, but he was limited to two points and one board after halftime.
“(He) was OK,” Cailpari said. “I went at him late because I didn’t want to hear any excuses. I don’t care that you’re missing shots, missing free throws, layups. Go get balls. Go be tough. Go defend and we don’t have to do all this.”
Kentucky will need more from Jones on Saturday if it hopes to beat Louisville.
“It’s getting better,” Jones said of his finger. “Just to be able to be back out there with my team was a great feeling.”
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