John Calipari wants his players to stop making life difficult for themselves

On3 imageby:Jack Pilgrim12/09/23

Kentucky beat a tough Penn team in their home city by 15 points. It’s a squad that came in ranked sixth nationally in 3-point efficiency and had been on a volume heater leading up to this point, hitting 45-84 from deep in their last three games. Factor in Steve Donahue’s wrinkle-filled Princeton offense designed to make life hell for opposing defenses, and John Calipari had a rough night sleeping ahead of the matchup.

“I told Steve, I woke up at 4 AM this morning worried about this game,” Calipari said after the win. “Every time I watched tape, they’re making 25 threes, jacking balls and back-cutting.”

How did the Cats defend it?

“You can answer that,” Cal joked, indirectly acknowledging the straight-line drives, backdoor cuts and made threes the Cats gave up. He added, though, “the kids fought today.”

“Let me say this, I think we had a fairly good game plan of what we had to do, but it doesn’t matter,” Calipari said. “They run their stuff, it’s a Princeton offense. It’s his wrinkle to it, though, so it’s not all Princeton. He is a terrific coach and a great guy.”

It was always going to be a slugfest, one the Wildcats fortunately pulled away to win comfortably late. Part of that was a result of improved ball movement, a key issue in the team’s loss last week to UNCW. Some of the shots didn’t fall for assists, but Coach Cal was pleased with the team’s unselfishness in Philly.

“Here’s the biggest thing. We missed a lot of shots today that could have been assisted, but we passed the ball to each other. One of our goals was — I know this seems like, ‘What?’ — but pass the ball just to pass it,” Calipari said. “Not just to make an assist, pass it to pass it. How about this? Someone may do it to you. Then we all look good again.”

What limited a blowout victory over the Quakers? Some self-inflicted mental errors that Kentucky can’t seem to get away from quite yet. A few players simply like making life difficult for themselves with some decision-making and shot selection.

Sometimes it works, more often it doesn’t.

“I’ve got some guys that have to make the absolute hardest play they can try to make, and they all make it one out of four,” Calipari said. “25 percent of the time, something good happens. The other three are turnovers and breakouts for the other team. Hopefully when we hit February, that won’t be the case.”

Get that figured out and the Cats will be rolling.

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