This was the game before Louisville, but I’m not fully convinced that it was the best way to prepare for what’s going to be the biggest challenge of the season for this young Cats team.
Coppin State was grossly over-matched from the tip. UK had a ridiculous size advantage and as I watched the players run down the court for the first time, I was hoping that this would be a game in which Josh Harrellson would put up some Kevin Love style numbers.
That wasn’t the case but UK did dominate the Eagles on the boards through gang rebounding. Six players had four or more rebounds and Coppin State was out-rebounded by 21, UK’s largest margin of the season.
The all-around dominance of Kentucky led the team to play a little lazy in the second half. During the first half, players were diving on the floor and hustling on defense, leading to 19 Coppin State points on 19.4% shooting. In the second half, the Eagles scored 42 points on 53.3% shooting.The Cats weren’t closing out on three point shooters and were content to just outscore the Eagles on the other end. This strategy is fine when our shots are dropping but we haven’t had a game like last year’s team had in the Elite Eight when nothing was going in.
Also on the defensive front, UK played zone a good deal more than any other game this season. “It wasn’t bad. We had a couple breakdowns but not bad,” John Calipari said regarding the zone defense. “It slows the game down and I don’t like playing that way. I want them to shoot 15 seconds into the shot clock so we can start our offense.” Calipari did acknowledge that it might be something we see repeated against the Cards though, “We may try to slow it down on Friday, do what Drexel did.”
The second half lack of hustle was evident in the foul column. With nine minutes left in the second half, UK had seven team fouls while Coppin State had only one. Effort like that will get the Cats torched in the Yum Center on Friday. Foul trouble will be this team’s Achilles Heel and if the players aren’t in the mindset of giving 100% effort on defense without fouling, then it could cost us a game down the road. Especially considering Calipari’s recent assertion that the rotation may be trimmed to just six. “They gotta do more. Stacey, Jon and Eloy have got to give more while their on the court,” Calipari said. “Six is the rotation. If those guys are tentative or not talking or not coming up with balls then we’re going to play with six.”
For all my complaining, I don’t think the Cats played poorly. Everyone contributed offensively and the ball was distributed very well. Terrence found his rhythm again and Doron continued his scoring explosion. The team rebounded how Coach Calipari wants them to do it and when the defense was focused, it was very impressive.
However, I don’t think Coppin State and their like should be the teams we look to schedule before the game against our biggest rival. I know that Coach Cal and the players like to brush U of L off as just another game, but that’s not the case for the fans. I’d like to see this game given to a team against whom we can be more competitive. Coppin State may be the worst team we play all year and it shouldn’t be how we prepare for our biggest rival.
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