calipari

No. 11 Kentucky needs leaders to emerge at Missouri

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After winning three straight games, No. 11 Kentucky didn’t put its best foot forward, so to speak, in their 87-82 loss at LSU on Tuesday night. Defensively the effort wasn’t where it needed to be, with LSU shooting nearly 51% from the field and Johnny O’Bryant III torching the Wildcat big men for 29 points to go along with nine rebounds. Offensively the Wildcats forced shots and didn’t share the basketball as much as they should have, and those factors resulted in the team’s second conference defeat.

The effort issues don’t go for every player who saw time on Tuesday, with Dakari Johnson and James Young being two of the exceptions on Tuesday. And if Kentucky is to win at Missouri on Saturday, there cannot be any questions regarding the team’s effort or temperament.

For some teams a players-only meeting is the proper tonic, with players airing their grievances and committing to do whatever it takes to better the team. And that’s the path the Wildcats reportedly took in the aftermath of their loss to LSU, with sophomore Alex Poythress organizing the meeting.

That’s a move to be applauded by the head coach, right? Not if you ask Calipari, who voiced his opinion on the subject on Friday according to Kyle Tucker of the Louisville Courier-Journal.

On the players-only meeting and him typically not being impressed with those: “Don’t want to know. Don’t want to know, don’t care. Let’s play. This all is about what we do on the court, preparing to go to war, understanding that the other team is excited to play you. That’s all what this comes down to.”

On if it’s significant that Alex Poythress called the meeting: “You’re telling me stuff that I don’t know because I don’t care to know. All I want to see is that we’re prepared to play and that we’re understanding that the other team is absolutely excited to play you, and you have to be excited and energetic and passionate and that’s how you have to play basketball.”

During his press conference Calipari also noted that the players are the ones who need to step up and lead the team, something many have been waiting for with this current group. And that goes a long way towards solving problems on the court, as the presence of a leader (or leaders) usually ensures that there’s a collective effort to make things right instead of every man pulling in his own direction.

There will still be growing pains for this group regardless of the collection of individual talent, due in large part to the age of the players on the team. Outside of senior Jarrod Polson the entire rotation consists of underclassmen, and that can be an issue for some teams.

Kentucky needs to figure out its leadership issue, with Saturday’s road game being the first opportunity for players to step up in a hostile environment. NCAA tournament games may be played on neutral floors, but the magnitude of the moment makes leadership critical. And whether or not leaders emerge will determine just how far the Wildcats go.

UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman out with a knee injury

UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. shoots against San Diego State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.

The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.

They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.

That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:

VIDEO: Buddy Hield is ‘all money’ on game-winning three vs. No. 24 Texas

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) takes a shot over Oklahoma State forward Chris Oliver during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
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With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.

At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes

“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:

“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”

“It’s all money.”

Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.

Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .

Want to talk about coaching luxuries?

Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.