Testing for UK of road variety
Posted: Tuesday, January 18, 2011 5:01 pm
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky has winning at Rupp Arena down pat.
Two years into his tenure as the Wildcats’ coach, John Calipari hasn’t lost a game at home.
But away from Lexington this season, Kentucky is 2-2. The Wildcats will look to improve their road record with a trip to Alabama (10-7, 2-1 SEC) tonight.
Calipari said a combination of inexperienced players, a shallow bench and rowdy crowds all factor into what has been a relatively lukewarm season away from Lexington so far for the No. 12 Wildcats (14-3, 2-1).
Of seven new recruits on the roster, only three are in Kentucky’s regular rotation: Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb. Three sit as seldom-used reserves. The seventh is Enes Kanter, who the NCAA ruled permanently ineligible earlier this month.
“(It’s) hard to win on the road, especially with a young team that’s learning,” Calipari said. “And I’ll be honest with you, winning at Louisville, winning that game against Notre Dame (in Louisville) and then the Portland (win) … we’ve done OK.”
Calipari said young players thrive in a home environment, but the team has been more timid on the road.
Senior center Josh Harrellson said the team needs to get better at throwing “the first punch.” He said road games have taken the Wildcats out of their element.
Jones, Kentucky’s leading scorer at 18.6 points per game, has come off the bench two games in a row because Calipari said he was being too steadfast with the ball.
Kentucky’s recent group of starters have established a rhythm, “Pass, pass, pass, pass, pass,” Calipari said. Jones was stopping the flow by holding the ball, Calipari said.
“If it goes pass, pass, you hold it, stop — you’re not going pass, pass, pass, pass,” Calipari said. “We’ve got to get him moving.”
In two games off the bench, Jones is averaging 26 points and 7.5 rebounds.
Kentucky has also had faster starts in those games — the Wildcats led by 11 points at the first media time-out against Auburn and nine points against LSU.
“That’s a big step for us as a young team, just to get up big on teams and not look back and let them back in the game,” Harrellson said. “Hopefully we can keep that up. These last couple of games, we’ve done that and that’s been a big step for us.”
Calipari said he’s undecided if he will continue to use Jones off the bench.