Calipari: Cats needed 'hit in mouth'

Julius Randle shoots at Vandy.

Kentucky coach John Calipari is fond of saying he deals in straight talk when discussing basketball with his players. What the Wildcats heard on the heels of their first SEC road game – a win, no less, at Vanderbilt – may not have been expected.

Kentucky coach John Calipari is fond of saying he deals in straight talk when discussing basketball with his players.

What the Wildcats heard on the heels of their first SEC road game – a win, no less, at Vanderbilt – may not have been expected.

"I'm trying to get these guys to be excited about winning and be excited about us getting better," Calipari said. "Yesterday, I kind of hit them in the mouth. I think they were all like stunned."

Asked to elaborate on the figurative slap he gave the Cats, the UK boss said: "You know, you get a team down and you have a chance to put them away, you do. And here's why you didn't… May be a four-point win, it may be a 25-point win but let's play at our best and let's go out with that mentality."

Calipari didn't feel like his team had the killer instinct against Vanderbilt, a squad that featured only seven scholarship players and had its best player, Rod Odom, sit out for almost half the game with foul trouble. The Cats' biggest lead was 13, and the game hung in the balance throughout before UK left Memorial Gym with a 71-62 win.

In the postgame, Commodore guard Kyle Fuller told reporters that he felt Vanderbilt was every bit UK's equal, and that didn't sit well with Calipari.

"Teams (say), ‘They're OK, we're just as good,'" Calipari said. "… I don't want to say lack of respect, but it's not like glowing remarks."

And that's not a reflection on the opponent, he added. That's a reflection on the Cats.

"I just told them the truth," Calipari said. "I just said, want me to sit here and BS you, or want me to tell you the truth?

"I told them, part of our issue is the focus we have at times on the court, we just lose the (focus). "You have to have a sense of urgency and a sense of purpose on each possession, and we don't always do."

Calipari estimated that Vandy scored approximately 20 of its 62 points as a result of UK simply losing focus. If that happens Tuesday night at Arkansas (11-4, 0-2 SEC) it could be a long night for the Cats.

"It's not a game you can go down there and throw a bunch of clunkers up because you're going to have a problem," he said.

Playing in Fayetteville is always a challenge, especially when you're No. 13 Kentucky (12-3, 2-0 SEC). And these Razorbacks will have an added sense of urgency coming off losses to Texas A&M and Florida to open the league slate.

"I've played against Arkansas a bunch, whether I was at Memphis or here, and it mostly affects who you have on your team," Calipari said of the expected wild atmosphere awaiting UK at Bud Walton Arena. "You have to have tough, strong-willed players.

"If you're timid in any way, they'll overrun you."

Tip-off for Kentucky at Arkansas is slated for 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.

MORE AT ALLWILDCATS.COM:
Calipari Says Cats Must Dedicate More Time To Individual Workouts

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Talk About It With Other UK Fans

Jeff Drummond has covered University of Kentucky sports for newspapers, magazines and online publications since 1988 and for FOX Sports since 2012. A Richmond, Ky., native, he currently resides in Lexington.

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