UK fans getting weary

I ran into UK fan Ken Schrader this morning. I asked him if any fans had gotten bit by a shark or fallen out of a helicopter.
No.
But he said, “Kentucky fans are walking their legs off.”
Atlantis resort -from end to end – is a solid 20-minute walk.

UK routs Puerto Ricans

Kentucky beat the reserves of the Puerto Rican National Team 93-57 Tuesday.
UK, which improved to 3-0 on its exhibition series in the Bahamas, had 14 dunks and 58 points I the paint in an overpowering performance.
Marcus Lee led the dunk-fest with six slams. Alex Poythress and Karl-Anthony Towns added three each.
tod Lanter punctuated the game with a three-pointer.
SECOND HALF
UK kept on keeping on in second half. With 13:37 left, UK. Had 40 points from paint.
AS if bored, Andrew Harrison threw behind the back pass that Dakari Johnson laid in rather than dunk.

Numbers
UK had 15 dunks and 52 points from the paint with eight minutes left.

Observation
Still no drama in Bahamas for UK.

FIRST HALF
UK used its superiority around the basket to take a 46-26 halftime lead against Puerto Rico.
The Cats had as many dunks as the opponent had baskets: eight each.
this inside firepower enabled UK to shake off a slow start and lead by as much as 22points down the stretch.

numbers: 28 of UK’s first 39 points came in the paint. Alex Poythress had 9 points and 6 rebounds. UK took only 5 3-point shots, making 3.

Impressions: Things got chippy again, as happened Sunday. A double foul seemed to settle things down. Tyler. Ulis is tough. Seconds after a pick knocked him to the floor, he picked himself up and threw a lob than Derek Willis dunked.

For a second straight game, Kentucky got off to a slow start.
The Cats committed a turnover on their first possession, then freshman Devin Booker got beat on a back door cut.
UK trailed by as much as four points early.
but like on Monday, UK righted itself. The Cats led 18-12 with 10minutes left in half.

numbers: Four of UK’ first five baskets were dunks. UK committed five fouls in first seven minutes.

UK beats French team by 23, and now on to Tuesday

With victories in its first two games, Kentucky continues the Bahamas basketball trip Tuesday with a game against the reserves of the Puerto Rican National Team.
Game time is 1 p.m. ESPNU is televising.
UK beat the Puerto Ricans by 25 points on Sunday. In the rematch, assistant Barry “Slice” Rohrssen is expected to coach while UK Coach John Calipari watches from the bleachers.
During Monday’s game against a French pro team, Calipari manned an ESPN camera during a portion of the second half. He had a smile on his face as he and the camera followed the action.

update
a 16-4 run gave UK a 56-39 lead with 12:44 left.

Final: Kentucky 81 , Champagne Chalons-Reims 58

conclusion: The French team was supposed to test UK. but like on Sunday, UK’s depth seem to wear down the opposition physically and mentally. Late in game, fans gave hustling Cats a standing ovation. With 2 minutes left, more than a few fans, presumably satisfied, headed for exit.

UK leads French pro team 37-32 at halftime

I am at the Kendal G.L. Isaacs Natonal Gymnasium to watch Kentucky play the Club Champagne Chalons-Reims Basket, a team that will play in France’s top division next season. The game is scheduled to tip off at 1 p.m. Follow the action here. UK has not yet announced a starting lineupi. But UK Coach John Calipari said assistant Kenny Payne will coach the team.

ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said he was told Kentucky will have the same five players going in and out of the game as a unit. But no word on which unit will start.

Kentucky is 1-0 on the trip while Champagne Chalons-Reims will be playing its first game. The gym, which seats about 2,500 (or 1,900 depending on who you ask), is expected to be about half full.

FIRST HALF

A slow start put Kentucky behind early against the pro team from France. Even the insertion of five substitutes with 16:13 left failed to ignite the Cats.

Numbers: UK missed six of its first nine shots and committed five turnovers inside the first eight minutes. The French led by as much as eight points (20-12) with 10 minutes left.

Observations: Aaron Harrison provided a potential momentum-changing play. His steal and driving dunk seemed to breath new life in Kentucky. Tasmin Mitchell looks heavier than in his LSU days, but still effective as a player for the French team.

HALFTIME

Numbers: Dakari Johnson had a busy first half (five points and four rebounds). The French team had three baskets in the final 10 minutes of the half. One was a put-back. Another was an improbable floater.

Observations: 1. Subs played a large role in a 16-2 run that put Kentucky ahead 28-22. Subs scored the final 12 points in the run, which included dunks by Marcus Lee and Karl-Anthony Towns, plus threes by Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins. 2. UK switched to zone after the 4th TV timeout. 3. Andrew Harrison set the halftime scorer with a textbook pull-up jumper from the foul line with 2.3 seconds left.

Slow start puts Kentucky behind early against French pro team

I am at the Kendal G.L. Isaacs Natonal Gymnasium to watch Kentucky play the Club Champagne Chalons-Reims Basket, a team that will play in France’s top division next season. The game is scheduled to tip off at 1 p.m. Follow the action here. UK has not yet announced a starting lineupi. But UK Coach John Calipari said assistant Kenny Payne will coach the team.

ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said he was told Kentucky will have the same five players going in and out of the game as a unit. But no word on which unit will start.

Kentucky is 1-0 on the trip while Champagne Chalons-Reims will be playing its first game. The gym, which seats about 2,500 (or 1,900 depending on who you ask), is expected to be about half full.

FIRST HALF

A slow start put Kentucky behind early against the pro team from France. Even the insertion of five substitutes with 16:13 left failed to ignite the Cats.

NUMBERS: UK missed six of its first nine shots and committed five turnovers inside the first eight minutes. The French led by as much as eight points (20-12) with 10 minutes left.

OBSERVATIONS: Aaron Harrison provided a potential momentum-changing play. His steal and driving dunk seemed to breath new life in Kentucky. Tasmin Mitchell looks heavier than in his LSU days, but still effective as a player for the French team.

UK warming up for 2nd game in Bahamas

I am at the Kendal G.L. Isaacs Natonal Gymnasium to watch Kentucky play the Club Champagne Chalons-Reims Basket, a team that will play in France’s top division next season. The game is scheduled to tip off at 1 p.m. Follow the action here. UK has not yet announced a starting lineupi. But UK Coach John Calipari said assistant Kenny Payne will coach the team.

ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said he was told Kentucky will have the same five players going in and out of the game as a unit. But no word on which unit will start.

Kentucky is 1-0 on the trip while Champagne Chalons-Reims will be playing its first game. The gym, which seats about 2,500 (or 1,900 dependning on who you ask), is expected to be about half full.

Bright, sunny and warm in Nassau. One correction: The gym is air-conditioned, but not overly so.

I will be back with updates this afternoon.

Poythress stars as UK wins opening game in Bahamas

I was at the G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium earlier today to watch Kentucky beat reserves for the Puerto Rico National Team 74-49.

In a glittering display of talent and depth, Alex Poythress was UK’s star of stars. Unlike the sometimes desultory performer of previous seasons, Poythress was an active contributor in many areas. He jumped center, scored around the basket, ripped a rebound from a Puerto Rico player’s grasp and once knocked a driver to the floor rather than concede a layup.

“He does things I can’t coach,” UK Coach John Calipari said of Poythress, whose combination of athleticism and bulk stand out on a team with plenty of ingredients.

A crowd of about 1,200 (no official attendance was announced) filled about half of the gym’s seats. With no air conditioning, it seemed a good idea to spread out in a gym that had two rows of chair-back seats and 16 rows of bleachers behind each sideline.

Kentucky, now 1-0 on its six-game trip to the Bahamas, plays again Monday (1 p.m. tip) against the Club Champagne Chalons-Reims, a team that will play in France’s top division next season.

In the first half Sunday, Kentucky faced an opponent eager to compete. Only 73 seconds into the game, referee John Hampton called a technical foul on Manuel Narvaez, who excessively taunted Dakari Johnson after blocking the UK big man’s shot.

But UK took the lead for good with about eight minutes left.

HALFTIME: UK 38, Puerto Rico 31.

NUMBER: UK got to the line more: 12 free throws to the opposition’s five. UK also played to its strength: 21 two-point shots, eight three-point shots.

FIRST HALF

Observations: 1. Poythress jumped center even though Johnson was the tallest starter, by far.  Poythress easily won the tap. 2. If this trip carries lasting memories, it might be because of Andrew Harrison’s fake staggering a Puerto Rico defender. While the defender had to gather himself to prevent from falling, Harrison sped by and fed Poythress a pass for a dunk. 3. Calipari substituted five at a time. There was no falloff in performance.

SECOND HALF

Observations: 1. The second team (Tyler Ulis, Karl-Anthony Towns, Dominique Hawkins, Derek Willis  and Marcus Lee) started. A 7-point halftime team ballooned to 13 barely two minutes into the half. 2. Puerto Rico’s sudden ability to drive for layups displeased Calipari. He called time with 14:32 left when no one contested a Puerto Rico player’s one-man fast-break to a layup. Later, Calipari clapped in approval when Poythress’ contest of a drive left a Puerto Rico player sprawled on the floor. 3. UK scored the game’s final nine points. Four different players scored as Puerto Rico lost heart.

Final score: Kentucky 74-Puerto Rico 49.

Conclusion: Nothing happened to move anyone away from the assumption that eight McDonald’s All-Americans make Kentucky a team to be reckoned with. The scary thing to remember is Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Lyles did not play.

 

Fourth impressions from UK’s Thursday practice

In the week leading to the trip to the Bahamas, Kentucky Coach John Calipari invited the Kentucky media corps to attend this week’s practices. UK asked reporters not to cite specifics from the workouts. But opinions were fine.

Following first impressions from Monday’s practice and second impressions from Tuesday’s practice and third impressions from Wednesday’s practice, here are fourth impressions from Thursday’s practice:

— Calipari will draw a line in sand. Not subject to negotiation are such basics as diving for  loose balls, sprinting the court (especially “bigs,” who can out-hustle opponents) and getting defensive rebounds

— Alex Poythress made only three of six free throws in a (very) controlled scrimmage. But getting to the foul line so many times showed a high level of activity and his teammates’ willingness to look for him along the baseline.

— Derek Willis doesn’t always exude confidence when he goes up for a shot.

— Lot of talk Wednesday about how much Andrew and Aaron Harrison have changed. But there are constants. Aaron can still shoot from the perimeter. With the scrimmage coming down to a final possession, Andrew drove  to contact to get to the foul line. He made one of two free throws with 2.3 seconds left to tie the score at 27-27.  Like Ara Parseghian in 1966 Notre Dame-Michigan State game (google it, kids), Calipari settled for a tie and ended scrimmage.

— UK coaches had to like the several times offensive rebounding created second, third, fourth and fifth opportunities.

— Prettiest play of the day? Maybe Marcus Lee’s touch pass from post to post that got Dakari Johnson a dunk.

— UK’s “tower outage” continued. “Bigs” Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Lyles watched another workout, this time leaning against a wall behind a baseline.

— A crew from Fox Sports 1 watched the practice and shot video. Reporter Reid Forgrave said we should look for a Kentucky basketball story on Fox’s various channels, probably sometime after the Bahamas trip and before colllege football begins.

UK press conference, Wednesday practice produce third impressions

In the week leading to the trip to the Bahamas, Kentucky Coach John Calipari invited the Kentucky media corps to attend this week’s practices. UK asked reporters not to cite specifics from the workouts. But opinions were fine.

Following first impressions from Monday’s practice and second impressions from Tuesday’s practice, here are third impressions from Wednesday’s practice:

— Cal said freshman Karl-Anthony Towns is “way better than I thought when I saw him in high school. . . . In high school, you saw him and (thought) he’s got a ways to go. Well, what I’m seeing (in early UK practices) is a very active player who’s skilled and runs better than I ever thought he’d run.”

— Cal said freshman Tyler Ulis has learned that because of his size (5-foot-9), he needs to take the initiative by picking up farther up the court and reducing the chances of opponents taking advantage of his size.  Think of how UConn’s guards pressured UK in the 2014 national championship game. “Up on us so we didn’t get a running start,” Calipari said.

Of Ulis, Calipari said, “I don’t see his size being a factor, but I imagine it will at some point. But I haven’t seen it to this point, and he’s playing against huge guards right now.”

— There’s no more room for additional national championship banners along the wall behind the men’s court at the Craft Center. The eight banners run hang along the length of the gym. There’s space for more along the wall behind a baseline nearest the office windows that look down on the court.

— Ex-Cat Jon Hood shot around after practice.

— Calipari can teach how to improve a seemingly good moment. For instance, when a 7-footer runs the court in transition and takes a pass for a dunk over a helpless guard, Calipari might blow his whistle. In a game, the guard might not be so helpless. He might get in position to take a charge. Better to pass upcourt to a wing, who can then lob a pass for a 7-footer to dunk with impunity.

— Full disclosure: A Calipari press conference preceded practice.  So several impressions listed above came from the press conference, and not from practice.

Cal on Bahamas priorities: Improve, familiarize more important than winning

Besides recruiting bonanzas and winning a lot of games, another strand linking John Calipari’s five previous seasons as Kentucky coach is his attempt to temper, if not defuse, the desire to not only defeat but dominate all opposition. So no big surprise Wednesday when he downplayed the importance of victories when Kentucky plays exhibition games in the Bahamas Aug. 10-17.

“Guys come here because they want to develop as players,” Calipari said.  Players also want to enjoy the experience of playing cohesively with other highly-skilled teammates.

Ideally, he said, UK players shift attention to winning after those two greater priorities are met.

“That’s the order,” Calipari said. “Not the other way around.”

Sophomore-to-be Andrew Harrison offered a mild protest. He suggested winning was a constant priority.

“Because I feel every time we step on the court, we try to win,” he said.

A smiling Calipari offered a plausible reason why Kentucky should not assume it will win the six games in the Bahamas. The opponents are professionals: The Dominican Republic National Team, reserves from the Puerto Rican National Team and a team from the highest pro league in France.

Of the presumably savvy vets UK will face, Calipari said, “Some as old as 37 (or) 38.”

That sounded pretty long in the tooth for a basketball player, but Calipari made the trip sound like going to school rather than the Caribbean.

“Which means probably shouldn’t win any games,” he said seemingly trying to suppress a smile. “I want it to be about development.”

Calipari suggested that his attempt to arrange professional opponents meant much stronger competition than usual. By contrast, UK’s trip to Windsor, Canada, in August, 2010, was designed to offer only token resistance, he said.

“Let’s talk about the downside,” Calipari said of the trip to the Bahamas. “It just makes our season really long.”

So, he said, Calipari said he would let assistants coach some of the games. He also talked about making five-man substitutions, playing “platoons” and six-minute segments of playing time.

Calipari suggested that the players might want as much playing time as possible. He said this UK team was unusual in the sense of players who want to play together as much as possible.

Usually, he said, a team will have one or two players “doing their own thing,” or a “goof ball” who look to do other things.

“These guys play just about every day they can play,” he said.