John Calipari Likes Fight In Team, But Says Wildcats Haven’t Peaked Yet

Kentucky head coach John Calipari likes the way his team has fought back when down, but the Wildcats will need to avoid slow starts if they want to win it all.

Kentucky stands at 26-5, won the SEC regular season title, and is in good shape to be at least a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Despite that, head coach John Calipari knows his team hasn’t yet peaked.

“We’re still not quite where we want to be and we’ve got a couple of practice days here to get some stuff tweaked and get us to have a little different mentality as we approach games,” Calipari said during Monday’s SEC coaches teleconference.

That’s a scary thought for teams that will face the Wildcats in the tournament, but not that off base, especially with a roster that is, per usual, young and full of freshmen playing crucial minutes.

“I’m loving the fact this team has learned to fight. That they’ve stuck together when things looked bleak and just kept going. They have a will to win. But still, there’s something that isn’t quite right that we have a few days to try to fix.”

One of the things Calipari would like to see different before it ends up coming back to bite the Wildcats are the slow starts, something that has plagued Kentucky the past three games. Against Florida, the Wildcats started down 8-0 and then 18-9 before turning it on for a 76-66 victory. This past Saturday, they found themselves down 15 points early, but recovered for a 71-63 win over Texas A&M.

“These teams came in and tried to get us early in the game and played out of their minds early in the game and we were a little bit not on point, ready for the onslaught. It doesn’t mean we weren’t ready to play. We just weren’t ready for the early onslaught that was coming at us and that’s happened for three games in a row, yet we found a way to win and fight and stick together.”

For Calipari to bring home the program’s ninth national title – and his second as the head coach – he understands that his team must play a complete game, else the Wildcats will fall short of their ultimate goal.

“We’ve learned how we have to play for 40 minutes, we just haven’t done it yet. We’ve done it for 20 minutes, and that’s why I say we’ve got work to do now.

“There’s two things you have to do as a team: you have to learn to fight and that every possession matters, and you have to learn to stick together. You have to stick to the script. You cannot break off and do your own thing. Not when you get down.”

If the young roster can figure that out, there may not be any stopping them come March Madness.

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