No. 1 Kentucky hosts Cleveland State in another tune-up
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky, the newly crowned No. 1 team in America, puts that ranking and its unbeaten season on the line when Cleveland State visits Rupp Arena on Wednesday afternoon.
Just don't look for coach John Calipari to be chanting, 'We're No. 1!' coming out the locker room.
“We've got to get more consistency, more discipline,” Calipari said. “I'm just saying it's a process that's going to take time.”
For the first time this season, Calipari started four freshmen against Duquesne on Sunday night.
“These guys, we're four games in, and you got to understand, it's like their high school season,” Calipari said. “They never worked like this. It's not just the games. Every practice they're going at each other. They have never done that before.
“They were by far the best high school player on their team, they practiced when they felt like it. Doesn't mean they didn't work, but they practiced against a guy that couldn't guard them. Now, they're in this gym, and you're going against another guy that can play. And it's every day. And we're not letting up as a staff.”
Through the 4-0 start, Kentucky is led in scoring by sophomore guard Isaiah Briscoe at 18 points per game. Next comes the four freshman starters — Malik Monk (15.8), De'Aaron Fox (15.3), Bam Adebayo (9.3) and Wenyen Gabriel (6.3). Adebayo is the team's top rebounder at 6.3.
As a team, the strongest indicator might be turnover margin. Kentucky forced 84 turnovers, but only committed 48. That's 21 forced turnovers per game. On offense, UK is outscoring opponents by an average count of 86-60.
The Vikings are 1-2 with a victory over Canisius 67-64 and losses to Kent State 79-74 and Tennessee-Martin 85-74.
Sophomore guard Rob Edwards leads Cleveland State at 17 points per game while freshman guard Kasheem Thomas is tops with 6.3 assists and 6-7 sophomore forward Jibri Blount leads in rebounding at 5.7.
Kentucky, Cleveland State, Canisius, Duquesne and UT Martin are all participating in the Bluegrass Showcase, a loosely aligned round-robin event spread over the first two weeks of the season.
Kentucky also already defeated Canisius and Duquesne and faces UT Martin on Friday night in Lexington.
“They understand what we're looking to do, where we have to be by the time February hits,” Calipari said. “Our discipline defensively is not what it needs to be. We're not running gaps. We took shots that we never work on. Like invented shots. That's just lack of discipline.
“That's the normal process you go through with young guys. They just don't have the discipline to play every possession to be graded. Did we do the whole possession until they shot? Did we rebound, did we block out, all of it, did we finish the possession? I would say, 'No, not on this team right now.' We're not able to go seven perfect possessions. Don't worry if they score. Did we play it the right way? We're not disciplined enough right now.”