Rested No. 7 Kentucky hosts Harvard
LEXNGTON, Ky. — Now that he finally has time to catch his breath, Kentucky coach John Calipari has turned the Craft Center into a research and development center leading up to Saturday’s game with Harvard.
“We’re experimenting a little bit more than just preparing for the next game,” Calipari said Thursday. “We’re trying different things, both defensive and offensive. We still turn it over too much. We don’t rebound as well as we really should, so we’ve zeroed in on that some.”
After playing seven games in 16 days, No. 7 Kentucky (6-1) had a full week before facing Harvard.
“They’ve gotten better as individual players, which is how you get better as a team,” Calipari said. “But you’re not skipping steps. You’re not forcing it more than it is. We are where we are right now. Now it’s, ‘OK, how do we continue to get better? What’s the best way for us to play? How do we put them in situations where they can be their best?'”
Kentucky has six players averaging 8.6 points per game or better, all freshmen. Topping the list is forward Kevin Knox at 16.1 followed by guards Hamidou Diallo, Quade Green and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at 12.9, 11.7 and 9.1, respectively. Forwards PJ Washington and Nick Richards are at 9.1 and 8.6.
As a team, Kentucky shoots 50.7 percent, including 37.8 from 3-point range. They have 115 assists versus 111 turnovers. UK’s defense holds opponents to 38.4 percent shooting.
The one thing Calipari does not have in this group at this point is a true leader.
“It evolves,” Calipari said. “I could want this guy to be a leader, but they don’t want to follow that kid. They want to follow this kid. So it kind of evolves. Teach them all what it means to lead, you serve everyone if you want to lead. You’ve got to want to be coached and let them see that you’re working hard and that you’re about them. That you’re not just about yourself. Can’t lead if that’s who you are.”
Harvard, a perennial Ivy League power, has struggled to a 3-5 record with a team that features only two seniors, neither of which has played this year.
In a 77-61 loss to Northeastern Thursday night, Harvard shot just 3-for-17 from 3-point range, continuing their season-long struggles from beyond the arc.
“It’s demoralizing when you can’t make open shots,” Amaker told the Harvard Crimson. “It is surprising that we haven’t been able to shoot the ball better from the perimeter than we have shown thus far. We are hoping that at some point (making threes) will help us and obviously tonight it was a good reason why we weren’t able to generate any offense.”
Sophomore guard Bryce Aiken tops Harvard at 18.0 points per game. Next comes sophomore forward Seth Towns at 13.2 and sophomore forward Chris Lewis at 12.9.
“They have great post play,” Calipari said of Harvard. “They really explore it. They’ll play fast. Their point guard has a green light to go and he can get in the lane. They deny wings. They make catches on the elbows hard.”
Saturday’s game will not the mark the season debut of Kentucky freshman forward Jarred Vanderbilt. He injured his foot in preseason and has yet to play a game and has not practiced in a month.
Calipari indicated recently that Vanderbilt might start practicing in late November. That did not happen.
“I don’t know,” Calipari said. “It’s not going to be my call, it’ll be his. He’s doing individual work right now. We’ll let it play out and if he thinks it’s good for him to play, then he will play.
“You go step at a time with this stuff. You don’t just throw him in and stay start.”