Bouncing back from an ugly defeat won’t be the only thing on the minds of Kentucky’s players Tuesday night.
The 10th-ranked Wildcats, eager to forget about a 17-point thumping in the final of the Maui Invitational, hope to have John Calipari on the sidelines two days after the coach’s mother passed away when they host Boston University.
Calipari led Kentucky through Sunday’s practice before learning his mother, Donna, had died after a long battle with cancer.
The former national Coach of the Year flew to Charlotte to meet family members, but returned to Lexington on Monday afternoon, an indication that he plans to be on the sidelines Tuesday.
The Wildcats (4-1) could use him. Kentucky beat Oklahoma and Washington during its first two games in Maui but was routed in Wednesday’s final, shooting a season-low 36.7 percent in an 84-67 loss to Connecticut.
“That was a shellacking,” Calipari said. “We were outplayed, out-coached, out-everythinged.”
Growing pains aren’t entirely surprising for a team that had four players selected among the top 18 in the 2010 NBA draft. According to senior forward Josh Harrellson, they’re almost welcome.
“We want to get our losses out of the way,” Harrellson told Kentucky’s official website. “We want to learn from our mistakes right now instead of it happening in March and our season being over.”
The Wildcats didn’t lose last season until Jan. 26, and experienced only one more defeat before their premature exit in the regional final of the NCAA tournament.
Guard Brandon Knight was expected to step into John Wall’s shoes and become Kentucky’s on-court leader, but so far he hasn’t even been the Wildcats’ most impressive freshman. Forward Terrence Jones was a force in Maui, averaging 23.0 points, 11.3 rebounds and 3.3 blocks.
Knight shot 3 of 22 (13.6 percent) from 3-point range and had 18 turnovers to just eight assists. Kentucky has 58 assists this season, equaling its number of turnovers and hardly running Calipari’s motion offense as intended.
“We definitely need drivers. That’s the whole reason the dribble-drive motion works,” Harrellson said. “You’ve got to have at least two or three good drivers on the floor just to get into the lane, penetrate and find the open players for shots.”
The Wildcats aren’t helping themselves from the free-throw line, either. Kentucky is shooting 59.7 percent from the stripe, among the lowest marks in the nation.
Free-throw shooting helped the Terriers (4-3) survive their latest game. BU hit 23 of 29 from the line Saturday against Cornell, with junior Darryl Partin knocking down six in the final 38 seconds to cap a career-high 32-point effort in a 66-61 victory.
Partin’s big game helped make up for the continued struggles of leading scorer John Holland, who missed 10 of 12 shots and is shooting 36.4 percent despite averaging 17.9 points.
Holland has already had one tough game against a top-10 opponent. He shot 5 of 18 in the Terriers’ 82-66 loss at Villanova on Nov. 17.
BU, which has lost both previous meetings with Kentucky, hasn’t beaten a ranked opponent since knocking off then-No. 18 Navy in the round of 16 of the 1959 NCAA tournament.