Kentucky bounced back from a disappointing loss in its SEC opener with a dominant win its last time out. Coach John Calipari, though, was hardly pleased.
Calipari is seeking more consistent play from his young, 13th-ranked Wildcats, beginning with Saturday’s home game against LSU.
Kentucky dropped a conference opener for the first time in five years last Saturday, 77-70 at Georgia. The Wildcats shot 38.0 percent in that loss but made 50.0 percent of their attempts in Tuesday night’s 78-54 home victory over Auburn.
Kentucky (13-3, 1-1) got a freshman-record 35 points from leading scorer Terrence Jones in his first game coming off the bench, but Calipari said he was disappointed in what he’s considered some lackadaisical play from his team.
“Just play better, (have) more consistent effort,” Calipari said. “Come out with a sense of urgency, (don’t be) content with how they’re playing. We had a lot of guys content with how they’re playing and that just sets you up for more failure.”
Jones and fellow freshmen Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb, who started in place of Jones, are among six players who have seen a bulk of the minutes. Calipari said he needed more reliable efforts from Eloy Vargas, Jon Hood and Stacey Poole so he can take some pressure off his regulars.
“There’s just that drop and we’ve got to close that gap between those six (regulars) and those three other guys,” Calipari said.
Despite LSU’s best start to SEC play in five seasons, coach Trent Johnson isn’t pleased with his team’s shooting of late. The Tigers (10-7, 2-0) have made 37.2 percent of their attempts in the past seven games and shot 39.6 in Wednesday night’s 56-53 home win over Arkansas.
LSU will likely need to shoot better with leading scorer Ralston Turner expected to miss a third straight game with a stress reaction in his right foot. Junior forward Storm Warren has been limited by tendinitis in his right Achilles’.
“It is the same old story for us,” Johnson told the school’s official website. “We need to come out with a lot of energy and, unlike the last two conference games, we need to shoot the ball well. We are going to have to shoot the ball well because (Kentucky is) going to play fast and they can score.”
LSU, though, has made up for that poor shooting with some strong defense. The Tigers are allowing 62.1 points per game and gave up six in the first half of their SEC opener, a 62-55 win at Auburn last Saturday.
LSU couldn’t contain Kentucky in the teams’ only meeting last season, an 81-55 loss in Baton Rouge. The Wildcats were en route to their 44th SEC title, while the Tigers were headed to the conference’s worst record (2-14) one season after winning their 10th championship.
LSU clinched that title and snapped a 20-year losing streak at Kentucky with a 73-70 win Feb. 28, 2009. The Wildcats dropped their ensuing home game to Georgia but have since won 27 in a row at Rupp Arena.
Kentucky leads the series 79-24 but has split the past six matchups. The Wildcats have won 39 of 44 meetings in Lexington.