LEXINGTON — Coaches are paid to worry. Or at least the successful ones are.
That's why Kentucky coach John Calipari seemed far from happy even though his No. 13 Wildcats beat Auburn easily 78-54 here Tuesday night for their first Southeastern Conference win.
Remember, this was an Auburn team that scored S-I-X points in the first half of Saturday's loss to LSU and is rated as the SEC's worst team. Yet the Tigers were outrebounded only 39-38 and they forced UK into 14 turnovers.
"They get 15 offensive rebounds. I mean, as you watch some of them, guys just thought it was okay," said Calipari. "We've got to get better. The way we're playing, at spurts were really good, and at other times we're not beating one of the better teams in our league. We won't beat the best teams in our league, we just won't. We got to get better executing."
So what else had Calipari perturbed after the win? Here's a sampling:
— Offensive execution, especially on the fast break.
"Do you know how many break-outs we ran people over? They trapped us a little bit and we picked up the ball. We had baskets around the goal that we just didn't get in. I mean, against a good team, think about it, you got to make those, and we didn't," Calipari said. "We got a ways to go."
Still, UK shot 50 percent (29-for-58) overall and was 11-for-26 from 3-point range, including 7-for-15 in the first half when it built a comfortable lead. Guards Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb, though, both had four turnovers.
— Center Josh Harrellson didn't have a rebound the first half after getting double digit rebounds six of the last seven games.
"Josh reverted to a year ago. That's why he sat down. I'm playing somebody else. Didn't have a rebound in the first half. Every ball he went after with one hand. That was who he was a year ago. Well, then you don't deserve to be on the court," Calipari said. "A lot of times guys are reading what they're saying about them. All of a sudden you change how you play. When you go down that slippery slope, that's exactly what it is, slippery. It's hard to come back up."
Harrellson finished the game with eight points, four rebounds and three blocked shots. He was 4-for-6 from the field.
"I've worked too hard these last three months to revert back to where I was two years ago," Harrellson said. "It's just one game. I'm going to put it behind me and next game come out and play as hard as I can."
— Freshman guard Lamb still isn't play with the "motor" Calipari wants.
"I still don't think he's playing hard enough, runs the floor hard enough. But he's a skilled guard. He's doing what Chris Douglas (Roberts) did when I was at Memphis. Chris Douglas didn't have enough of a motor. I used to be on him every day in practice, ‘You got no motor, kid,'" Calipari said. "You got to come off screens hard. You got to be shooting balls before you catch it. All those things. It's typical of younger kids."
Lamb had eight points and a career-high seven assists.
— Darius Miller continues to have solid numbers, but not like Calipari wants despite scoring 10 points, grabbing six rebounds, blocking a shot and handing out one assists with no turnovers in 28 minutes.
"I got on Darius today. I said some things in the huddle. I said, ‘You guys watch, he won't do this, this and this when I put him back (in the game).' Well, he did one of those things. If I was him, I'd have looked right at me. I'd have looked right at me. Yeah, you don't think I can do that? May not have said anything, but I'd have looked right at the coach. I would have loved it," Calipari said.
"Where is that lion, tiger? Where is it? Come out. He's too nice a kid. Well, career's over. When we're done here, you're done. He's a great kid. Like I said, I see him as being all-conference. There are times he is. There are other times he reverts. We got to get him steadier."
— Even Terrence Jones, who set a UK freshman scoring record with 35 points, didn't get a pass from Calipari, who didn't start him because he was sick and didn't practice Monday.
Jones was 11-for-17 from the field, including 4-for-5 from 3-point range, and had a team-high eight rebounds along with three steals and two blocks.
"He went after balls with two hands above the rim. But he played good. He had a lot of stuff around the goal. He made a couple 3's," Calipari said. "But to be honest with you, I'm sitting on the bench saying, ‘We're not winning with him shooting 3's.' He may shoot one, two or three, but that's not why we win.
"We'll win because he'll rebound and score around the goals, he'll score on drives, stick-backs. If he makes a couple 3's, that's okay. If that's what he got from this, we're in trouble. That's fool's gold.
Kentucky knew it would win this game. Auburn may not win a SEC game. The Tigers are that short-handed this year. That's why UK won easily despite sometimes careless passing, lackadaisical rebounding and less than an all-out effort at times.
But Calipari knows that also won't be sufficient to beat teams like Florida, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, especially on the road.
"That's why I'm trying to make sure we keep the pressure on this team. That's what I'm doing. Just keep the pressure on this team to perform and get better," he said.
Cats give Calipari plenty to worry about
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