"The last couple games the other teams have been playing their best. We've still been pulling it out so hopefully we'll just keep executing down the stretch and get the same results," said Jones Monday as the Cats were finishing preparations to play Georgia tonight. "It's pretty much going to be the same for right now. Just for the teams playing us, we've got the target on our back. We're going to have to come in to every game knowing that teams are going to play their best or as hard as they can."
But the coach senses it is going to take something no Kentucky fan wants to hear — a loss — to truly emphasize to his team that it must play better. Kentucky is 19-1 and ranked first. It's the only team unbeaten in Southeastern Conference play. Yet during most of SEC play, opponents have been more physical, more aggressive than Kentucky.
Jones, the preseason SEC Player of the Year based on his play last season, could have been speaking for the team when he noted that UK hopes to keep getting the "same results" in games ahead. Only the coach seems to sense that Kentucky must be rougher and tougher now.
"Terrence has missed 25 one-footers with his left hand. Well, you have to make those. I don't care if you got hit, whacked, grabbed, punched. You have to make those," Calipari said. "There were some times last year where he did not finish them last year, either. But he will be fine."
Calipari had the team come to his home Sunday night to watch "a little tape." Or at least that's what he told them. However, he also wanted to warn them.
"I like my team. We are going on a tough road trip (to Georgia and LSU). But I did tell them, the way this is going we probably need a loss so that we will come together and say we are not losing like this," he said.
Say what? The Cats need a loss. That won't go over well from Ashland to Paducah. Calipari knows that and explained this thinking.
"In other words, get manhandled. That's enough. We are getting manhandled and winning close games. So my thing is let's take one on the chin then. Now what are you going to do. Are you going to say it's okay. I don't think they will say it's okay," the Kentucky coach said.
"That was my message last night. Hey, if this doesn't start changing, we need to take an L (loss) so you guys will come together as a group and say stop, that's enough. We are not doing this any more."
That's the message he wanted freshman center Anthony Davis to get. He had 11 points, nine rebounds and four blocks in Saturday's win over Alabama, but he was just 2-for-10 from the field because the Crimson Tide kept a body on him. If point guard Marquis Teague drove, Alabama didn't have a defender leave Davis so he could get a lob dun. On defense, Alabama didn't let him leave his man to block shots by attacking him with the ball.
"I showed him the tape where before he catches the ball he has to be ready to play, not after the ball is swung and the guy is into his body and now he tries to play. He has to play defensively the same way, as the ball is moving he's in position before that wing catches the ball," Calipari said. "He saw on tape that as the ball was caught he tried to move for position and he got sealed. It's all playing before you catch it and before that ball gets to the wing defensively.
"He'll learn, I've never seen him miss dunks or one-footers. This was the first game. He's got to learn, if they aren't going to call it you have to negate it. That's all of us."
So if you watch Kentucky play tonight and the Cats fall behind without Calipari seeming too upset, remember he says a loss could be the best thing possible for his team. Do you believe that? No. But do you believe he's right about UK having to be more physical? Absolutely and if the Cats aren't, they might well get that loss soon and then see if Calipari turns out to be right about that being what the team really needed to elevate into an elite team.