USA Today/Bryan Lynn

John Calipari confident Kentucky Wildcats can correct recent miscues

Calipari confident Cats can correct miscues.

It's been a constant refrain for John Calipari since becoming head coach at Kentucky.

"These kids aren't machines." 

Regardless, the Wildcats often treated as such. Kentucky may be the only team in college basketball whose fan base expects to win every game, every season, regardless of opponent or venue. 

And Calipari loves it. But handling those wild expectations is part of the nation's most demanding job, as is trying to bring the masses back from the ledge after a loss like the 82-80 setback that No. 4 Kentucky (17-3) sustained Tuesday night at Tennessee. 

The anxiety is only magnified with a looming Big 12/SEC Challenge matchup against No. 2 Kansas (18-2) on Saturday night at Rupp Arena, a game that could have big implications on the Cats' tournament seeding in March. 

"It comes back to 'What do we do to get right?'" Calipari said Wednesday night on his weekly radio show. "And, again, if we didn't have good kids, I'd be worried. But we've have great kids, and they want to do well.

"... (But) we're going to have to have a different mentality on Saturday than the one we've had the last couple of weeks."

Kentucky was unbeaten in SEC play going into the game at Tennessee but had been showing signs of minor regression on both ends of the floor in recent games.

Offensively, the Cats turned the ball over only 32 times in their first four SEC games. In the last four, they've committed 60. 

Defensively, three of the last five opponents have scored 80 points or more against the Cats. Four of the last five have shot 43 percent or better from the field, a figure that is rarely seen in the Calipari era at UK.

"All stuff that we can correct," Calipari said. "At the end of the day, we got good guards. We got great post presence. We got other long guys. We got guys who can make shots. We've got one of the better teams in the country. We took one on the chin (against Tennessee)."

Added the UK boss: "The worst thing that could have happened is us come back and win that game, and then I don't have their attention."

One of the staff's biggest concerns going into the Kansas matchup is getting the good ball movement back that the Cats displayed earlier this season. Kentucky has had six games of 20-plus assists, including a 33-assist game against Arizona State. At one point, UK had one of the best assist-to-turnover ratios in the country, but it's been 1:1 in each of the last three games.

"The thing that disappointed me is, and I said to the staff, 'How did we get from a team that passed the ball six or seven teams on each possession -- unless it was transition -- to a team that probably took 10 shots without a pass (against Tennessee)?" Calipari said. "... Or probably another seven, eight or nine with one pass. You're not going to win at the highest level like that.

"Then it's on me to get us back to where we need to be. I'll watch the tape, I'll take from it, and we'll figure out how we get this thing right."


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