TIREY: Cats lack intensity against foes

If there is one thing the Kentucky Wildcat basketball team can say about this season so far, is that they have give every lesser opponent on their schedule at least a shot at getting the upset over the Cats.

In big games, The Cats have either played out of their minds (West Virginia, Louisville), or not shown up at all (Iowa, North Carolina, and especially Indiana). But the smaller teams that have supposed to have been the fodder for preparing this team for the SEC rigors, have somehow turned into the tournament-type atmospheres, with Kentucky needing a big performance down the stretch to pull away, or gut out a victory.

Yes, Iona and Ohio are good teams. Nobody, least of all me, is trying to take anything away from any team on UK's schedule. Georgia State was up 11-0 on the Cats early. The South Dakota States and Georgetowns of the world played close for ¾ of a game. Why is it the Cats can't put those teams away early like they should? The Cats may not have the answer to that, but they know it is a problem that needs to be addressed.

Sheray Thomas has not been happy with the consistency. "I am not satisfied," said Thomas. "I mean, I'm glad we won, but I think we should win these games by more. I have to give a lot of respect to these teams because they played us tough. We play good in spurts, but we aren't consistent…yet."

Thomas knows that the key is good defense, like any Tubby Smith coached team. "That's our main focus. That's Kentucky basketball, just ‘d'ing up." Sheray may have put a finger on the main cause of the lack of intensity against the smaller schools. "Lackadaisical turnovers and fouls seem to take the air out of our balloon a lot of times." But he thinks UK will have the problem corrected in the new year. "I have seen it in the past games, but I don't see it in the future. I think there were some games that we came out real flat. But we had people come off the bench, and pick up the energy level. We practice hard and we know we can't take anybody lightly. Anybody can beat anybody at this level."

Rajon Rondo thinks it is pretty simple, and he had a simple answer for me. "In the beginning of the season, we didn't come out with the intensity we had against Louisville. So we have to pick it up a little bit."

Rekalin Sims thinks the Cats do take some teams lightly. "Maybe we might be underestimating our opponents," said Sims, "and they come out and they are real fired up to play against us. Sometimes their intensity level may be higher than ours. But we know who we are, and we know how good we can be. We just have to get it going, that's how we handle it. We're expected to win all our games, it doesn't matter if it's Louisville or Iona. We just play the way we know how to play and everything will handle itself."

With the last non-conference "patsy" left on the schedule coming into Rupp tonight, and a lot of preseason chatter about the Cats running roughshod over the SEC when conference play begins in less than a week, let's hope that the problem goes away, and that the Cats are ready for a SEC slate that will be tougher than originally thought.

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