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UK Focuses on Rebounding in Preparing for Duke

This story appears courtesy RCN partner KYForward and is written by Jon Hale.

UK players did not have to wait until film session following their season-opening win versus Maryland to know they had plenty of work to do in terms of rebounding.

“We all knew right after the game,” said freshman forwardWillie Cauley-Stein. “We knew during the game that our rebounding was awful.”

Maryland outrebounded UK 54 to 38 in the game. Of Maryland’s 54 rebounds, 28 came on the offensive glass.

 

Maryland’s total number of rebounds and offensive rebounds were highs by an opponent in the John Calipari-era at UK.

“It’s more or less us being conscious about (the fact that) we follow the flight of the ball, which is I think sixth grade,” he said. “It might be seventh grade (when you learn) you don’t follow the flight of the ball. You see the flight, and then you go find somebody (to block out) and then go get the ball.”

While Calipari was unhappy with his team’s performance on the glass in the season opener, he is realistic about where he can expect his young team to be at the moment.

“If we haven’t worked on it, I can’t be upset,” he said. “And we hadn’t. I just thought, ‘we’re 7-foot, 6-11, 6-10, 6-9; we’ll rebound.’”

 

A lack of rebounding work won’t be an issue when the No. 3 Wildcats take on No. 9 Duke Tuesday. Cauley-Stein said Calipari already added three new rebounding drills to practice since the opener, and Calipari said he planned to add some more drills Monday.

“Before, we hardly did any rebounding,” Cauley-Stein said. “Just throw it off the backboard and go snatch it out of the air five times. That was it. Then he was done with rebounding.”

Rebounding isn’t the only area Calipari’s young team needs to work on, meaning an added focus on that weakness may have a domino effect elsewhere.

“There’s only one way to break habits, and that’s do it over and over and over and over and over and over,” Calipari said. “But you can’t do 55 things a day over and over and over, so if you then shift to rebounding, something else has to give. That’s where we are right now.

“We didn’t do anything offensively for two days, really. That may hurt us now.”

Calipari will likely be without starting sophomore point guard Ryan Harrowagainst Duke.

Harrow did not practice in advance of Maryland with flu-like symptoms but tried to play in the game. He lasted just 10 minutes and did not score.

“I probably should’ve had him step away,” Calipari said.

Harrow has not returned to practice since the season opener and continues to battle fatigue. He underwent some additional blood tests Monday to try to identify the problem, but Calipari said he will not play until he’s 100 percent.

If Harrow doesn’t go to Atlanta, Calipari will once again turn to freshmanArchie Goodwin and junior Jarrod Polson, the surprise hero of the Maryland win, at point guard.

“I just know that if I get my number called again, I have to be ready,” Polson said. “I’ve been working hard in practice the last couple of days, so hopefully I will be ready if my name gets called.”

The performance of Polson and his teammates in a close game in front of a hostile crowd against Maryland has Calipari encouraged about his team’s development.

He hopes Duke provides a similar learning opportunity.

“This is a great game for us,” Calipari said. “I need to learn about my team right away because we’re so young.”

One of those young players has already learned at least one lesson.

“My gameplan is go get boards,” Cauley-Stein said. “That’s my whole gameplan. I don’t even want to do anything else but get boards, especially after having to do all the running we had to do.”

You can read more from John Calipari’s pre-Duke news conference on the KyForward UK Sports Notebook Tumblr.

PHOTO: Willie Cauley-Stein. (Photo by Jon Hale)