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Calipari Not Satisfied Despite Cats' 40-Point Win Over Grand Canyon

A 40-point victory for Kentucky and John Calipari was being asked afterwards how he felt about dealing with adversity. That’s this year’s Kentucky basketball team for you.

After holding Grand Canyon to 16 first-half points, the Wildcats “let go of the rope,” according to Willie Cauley-Stein. And although Kentucky ended up with an 85-45 victory in its season opener, Calipari was disappointed with his team’s effort in maintaining an early lead.

“They beat us on drives,” Calipari said. “In the second half, they just said, ‘drive the ball.’ The other thing that happened is it got physical and it became a little bit of a fight and we had guys not be able to make plays. They walked and missed one-footers when the thing got physical, and that’s going to be an issue for us.”

Early in the game, it was Kentucky bringing that physicality, out-rebounding the Antelopes 27-12 in the first half.

Grand Canyon shot 25 percent in the first 20 minutes and struggled to get anything going offensively. Against Kentucky’s second “platoon” (Dakari Johnson, Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker, Trey Lyles and Marcus Lee), Grand Canyon didn’t score a point.

For the players, that defensive prowess is part of the beauty of the platoon system. The first platoon is more of a shot-blocking group, thanks in large part to Cauley-Stein’s presence in the paint (he finished with four blocks). And the second platoon is a board-crashing group, led by Johnson and his first career double-double (10 points, 12 rebounds).

“It’s going to be hard for teams to get into an offensive rhythm because every five minutes you’re changing out a defense,” Cauley-Stein said. “You can’t settle into a good offense. You might hit a shot here and there – a three or a layup off a mistake or something, but it’s just gonna be tough.”

And while Cauley-Stein was right about that in the first half, Grand Canyon still had a better time figuring it out in the second half, shooting 12 percent better than it did in the first half.

At the same time, Kentucky was settling into its own offensive struggles.

“We just were never in rhythm,” Calipari said. “We never made an extra pass offensively.”

Kentucky “only” scored 85, after back-to-back 115-plus-point efforts in both exhibition games. And Grand Canyon put forth the kind of effort that made it difficult for the Wildcats to maintain its large lead without exerting their own energy.

But the second “platoon” showed promise while pitching a first-half shutout of the Antelopes. And whether or not that will inspire more minutes for the pieces that make up that platoon remains to be seen.

“The reason we’re doing this (the platoon system) is to keep it on the whole time,” Calipari said. “If a team gets it going and can continue like that second group – Grand Canyon didn’t score against that second group in the whole first half. And if that happens, and they’re shutting somebody up, well, maybe you leave them in there longer and just let them stay in. I’m figuring this out. They’re figuring it out.”

This article appears courtesy of where it was written by Ashley Scoby, a senior journalism major at the University of Kentucky. She has reported on the Wildcats for, and as well as for newspapers in Danville and Glasgow.

Photo via UK Athletics