Cal teases change to UK offense

John Calipari, Andrew Harrison

Kentucky coach John Calipari got the Big Blue Nation buzzing Monday night with comments on his weekly radio show that promised a "tweak" to the UK offense that he says should help the Wildcats heading into tournament play.

Kentucky coach John Calipari got the Big Blue Nation buzzing Monday night with comments on his weekly radio show that promised a "tweak" to the UK offense that he says should help the Wildcats heading into tournament play.

The UK boss would not reveal specific details of what the Cats are working on to break out of an offensive funk which has seen them average 63.5 points per game and shoot 34.6 percent from the field while losing three of their final four regular season games.

"Sometimes it's pride that steps in your way when you're coaching," Calipari said. "Sometimes you're blinded. We tweaked the offense a little bit. It was a small tweak, something I should have done a month ago, and the energy in our building… I'm jacked. I am ready for us to take the next step."

Calipari wasn't the only one who was buzzing after Monday's two-and-a-half hour workout at the Craft Center.

"The players left, like, bouncy and talking," he said. "It was something that I should have known better to do, and I apologized to the team. I've done this 20-some years. What in the world was I thinking? It just changed everything.

"It was just like, ‘Bang. Wait a minute. I've done this other years. Why did I not do it this year?"

So what did the UK change? The internet ran wild with speculation. Among dozens of guesses, the most plausible could be a return to high pick-and-roll action that the Cats used to turn around their 2010-11 season. That team lost four games in February and was deemed a non-factor entering the NCAA Tournament, but rode the pick-and-roll action with Brandon Knight and Josh Harrellson all the way to the Final Four in Houston.

Calipari said fans will have to wait until Friday to learn. "They'll recognize it when they see it," he added.

He's asked the team not to speak about the changes prior to UK's first SEC Tournament game against either Alabama or LSU at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. "I said (to the players), you know what, I screwed this up. Now go make me look good.'"

LET'S GET PHYSICAL?

In addition to teasing a new look on offense, Calipari indicated on his radio show that he's grown so tired of seeing the Cats take the short end of increasingly-physical play late in the season that he's ready to turn the tables on opponents.

Monday's practice session reportedly included football pads and helmets.

"Now, why are we playing that way?" Calipari asked. "You're watching our games. Everyone's just beating the heck out of everybody, and whoever can beat the heck out of the other team, that team's winning. All these rules they talked about changing, what are you seeing? Hands up, show your hands, but foul ‘em. Body check ‘em. Hip check ‘em."

The result has been a drastic drop in UK's shooting percentage, especially on attempts close to the rim. He has lamented the Cats missing "1-footers" in each of their recent three losses to Arkansas, South Carolina and Florida.

"You've got to play against that," he said. "We've got to do it against each other so we can do it."

Earlier this season, Calipari welcomed college basketball's new "points of emphasis" designed to take contact out of the game an increase freedom of movement, but he now says he's resigned to the fact that many officials have reverted back to the old routine.

"For about the last two weeks, it's gotten really, really bad," he said. "… The games are back to the bump and the grind and the teams who are fouling the most are the teams (that are winning)."

Sounds like the Cats may be ready to become the bumper instead of the bumpee.

Jeff Drummond has covered University of Kentucky sports and recruiting for newspapers, magazines and online publications since 1988 and for Scout since 2012. A Richmond, Ky., native, he currently resides in Lexington.

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