Calipari: Deadline is looming for decision on Kentucky’s player rotation

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After having 10-plus players available Tuesday night, Kentucky Coach John Calipari set a deadline for settling on a rotation.

“In the next 10 days, we’ve got to make a decision,” Calipari said after UK defeated Southern 76-64. “Some guys will be getting more minutes. Some guys will be getting less.”

Eleven UK players saw action against Southern. Not for the first time, Calipari said the ultimate rotation will not have so many players.

“I’m not going to play 11 guys,” he said.

Davion Mintz, who missed the last three games because of an undisclosed illness, played 16 minutes.

“I went with Davion because I wanted him out there to get his wheels under him,” Calipari said.

Favorite son Dontaie Allen played less than three minutes. In that time, he shot an air ball from three-point range, fouled a three-point shooter and committed a turnover.

“He’s behind Davion,” Calipari said. “It’s just what it is.”

Calipari balked at drawing any conclusions based on Allen’s poor shooting recently. He has made three of 21 three-point shots from beyond the arc in Kentucky’s last four games.

“I love the kid,” Calipari said. “He has gotten better. But everybody’s judging him based on making shots. It’s the hardest thing in the game to do.”

Calipari saluted Jacob Toppin’s contribution, which included two points, six rebounds and four blocks.

“I thought Jacob gave us great energy,” the UK coach said. “If he plays better, you play less.”

Bryce Hopkins played less than three minutes after being “50 percent” during Monday’s practice, Calipari said.

Conversely, Sahvir Wheeler did not have one of his better games, Calipari said. Wheeler had five turnovers to go with six assists. He also had two of his shots blocked.

While Wheeler went into the game leading the nation in assists (8.7 per game), Southern Coach Sean Woods said he tried to bolster his guards.

“I think my guards are just as good,” he said. “And they have a (former) point guard as a coach.”

Kentucky’s Jacob Toppin, center, battled for the ball with Southern’s Brion Whitley (22) and J’Quan Ewing. Toppin had six rebounds and was plus-13 in 21-plus minutes.
Kentucky’s Jacob Toppin, center, battled for the ball with Southern’s Brion Whitley (22) and J’Quan Ewing. Toppin had six rebounds and was plus-13 in 21-plus minutes.

Godless time?

Judging by postgame comments, the teams’ tour of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati on Sunday made an impression.

“I was really uncomfortable,” Calipari said when asked about the tour. “It makes you think, how would you you be in the mid-1800s if you lived in the South. Would I have the same heart? Would I be the same person?”

The UK coach said he would have liked the tour to last longer. “I needed another three hours because it was educational,” he said.

Southern Coach Sean Woods, the former UK point guard, echoed that sentiment. “Very educational and very eye-opening,” he said.

TyTy Washington said he learned about “stuff schools don’t teach.”

Touring the Freedom Center made Oscar Tshiebwe question the religiousness of people in the time of slavery.

“Scriptures tell us we should love one another,” he said. “Back then, they didn’t have the word of God.”

Texas Southern

Calipari said Texas Southern defeating Florida 69-54 on Monday night led him to call the Tigers’ coach, Johnny Jones, on Tuesday morning.

“Why did you do that?” Calipari said he told Jones in jest. “(Southern) thinks they’re going to beat us. Now, we’ve got a tiger on our hands.”

Jones laughed, the UK coach said.

Southern guard Jayden Saddler said the Texas Southern victory did embolden his team. “It made us feel it was possible,” he said of a victory at Kentucky.

Woods suggested Texas Southern’s victory served as a wake-up call for Kentucky.

Scary Cats

Going into the game, Kentucky led the nation in rebound margin. UK had outrebounded opponents by an average of 19.5 per game.

By contrast, Southern was ranked 327th. Opponents had outrebounded the Jaguars by an average of 6.4 per game.

Woods said his team tried to lessen the rebound disadvantage by causing opponents to turn over the ball.

Woods said he was aware of Kentucky’s rebound dominance. “That’s what I’m worried about,” he said. “That scares me a little bit. That will scare a lot of people in America.”

UK outrebounded Southern 41-25 and enjoyed a 23-11 advantage in second-chance points.

Coaching sons

Both coaches had the experience of coaching their sons.

DeSean Woods is a sophomore guard for Southern. He was to be playing a second season for his father. Then he tore an anterior cruciate ligament in a preseason practice and is not expected to play this season.

“Heart-breaking,” said the elder Woods, who added that there was no contact involved in the injury. “He came to a jump stop and his knee just buckled.”

Of coaching his son, Woods said, “He’s much smarter than I thought. He was telling me what to do at times. But it was joyful. I’m looking forward to it again when he gets healthy.”

‘Oscar was the difference.’ Tshiebwe, UK tough out win against Southern.

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