Three things from UK basketball’s LSU preview

Three quick things from John Calipari’s media opp — we got the head coach today, no substitutes; we actually like the subs, by the way — previewing Saturday’s game against LSU.

1. The head coach didn’t exactly grab hold of the revenge angle. Calipari was more interested in the “inner dialogue” angle. He repeated that phrase several times.

He said that Saturday will be a tough game. LSU did beat the Cats 87-82 last month in Batn Rouge after all. He said the final score wasn’t as close as the game. He seemed to indicate the talk about “revenge” and “payback” is just talk until you get on the court.

He’s more interested in the thought processes and the confidence of his players, and if a good performance against Ole Miss will carry over to Saturday.

2. Faster is better. Speaking of the better performance at Ole Miss, especially in the first half, Calipari said the tape showed that the team was playing at a faster pace, made passes earlier in possession. More playing, less waiting.

There were some turnovers, yes, but Calipari is of a mind that he can live with some turnovers if it means that the Cats will play at a quicker tempo, which better suits their game.

“There are good turnovers and there are bad turnovers,” he said.

Florida got the tempo it wanted last Saturday. The math says UK got only 56.9 possessions in that game. The more experienced Gators were able to out-execute the Cats at the slower pace. The numbers say Kentucky got 71.3 possessions at Ole Miss on Saturday, which worked to the visitors’ advantage.

3. Zoning in on the zone defense. There was more talk about Calipari’s use of zone defense and whether he should use it more often. He compared it to being 80 percent positive with a kid but all he hears about from the kid is the 20 percent negative. The coach said fans notice the zone when it’s working — “We need to play more zone” — and not as much when it doesn’t work.

Cal also said he is better at coaching the zone defense now. Asked if he had talked to other coaches about how to teach zone, he mentioned Eastern Michigan coach Rob Murphy, who coached with Jim Boeheim at Syracuse. UK has played Eastern Michigan each of the last two seasons.

Calipari said he had also talked to Boeheim, who employs a 2-3 zone all the time. Boeheim told Cal he should play zone more. Boeheim said that when the other team makes a couple of threes, Cal gets out of the defense. But when the other team makes a couple of threes against the man-to-man, Cal doesn’t switch to the zone.

That’s the thing about Boeheim. I’ve heard him in numerous interviews say he doesn’t watch a lot of tape on his own team. He does like to watch other teams play.

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