By Keith Taylor
LEXINGTON -- John Calipari doesn’t have a solution to his team’s shooting woes from long range.
The Kentucky coach has heard every suggestion in the book, including spending more time at Rupp Arena as opposed to the Joe Craft Center, to improve the Wildcats’ efficiency from long range, but Calipari said his team is “shooting just as bad in the practice facility.”
“Maybe we should go to the blue courts (outside Memorial Coliseum) and try it out there in the wind,” Calipari quipped after watching his team make just 2 of 17 from the 3-point line in a 56-46 win over Columbia earlier this week. “Maybe the wind will knock some shots in.”
All kidding aside, Calipari knows his team can make shots from long range without the help of Mother Nature and have proven so this season. The Wildcats (10-0) connected on eight threes in a win over Texas-Arlington on Nov. 25. Since then, Kentucky has made just 8 of 49 shots from behind the arc.
“The crazy thing is we (have) got good shooters,” Calipari said. “We’re a good shooting team that’s not making shots. Thank goodness we’re a terrific defensive team, because (the game against Columbia) isn’t the first game we have shot the ball like this.”
Like his coach, Kentucky sophomore Aaron Harrison, who made one trey in five attempts against the Lions, isn’t worried about the team’s struggles from 3-point territory.
“I’m still used to shooting and just letting it go,” Harrison said. “My mechanics are right and I think they will fall sooner or later.”
Calipari agreed and isn’t making a “big deal” of the shooting issues. He added that his team’s post play can offset a bad shooting night and put the Wildcats in position to win.
“I’m not worried about it,” he said. “If we go 10 of 17 from the three against anybody, you know what the score is going to be. But, we go 2-17, if we guard, and we still have a chance to win the game. May not be a double digit game, but you can still win the game, because we guard. That’s what is kind of crazy about this. There’s no pressure on you to make (threes). It just makes the game a little easier for the rest of us if you do.”
Harrison said he doesn’t think about the made baskets and missed field goals and said making shots is all about getting into the flow of the game.
“You really can’t think about your mechanics during the game,” he said. “It is all about feeling and feeling good for the most part. Being a shooter, you just have to keep shooting.”
Coming off a closer-than-expected 10-point win over Columbia, Harrison said the Lions’ slower pace played a role in the Wildcats’ inability to getting into a steady flow on both ends of the court.
“They slowed it down and we weren’t used to that,” Harrison said. “We couldn’t get into an (offensive or defensive) rhythm.”
Harrison expects that to change Saturday when Kentucky takes on North Carolina in a noon matinee at Rupp Arena and added he didn’t see the narrow win over Columbia as a wake-up call.
“It will be a lot more fun,” Harrison said. “There will be a lot more energy and we’ll be ready to play. They really play fast.”
Keith Taylor is award-wining sports editor for the Winchester Sun in Winchester, Ky. Keith was named Top Newspaper Columnist in the 2014 Readers Choice awards in Winchester and has won numerous awards from the Kentucky Press Association, with first-place awards for Best Column in 2000, 2009 and 2012. He has won 19 first-place awards and several second-and third-place awards in his 23-year career. He was runner-up for Kentucky Sports Writer of the Year 2008-10. Keith resides in Richmond with his wife Rhonda and is a member of the Berea Church of God, where he serves on the church board.