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December 17, 2012

Wildcats working to fix early second-half woes

Kentucky emerged from the locker room with a 14-point halftime lead over Lipscomb, fans cheering and pump-up video playing, looking well on its way to victory.

Then promptly gave up two quick baskets.

"I'm not trying to be disrespectful at all," Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson said, "but at the start of the second half Kentucky wasn't ready to play."

That wasn't a one-game problem for Kentucky.

Through its first 10 games, UK has been outscored 64-81 in the interval between the start of the second half and the first media timeout - which comes at the first dead ball after the 16-minute mark of the half.

"We've got to figure it out," coach [db]John Calipari[/db] said last week.

He hasn't figured it out yet, as the Lipscomb game proved.

It's not for a lack of awareness of the problem.

"We tell each other right before we go out (to the floor), 'Come on, we have to bring the energy right now,'" guard [db]Jarrod Polson[/db] said. "Obviously it hasn't worked so far, but hopefully we'll take care of it and move on."

The problem doesn't extend to the first half.

Kentucky has outscored its opponents by a combined 86-64 between the opening tip and the first media timeout of the first half.

In those first-half intervals, UK has shot 31-for-61 (50.8 percent). In the second-half intervals, UK has shot 25-for-65 (38.5 percent). The Cats have committed 20 turnovers in each segment.

"You can blame whatever you want to blame," Calipari said. "'I walk to the locker room, it's so far, and I get tired by the time I come back.' You can say whatever you want to say."

Whatever's happening in the locker room at halftime, it doesn't seem to be working.

"I guess we're just not ready to go after the first half," Polson said. "We just have to bring the energy. I don't really know what it is, I don't have the answer, but I would say we have to compete harder right out of the gate in the second half."

The excuses don't matter, Calipari said, not when "everybody in the building" and "watching on TV" wonders why it happens.

He's trying to fix it. He's subbed eight different players a combined 24 times in those opening stages of the second half.

"I think what's going to happen is there are going to be questions," Calipari said, "of why don't you guys have energy? Why aren't you playing? Why aren't you competing? Are you afraid? What are you afraid of?"

The questions may already exist, as Calipari tells it.

"It's out there," Calipari said, relaying a story from the start of the second half against Lipscomb. "I mean, somebody behind me (in the stands) said, 'Alex (Poythress) is standing straight up and down.' I went, 'Wow. You guys are watching it too, huh?'"

Calipari said after the Portland game - in which UK was outscored 6-4 in the opening segment of the second half - he may just have to switch around the lineup.

Could the solution be that simple?

Only twice has Calipari put out a different lineup to start the second half than he did the first half - against Long Island-Brooklyn and against Lipscomb.

And only twice has UK outscored its opponent to open the second half - 13-7 against Long Island-Brooklyn and 10-9 against Lipscomb.

"That's why I changed the lineup," Calipari said of making a second-half switch against the Bisons. "There's not a whole lot you can do."


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