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January 11, 2013

Notes: Wiltjer struggles defensively; Poythress quiet

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Again and again, Vanderbilt isolated Kyle Wiltjer on the perimeter.

Again and again, Wiltjer was beat on a drive, usually for two points.

"They went at Kyle every possession I had him in the game," coach John Calipari said after Kentucky's 60-58 win against the Commodores Thursday night. "Every single possession."

During and 18-0 run, point guard Ryan Harrow said, the Commodores "kept attacking one man, and we weren't rotating."

"I think in the first half, they had 24 points," Calipari said. "I think 14 were on Kyle. Well, you can't. No. No. We're not accepting that."

He didn't accept it, playing Wilter a season-low 14 minutes. Because Wiltjer scored only two points on 1-of-5 shooting with one rebound, he didn't offset his poor defense.

"You could sit here and sugarcoat it," Calipari said, "but you watched it."


To fix it, Calipari needs to see Wiltjer change his mentality. He needs the sophomore forward to do everything he can to overcome whatever physical shortcomings he may have.

Fight. Play lower to the ground. Slide. Get in position to rebound if he gets beat off the dribble.

"Do anything you can to stay in the game," Calipari said.

If Wiltjer doesn't improve, Calipari said, every team will do the same thing to him.

Isolate him. Attack him. Expose him.

"You don't think anybody was watching the tape, right?" Calipari said. "Don't think every team now is going to go right at you? Good luck."

Calipari said players with similar defensive flaws - he noted former Detriot Piston Bill Lambeer as an example - have turned themselves into passable, even solid, defensive players.

That will happen with Wiltjer only through hard work, Calipari said.

"I think he can do it," Calipari said. "But he's got to make up his mind that 'I'm not settling for it.'"

Poythress underwhelms in homecoming
Maybe playing in his home state against the school he spurned for Kentucky would draw more effort out of Alex Poythress, the thought went.

Didn't happen.

The freshman forward scored seven points with six rebounds in 23 minutes before fouling out.

And again, it was an effort problem, Calipari said.

"I was very clear with Alex after the game," Calipari said. "Nothing else you can do. Either you want to change or you think you're okay."

Calipari said that Poythress has to accept the fact he got outworked. If he doesn't believe it, look at the stat sheet.

"Alex gets no offensive rebounds. His guy gets five," Calipari said. "Now who's outworking who?"

Calipari said there can be no more alibis to excuse Poythress' subpar performance.

"So when he accepts that that's the case, he's going to say, 'I got to work harder in practice,'" Calipari said. "'I got to make it a point that I'm not going to get outworked.'"

Harrow solid again
He didn't sound the same.

Harrow's voice was strained and airy as he talked in the post-game press conference.

A reporter asked if he was hoarse from screaming.

No, Harrow said. "It's just hard for me to breathe."

Not because he was out of breath, but because of an elbow to the ribs that left him writhing on the ground with 2:09 left to play.

He subbed out of the game but came back a play later to finish up another solid game. He finished with 16 points, four assists, four rebounds, two turnovers in 36 minutes.

He also sank a three-pointer with less than five minutes remaining and UK trailing by two.

"I just told myself that I had to hit a shot because I had just missed a shot," Harrow said. "And I knew the play we were going to run, I would be open on the wing. I was just prepared to shoot it."

After that, the Cats never trailed again.


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