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November 3, 2013

Cats look for consistency in second exhibition game

MONTEVALLO AT KENTUCKY
Time: 7 p.m. Monday | Site: Rupp Arena, Lexington, Ky.| Tickets: Ticketmaster.com | TV: Fox Sports South, UK IMG Network | Radio: UK IMG Network
Kentucky flipped the switch last Friday's exhibition opener, cranked up its intensity in the second half of a 76-42 win against Transylvania, and Pioneers coach Brian Lane saw it clearly.

"I didn't think we were going to get to score," Lane said.

But here's the thing about that switch the Wildcats flipped.

John Calipari wants it on all the time. Start to finish.

So for its second and final exhibition game Monday night against Montevallo, Kentucky will make an effort to turn on its intensity from the opening tip. And the Cats expected Calipari to push the right buttons over the weekend to make it happen.

"(Calipari) wasn't pleasant," freshman Dakari Johnson said of his coach's postgame demeanor. "That's one thing for sure. I feel like (Saturday) we're going to have two great practices. Sunday we're going to have two great practices. I feel like we're going to learn how to play hard the next couple days."

The Wildcats did that in stretches on Friday, scoring the first 13 points of the second half and outscoring Transy 35-12 after halftime.

But spurts weren't enough for Calipari, who lamented his team's inability to get breakaway baskets, and who lauded the play of Johnson, James Young, Jarrod Polson and Jon Hood less for their production than their energy level.

"All that Jarrod did was really run hard and push the ball," Calipari said. " We had absolutely none of that in the first half. We didn't get a breakout. There's the difference between running and sprinting. We have a lot of guys that running has always been good enough, and, this is me. You can't be on the court then. You know, it's OK, but you can't be out there."

Calipari's disdain spread to his players after the game.

"Effort is just something we should always give, so from that standpoint it's unacceptable," forward Julius Randle said.

The glass-half-full take on Kentucky's inconsistent effort is that even after a 34-point exhibition win, Calipari had plenty of teaching points. He sent half-hearted players to the bench. He twice subbed in entirely new five-man units. And he stressed during and after the game that a lack of energy and enthusiasm would not be tolerated.

At one point in the second half, Calipari barked at the bench -- and seemingly at Aaron Harrison in particular -- for not sufficiently celebrating a dunk by Hood.

"I tell you what: They will come out -- when is the next exhibition game?" Lane said before being told it was on Monday. "I feel sorry for that team because you will see a much more energized (UK team) ."

Calipari's hope is that there's no need for second-half switch flipping with Friday's regular-season opener just around the corner. And at least one of his players promised to help the Cats power on over the weekend.

"A lot of the stuff I do is by action," Randle said. "I kind of lead by example. But I think I'm gonna have to be a little bit more vocal with our guys and just kind of get on guys who are slacking, because we can't afford that. The season's next week, so we can't afford stuff like that."



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