Kentucky Basketball: Wildcats Bounce Back From Crisis

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Kentucky Basketball: Wildcats Bounce Back From Crisis
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
DeAndre Liggins provided the Wildcats with a major boost offensively.

After a second consecutive SEC loss, Kentucky coach John Calipari was quoted as saying that his team was in a state of "crisis."

Although the team fell just two points short in each of these two games, the losses combined to temper the enthusiasm of many Wildcats fans who had been dreaming of a Final Four run just days earlier.

While the sense of doom and gloom radiated by fans may have been a bit extreme, it is put into perspective by the reminder that last year's team lost only two games during the entire regular season. This year's team has already accumulated six of them.

Yet, despite the recent negativity surrounding his team, Calipari remained optimistic about the significance of the crisis.

"Only a crisis brings about change," explained Calipari. "And obviously if Brandon would have made that shot [against Florida], I probably would have looked at the tape differently and would have thought everything is okay. It's not."

The coach believes that the losses provided the team a chance to recognize and correct a number of problems that may have otherwise been overlooked.

He further explained that what matters most is not the team's win-loss record, but that the players continue to improve throughout the course of the season. A one or two-loss record may be impressive, but it may also be covering up a number of blemishes that could cost the team come tournament time.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Terrence Jones struggled offensively, but was able to do the little things to help lead the Wildcats to victory.

It's safe to say that Kentucky's blemishes were made apparent to Calipari by its two most recent losses.

"We're stuck in not enough toughness, not enough togetherness, not enough passion for playing, not enough of that will to win, fight."

A match-up with conference rival Tennessee on Tuesday night provided the Wildcats with an ample opportunity to prove that they could recover from their crisis. The young team did not disappoint as it defeated the Volunteers 73-61.

Calipari was pleased with the team's effort and believed that it had improved upon many of the issues from the past two games.

"We showed toughness. We out-rebounded a good team," said the coach. "One of the things I wanted them to do was get closer to our goal of 20 assists, and I told them that prior to the game. You've got to get to where you're passing the ball for each other and trying to play the game for each other, and I thought they did that."

Kentucky ultimately out-rebounded Tennessee 34-24, with 13 of those coming on the offensive end. The team fell short of its goal of 20 assists, but still displayed improved ball movement and shot selection.

Yet, the biggest improvement was likely the play of the upperclassmen. Josh Harrellson and DeAndre Liggins combined for a monstrous 35 points, 11 rebounds, and seven steals while shooting 86 percent from the field. Even Darius Miller, who had a rough shooting night, still managed to contribute six rebounds, a couple of assists, and four key free throws.

More importantly, the players continued to hustle on both ends of the court, even when things may not have been going their way offensively.

Calipari specifically pointed to the play of Terrence Jones.

"Terrence today had four blocks and 11 rebounds, and played awful offensively. But that's why we won: because he rebounded and blocked shots."

Kentucky's losses this season have not come as a result of a lack of talent, but rather a lack of attitude. The Tennessee game proved that the team was still capable of playing with a winning mindset.

The question that now looms larger than ever is: Can the Wildcats bring this same attitude with them on the road?

For more news and analysis on all things UK, follow me on Twitter @KYSportsBuzz.

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