Reel­ing Wild­cats lack en­thu­si­asm and some wins

UK (4-3) started the sea­son at No. 3, but dropped out of the Top 25 on Mon­day.

Austin American-Statesman - - C SPORTS - By Gary Graves Ken­tucky’s Kyle Wilt­jer (33) and Archie Good­win (10) try to get the ball from Bay­lor’s Isa­iah Austin (21) dur­ing the Bears’ win on Dec. 1. MARK COR­NELI­SON / LEX­ING­TON HER­ALD-LEADER

LEX­ING­TON, Ky. — Ken­tucky coach John Cali­pari’s lat­est group of tal­ented fresh­men may have got­ten a needed wakeup call on Mon­day — the de­fend­ing champs fell out of the Top 25.

The Wild­cats opened the sea­son ranked No. 3, dropped to No. 8 and af­ter back-to-back losses to un­ranked Notre Dame and Bay­lor, their 61-poll run ended. The stretch in­cluded 11 weeks at No. 1 un­der Cali­pari.

The coach hasn’t seen the kind of com­mit­ment needed to get bet­ter but says there’s noth­ing wrong that more gym time can’t cor­rect. Cali­pari has of­ten said this fresh­man class needs more time to de­velop than its pre­de­ces­sors.

Ken­tucky’s 4-3 and Cali­pari wants his team to put in the work to im­prove. But he says he’s not see­ing many gym rats on his ros­ter right now.

“I keep telling you, we have a long way to go,” Cali­pari said Mon­day. “In­di­vid­ual play­ers have to fall in love with that gym. They haven’t yet. So, do they have to keep fall­ing un­til they re­al­ize that be­cause you have Ken­tucky across your chest that it makes them play harder. It doesn’t give you any kind of edge.”

Cali­pari said last year’s ti­tle squad was fre­quently in the gym, and not just when it was time for prac­tice. He’s wait­ing for that same en­thu­si­asm from the Wild­cats’ cur­rent ros­ter that he said hasn’t spent “one day” in there on their own.

The coach said the fail­ure to put in ex­tra ef­fort has shown up in re­cent games. The Wild­cats haven’t been able to im­pose their de­fen­sive will on op­po­nents or make ad­just­ments when things aren’t go­ing well. And since they haven’t shot the ball well in their last two games (40 of 118, in­clud­ing just 8 of 36 from 3-point range), they have man­aged to score just 50 and 55 points in those con­tests.

How­ever, Ken­tucky’s ex­tra work be­gan Sun­day, as the Wild­cats put in two hard prac­tices pre­par­ing for to­day night’s game against Sam­ford (2-7).

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