LEXINGTON — Kentucky coach John Calipari says the Wildcats can’t afford for freshman Doron Lamb’s offense to disappear the way it did in Saturday’s loss at Florida, when he was only 1-for-5 from the field and scored just five points.
“The last game he didn’t play the way he had,” Calipari said Monday during the SEC coaches teleconference. “He didn’t have energy. He didn’t go with a motor.”
Lamb is averaging 13.8 points per game. However, in three SEC games he’s failed to hit double figures, including at South Carolina when he only managed two shots.
Calipari said while the Gators were “flying back” down the court, Lamb and some teammates were three steps behind and that the freshman can’t do that.
“It’s important that he play well. He gives us a spark offensively,” Calipari said. “Against Ole Miss (in another loss last week), he didn’t guard. He made baskets to keep us close, but he also gives up baskets with his defense. That’s what happens to freshmen. You can’t have a letdown if you miss a shot and you cannot let it affect your defense. If you make a shot, it can’t affect your defense.”
Going into tonight’s game with Tennessee, Lamb admits the Cats are frustrated over back-to-back losses.
“We are upset that we lost four games by two points. We just have to know how to close games out and finish games. We are a young team and still learning right now,” Lamb said. “I don’t think that I have ever lost two games back-to-back. It hurts because we lost two games back-to-back by two points. One game we lost by a tough shot, but you just have to move on.”
Lamb is averaging 28.8 minutes per game. Freshmen Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones are playing 35.1 and 30.3 minutes per game, respectively. Lamb admits he’s never been as tired physically as he is now.
“Sometimes we are tired but we sub ourselves out. We just have to learn how to fight it out because we only have a few guys that we are playing. We need to learn how to fight it out and pull out these games,” he said. “I am more tired than ever. I just have to get treatment and rest.”
He says treatment involves icing in a cold tub after practice or getting in a Jacuzzi as well as making sure he gets adequate rest.
“You just have to get some good rest after practice and make sure that you get treatment. You have to prepare yourself for the game,” Lamb, who said he is not mentally tired, said.
Hopson update: Leading scorer Scotty Hopson could miss his third straight game for Tennessee tonight.The Hopkinsville native is averaging 16.5 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. He’s shooting 37 percent from 3-point range.
“Hopson is obviously one of the better players in our league,” Calipari said. “They have a deep team and very talented team. That’s the advantage they have when one guy goes down. They are better with him because he is so good, but they will be fine without him. I believe he will play. It’s coming down here. It’s Kentucky. My belief is that he will play.”
Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl isn’t sure if he will play or not.
“Scotty is questionable for the game. If he does play, he will play limited minutes. He is trying to get back,” Pearl said Monday. “He went through a walk-through yesterday, but there was not any running.”
Calipari stressed that the Vols will be good with or without Hopson.
“They had a chance to win a couple more, so they’re playing pretty good. They had to play without Hopson the last couple and still did fine. They’re a deep team, very talented, maybe the most talented team in the league,” Calipari said. “They have great size, their guard play, they play really hard, and they play physical. They’re going to bump and grind and grab, and they do it full-court, half-court. They play.”
Pearl returns: Pearl returns to the bench tonight after his eight-game suspension from SEC play for lying to NCAA investigators. He hasn’t won at Rupp Arena since an 75-67 victory on Feb. 7, 2006, against a Tubby Smith-coached UK team.
“It’s an honor any time you coach at Rupp or play there. I think it is something any player or coach during his career will remember. Most of the time not very fondly, but it is absolutely it is one of the most historic buildings in college basketball. It’s going to take a great effort (for us to win),” Pearl said.
“Kentucky is a very talented basketball team. They have some really special players that are playing well together. They are improving. To go on the road and have chances to win and get down and come back shows a lot about the resolve of the team and coaching staff.
“Obviously, they are playing very well at home. To go to Florida and have a chance to win says a lot about their potential. They are really close to blowing it open.”