Versatile roster gives Cats, Calipari plenty of flexibility

Published 5:04 pm Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Kentucky used its offense to defeat No. 14 Alabama Saturday. It may take a different approach for the Wildcats to keep the momentum going into the final two weeks of the regular season.

“You have to win games all kinds of different ways,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said following the Wildcats’ 117-95 rout of the Crimson Tide.

Kentucky’s talented, versatile roster gives Calipari plenty of options when it comes to injuries, a luxury the Wildcats’ coach hasn’t enjoyed in the past couple of years.

Email newsletter signup

“The best thing with this group — a year ago, even two years ago — If a guy played bad we didn’t have, well we would put in him and him,” Calipari said. “If they played bad they play bad and they are not machines and not robots. Now it is, alright, try somebody else. You can go right down the line. We’ve got a full roster of guys that all can play basketball.”

In the team’s blowout over Alabama, freshman Justin Edwards scored a career-high 28 points, while Zvonimir Ivisic added a career-high 18 points off the bench.

“He (Calipari) had a hunch, he went with his gut to play (Ivisic) with four guys that he would kind of like to see Z play with,” Kentucky assistant coach Chin Coleman said. “That hunch was part of the explosion that you saw. (Now), he’s got another hunch, so we’ll see what happens in the next game.”

Injuries to various players at times this season has forced Calipari to mix and match his rotation. Tre Mitchell has missed the previous three games because of a shoulder injury, but is expected to return soon.

“We have figured out all season how to play without this guy, these two guys (are out), he’s out,” Coleman said. “It’s kind of been like musical chairs type of thing for coach Cal to kind of figure this stuff out. I think for the most part, he’s done a great job. He’s the GOAT for a reason. Coach Cal is the GOAT. He’s done a good job of figuring all of that out.”

Kentucky (19-8, 9-5 Southeastern Conference) will play two of its final four regular-season games on the road, starting Tuesday night at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs (19-8, 8-6) own the league’s longest active winning streak with five straight games, including an 87-67 win at LSU Saturday.

Calipari’s squad defeated Mississippi State 90-77 on Jan. 17 at Rupp Arena.

Edwards Honored

Edwards was named SEC Co-Freshman of the Week following his career-high performance against Alabama. He’s the fifth different player to capture the weekly freshman award this season.

He was perfect from the field (10-for-10) and made all four of his shots from long range, He is the fourth player in school history to record a perfect outing from the field,

“I always knew I was going to have a good game, I just didn’t know it would be this game,” Edwards said. “But I believe in God and knew that I was going to be fine.”

Edwards’ teammates applauded his outing.

“I’m super proud of Justin,” freshman guard Reed Sheppard said. “He’s been needing that. He’s been in the gym every day getting up a crazy amount of shots. He just stuck with it and they finally started to fall.”

Poll Placement

The Wildcats moved up one spot to No. 16 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll released Monday.

Kentucky is one of six SEC schools ranked this week. Tennessee is fourth, followed by Auburn (No. 11), Alabama (14), South Carolina (No. 18) and Florida (24).