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December 4, 2012

Calipari vows Cats will improve conditioning

Kentucky rolled. Now it gets Rocked.

The Wildcats snapped a two-game losing streak on Tuesday with an emphatic-on-paper 88-56 win against outmanned Samford at Rupp Arena.

But after UK (5-2) outscored the Bulldogs (2-8) by a single point in the second half, coach John Calipari decreed that his team is out of shape - and that it won't stay that way for long.

Starting Thursday - the Cats are off on Wednesday - Calipari said he'll institute 7 a.m. conditioning, overseen by strength coach Ray "Rock" Oliver, to go along with Kentucky's standard afternoon practices.

"You need to learn how to play a full game," Calipari said. "They had that opportunity today. So we have to chalk it up to they're not in shape. They will be. We're going to be the most in shape team inside the next three weeks."

The Wildcats looked perfectly fit in the first half, shaking off any signs of a hangover after losses to Notre Dame and Baylor. UK shot 53.1 percent from the floor before halftime, held the Bulldogs to 4-for-20 shooting, forced 14 turnovers and led 45-14 at the half.

Calipari was happy. He told his team to duplicate that effort for 20 more minutes.

"It's all that competitive mindset he's talking about…," said forward Willie Cauley-Stein, who had 12 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots Tuesday. "He told us when we came in at halftime, he said, 'I don't care about the score. I just want to see you all compete, so go back out there like it was the first half.' And we didn't do that."

They really didn't do it.

Samford scored the first nine points of the second half, and Kentucky outscored the Bulldogs 43-42 after halftime.

"So you come out for 20 minutes and you compete, then you come out the second half and you don't," Calipari said. "Then you're not in shape or you don't care. I don't want to even go that way. I don't even want to hint that way. So they're not in shape then. But they will be."

They'll start getting that way Thursday, Calipari promised.

"Twenty to 30 minutes of straight running," he said. "Heart rates will be high. Not heart rates at 120. Your heart rate is going to be at 175, 180."

Calipari told his players after the game about the change in routine, informing them that for the next three weeks they're in for morning conditioning and afternoon practice, a pairing he figures is fine because he keeps his in-season practices relatively short.

"We're in shape at spurts," said forward Alex Poythress, who had 16 points and eight rebounds Tuesday. "But he wants us to be in the best shape we can be. If we've got to condition every morning, then so be it."

Calipari turned almost every question in Tuesday's postgame news conference into a fitness filibuster.

Asked about Kyle Wiltjer's shooting slump, he said Wiltjer "must not be in shape." Asked if his team plays with enough emotion, Calipari answered, "I don't know, but they will because they're going to be in better shape and have a lot more energy to be a little more emotional."

He said the phrase "in shape" 11 times and "better shape" twice in less than 11 minutes.

And yet, Cauley-Stein suggested Calipari's not really talking about conditioning.

"It's all mental," Cauley-Stein said. "He's trying to get us more mentally tough. There's no way we can't be in shape. Going through offseason and even how practices are now, there's no way we're not in shape. It's all mental."

And, in fact, Calipari as much as said the conditioning chatter is for motivational purposes.

"Now, they play a full game, like both halves, yeah, maybe we won't condition," Calipari said. " I don't think they can. I don't. I think they can come out, play a half or start the game. We got a couple guys literally that can play three minutes at a time right now."

Calipari insisted he wasn't angry with his players. He's disappointed with their level of play in the second half, their willingness to accept not outplaying their opponent. And so he'll have them run and see if that fixes the problem.

"We got to be better than we are right now," Calipari said. "We got to be in better shape. We got to be mentally tougher. We got to play for each other more. We got to find time to be in the gym. We got to condition more. We just got to step on the gas."


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