Vaught's Views: UK's physical play impresses Marshall coach
Nerlens Noel (3) and Willie Cauley-Stein went to the floor to get a loose ball in the win over Marshall. (Victoria Graff / December 24, 2012)
Marshall coach Tom Herrion didn’t see those same flaws Saturday when UK pulled away in the second half to beat his team 82-54. Instead, he praised the Wildcats and even noted that the Cats played physical — something John Calipari has been wanting to see much more of from his team.
"Physically, yeah they have great players and a terrific coach. They matched our physicality and we are a physical club,” said Herrion.
Remember, matching Marshall’s physical play may not sound impressive. But Marshall has a veteran team with size and many feel it could win Conference USA this year.
“I'd like to think that our team can physically play against a lot of teams in the country. I am not saying we are that good, don't get me wrong, but we like to try to lay the wood on people and I thought they responded pretty well,” Herrion said.
Kentucky did. And Calipari liked it.
“The thing I liked about Marshall, very physical, bump-and-grind team that we out-rebounded, and they were big,” Calipari said after the win. “That's what we needed. We needed a game like this. We needed a team that would play that way.
“Marshall is going to do fine. They get into Conference USA, and they're going to be one of those teams playing for that NCAA bid. No question in my mind.”
Herrion said he had watched a “boatload of tape” on UK’s previous games, including losses to Baylor that broke a three-year home win streak and one at Notre Dame where UK was outmuscled.
“I thought they were much more active and kind of like how I like. Bodies were flying today. Body on body for both teams,” Herrion said. “I think some games they might have bounced off some guys and not responded and tonight I thought they played at a physical level. Which is going to be helpful to them as they move on in their season.”
It will because if they don’t play that way this Saturday at Louisville, it will get ugly. It might get ugly any way against Rick Pitino’s veteran, defensive-minded team that toyed with Western Kentucky Saturday. But if the Cats aren’t physical, it will be a huge mismatch.
Yet Herrion warned it is way too early to write off Kentucky.
"They have great opponents coming up in non-conference and in the SEC. They are going to get better and better,” the Marshall coach said. “You all are in the midst of it every single day but you can't flip the roster every year and expect the magic wand to happen from game one to game 39-40. It is going to take some time.
“Sometimes give respect to the teams they have played. Baylor won by almost 20 last night against BYU. Notre Dame is pretty good. It is not always how your team is struggling or bad. Maybe some other teams played well. Sometimes it is like the end of the world coming if you guys don't win or you play poorly. Sometimes it is about what is good about some of the teams you are playing."