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  • COLLEGE BASKETBALL

    Kentucky's Wiltjer takes heat from coach Calipari

  • "Unacceptable."
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  • "Unacceptable."
    That's the word Kentucky Coach John Calipari used to describe Kyle Wiltjer's defense — or lack thereof — in UK's 60-58 victory at Vanderbilt on Thursday.
    Calipari said that Vandy scored 14 of its 24 first-half points against Wiltjer, a Jesuit High School graduate. No coincidence.
    The Commodores targeted Wiltjer as a defender that could be exploited. Other Southeastern Conference teams will do the same, perhaps beginning today with Texas A&M, the UK coach said.
    "They went right at Kyle," Calipari said of the Commodores.
    Vandy used pick-and-roll action against Wiltjer and also tried to isolate him against an offensive player, the UK coach said.
    "Either we play zone or you don't play," Calipari said he told Wiltjer. "Fourteen points (in the first half) against Kyle. No, we're not accepting that."
    On Friday, Calipari voiced skepticism that Kentucky could "hide" Wiltjer in a zone. Opponents would attack Wiltjer's area of the zone like a pit bull going after a pork chop.
    "Any other coach, if I know there is a matchup (to exploit), I'm going to go at him till that other coach takes him out of the game," Calipari said. "Now, if you want to stay on the court, you're going to have to figure it out."
    Usually, when a player feels the onus to improve or sit, improvement occurs, Calipari said. "When they're in desperation mode, normally they figure it out," the UK coach said. "What do you want to do? Do you want to come off the floor? Or do you want to play?"
    Vandy players Rod Odom, Shelby Moats and Kedren Johnson exchanged self-conscious smiles when asked if the Commodores targeted Wiltjer.
    After a pause, Moats said that Vandy talked in several timeout huddles about trying to get points from the player guarded by Wiltjer.
    When asked how often Vandy targeted an opponent in such a way, Johnson said, "Not every game. We just felt we had an advantage."
    Said Johnson of Wiltjer, "He's not too quick sideways."
    Wiltjer, a 6-foot-10 sophomore, is known as a capable shooter. More than once this season, Calipari has noted that Wiltjer must compensate for a lack of foot speed by anticipating plays and playing with a nastier attitude.
    As an example for Wiltjer to follow, Calipari mentioned Bill Laimbeer, who played several seasons in the NBA despite not being the quickest player afoot. He teamed with Rick Mahorn in a physical duo dubbed "Bruise Brothers."
    Calipari called for Wiltjer to stay down in a defensive stance, play with more toughness and just will himself into a better defender.
    "You do everything you can to stay in the game or you accept it," Calipari said. "They went at Kyle every possession I had him in the game. Every single possession."
    That might have been an exaggeration, but not an outrageous one.
    "Don't think every team is not going to go at you," Calipari said he told Wiltjer. "Good luck."
    "I think he can do it," the UK coach added.
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