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November 14, 2013

Tim Kolodziej: ’Cats will learn from their mistakes — and we should, too

NEW CASTLE — Was Tuesday a national holiday?

It should have been. I know I was celebrating the start of the college basketball season with ESPN’s marathon of hoops.

There were some terrrific games during the 24 straight hours of coverage, but I was really looking forward to the Champions Classic matchup between Michigan State and the University of Kentucky.

Sparty vs. the Wildcats.

Experienced team vs. talented freshmen.

Izzo vs. Calipari.

1 vs. 2.

In the end, the game was just OK. To some, it may have even been “meh,” as our friends, the Minions, might say.

Yep, meh.

Michigan State’s victory was a veritable slopfest as we might expect from a pre-Thanksgiving battle. Plenty of turnovers, missed shots, lack of communication on defense — and even more sulking and whining about officials’ calls.

That said, it’s November, and I see both of these teams going deep into the NCAA Tournament. Kentucky’s young squad, especially, will be in beast mode by March.

Unfortunately, it’s not March yet and on Tuesday night the Wildcats were fundamentally flawed in far too many ways to count.

They gave up way too many transition baskets. They gave up way too many offensive rebounds. And they gave up way too many points with missed free throws.


I have a good idea what the ’Cats will be working on at practice over the next couple of days as they prepare to avenge last year’s loss to Robert Morris. In fact, players of all ages would be wise to remember these three things as they prepare for a new basketball season to begin.

Let’s tip it off.

1) Bad shots will hurt you — I loved what analyst Jay Bilas said during the game after yet another run out by Michigan State: “A bad shot is usually the first pass in transition for your opponent.” So true.

•The takeway: Bad shots, especially rushed 3s, almost always lead to fast-break baskets by your opponent. So, what is a bad shot? Any shot that’s out of rhythm, out of range or out of teammates.

a) Rhythm — Make every attempt to “walk in” to your shot. If you’re off balance, it’s better to give the ball up and find a new spot to shoot from. Shooting percentages are far better when a shot is taken off a catch than off the dribble.

b) Range — Same thing if you’re out of range. Stroke it, don’t heave or hoist it. You know how strong you are. You know the spots where you’re most comfortable and accurate. Get to them.

c) Teammates — Lastly, if you’re racing down the floor in a 1 on 3 break, be smart, pull the ball out and wait for help to come — either trailers or rebounders.

Just remember the “outs” and your shots always have a chance to go in.

2) Second shots will kill you — I repeat, second shots will kill you. Unless, of course, your team is getting second shots. Then they will thrill you. Michigan State is a terrific rebounding team, but Kentucky failed to block out on several occasions. And they paid dearly.

•The takeaway: Here’s the formula — find the body, then find the ball. Butt to the gut. Box out your opponent. Make contact then make your attempt to secure the rebound. Use whichever formula is easiest to remember, then get after it.

3) Free Throws Can Cost You — Just do the math. Kentucky lost by four and MISSED 16 free throws during the game. Yes, the Wildcats MISSED 16 free throws. Even if they had made just half of those, they win the game. Free throws are just that — free points.

•The takeaway: Great foul shooters aren’t born, they are made in the gym. Proper fundamentals + repetion + focus = excellence. Instead of jacking up half-court bombs and trying to bust And1 moves on your buddies, take advantage of your time before team practice to work on your stroke.

You never know when YOU will be on the foul line.

Down 1.

With no time left on the clock.

There’s no magic pill. What you do TODAY will determine what happens when the referee hands you the ball in THE FUTURE.

Think swish. Then practice like you mean it.

At some point real soon, every shot will count.


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