Kentucky forward Cam’Ron Fletcher defends against Kansas’ Jalen Wilson in a 65-62 loss to the Jayhawks earlier this week in Indianapolis. ((Phil Elsworth/ESPN Images)
By KEITH TAYLOR
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Isaiah Jackson is taking a realistic approach as Kentucky deals with a rare two-game losing streak three games into the season.
“I feel like these losses helped us as a team,” Jackson said. “We’ve got a lot to work on, got a lot to grow. Just as the season goes on, we have a lot of stuff to work on, things like that. Yet again, it’s only the third game. We have time. We’re going to keep working, getting in the gym and working.”
Despite opening the season with an 81-45 win over Morehead State, the recent slide for the Wildcats began with a 76-64 setback to Richmond at Rupp Arena last Sunday. Two days later, Kentucky showed drastic improvement in a 65-62 setback to No. 7 Kansas in the State Farm Champions Classic in Indianapolis.
Jackson scored seven points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the loss to the Jayhawks. In addition to his scoring and rebounding contributions, Jackson finished with eight blocked shots, the most since Willie Cauley-Stein had nine against Boise State in 2013.
Despite the block party, Jackson was disappointed in his defense down the stretch.
“I don’t want to think about (the blocked shots) because we still lost,” Jackson said. “On that last play, I tried to box him out and he pushed me under the basket and I went toward the rim and he got the ball. That’s my mistake and I told the team that was my mistake. Everybody knows that was me.”
Jackson battled through foul trouble and finished the game with four fouls. Another forward — Olivier Sarr — also finished with four fouls, while guard Terrence Clarke fouled out.
“That’s something we have to work on,” he said. “Foul trouble, I feel like that really messed us up, our rotations and things like that. Just get in the gym, working on putting our hands straight up, trying not to foul. Still young, still got the rest of the season.”
In addition to working on foul issues, the Wildcats have struggled with shooting and made just three 3-pointers on 21 attempts against Kansas.
“We were just missing (shots),” he said. “I don’t know what it is. We just weren’t hitting shots. It happens.”
Three games into his collegiate career, Jackson said the biggest takeaway is learning to play with “energy the whole game.”
“Once you stop playing with energy and they start to get that run, if you don’t make baskets or get stops, it can keep going,” said Jackson who is averaging 7.3 points per game and 10 rebounds per outing and leads the team with 12 blocks in three games. “I feel like that’s one thing – playing defense, really. That’s one of the biggest things. We did, the last couple of games, play pretty good defense. But if we had a couple of more stops or a couple of more rebounds, I feel like we could have had that edge.”
As for his own game, Jackson wants to get into better playing shape as the season progresses.
“I just need to get in more condition,” Jackson said. “If I can run more, be on the floor and be able to lift the team up and give the team energy whenever they need it. I mean that’s me, personally, I just need to work on that and play a little harder.”
Gametracker: Kentucky at Georgia Tech, Sunday, 5 p.m., ESPN, UK Radio Network.