Kentucky’s 97-92 loss to UCLA brought Yao Ming and John Calipari’s dogs into the conversation at Tuesday’s media availability.
Ming and the mutts helped UK basketball cope with its first loss of the season.
Isaac Humphries said Yao gave him the best advice he’d ever heard about losing. The two spoke at a Basketball Without Borders Camp in China a few years ago.
“Yao Ming told me once you can win and win and win and not learn much from it,” Humphries said. “But when you lose, the things that are going wrong really come into play, and you have to address that.
“I’ve just stuck with that and believe that. You learn a lot from losing.”
Calipari said he grieves for about 24 hours after a game is lost. Then he moves on to the next game. This grieving process involves retreating to a favorite chair and watching television.
“I sit in a chair and tell everyone to leave me alone … ,” Calipari said. “I let the dogs (Palmer and McGruff) come around me. No one else.”
Kentucky’s phenomenal success during Calipari’s eight seasons adds to the shock value of any loss, especially in Rupp Arena, he said.
“You all are just not used to us losing at home,” he said. “I want you to know what we’ve got going on is not normal. In the history of the game, it’s not normal.”
Calipari mused about the ache that comes with losing and when a coach should know it’s time to leave the profession.
“If you can’t enjoy winning and losing is really miserable, you need to be out of this,” he said. “… Losing becomes just the next thing, you need to get out, too. You’ve lost it.”
Eddie Sutton reprise?
When Eddie Sutton was UK coach, fans disliked his deliberate offense which at times featured a so-called seven-pass rule (no shot before the ball was passed seven times).
Calipari ventured down that path when saying the Cats got away from sharing the ball against UCLA.
“I told them I didn’t think I’d have to do this, but if they’re not passing the ball like they normally do, we’ve got to go with some offense that forces three or four passes before they think about shooting.”
Going into this season, Valpo star Alec Peters was a career 43.3-percent shooter from three-point range (231 of 534). So far this season, he has made only 11 of 47 shots (23.4 percent) from beyond the arc.
“It may not be falling for me early on, but I know eventually the ball is going to go in,” Peters said. “Once it goes in, it’s just momentum from there.”
Valpo Coach Matt Lottich credited opposing defenses.
“Guys are running him off the line and making him put the ball on the floor. … ,” Lottich said. “I do not worry one second about Alec making three-point shots. He’s a fantastic shooter. He just needs to see it go in the basket, and they’ll come in bunches. And the sooner the better for us.”
‘We will … compete’
Kentucky’s schedule seemed to fuel Valpo’s hopes for an upset. The game comes after UCLA and before upcoming games against North Carolina and Louisville.
UCLA’s victory over UK changed things.
“Yeah, we were hoping Kentucky would win, I’ll tell you that,” Lottich said. “For us, we can control what we can control. We’re looking at this as an opportunity.”
Lottich said Valpo will use the game as a measuring stick in its hopes of getting a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“We know they’re great,” he said. “We know they have a lot of talent, a lot of young talent, a lot of athleticism.
“We’re looking forward to the opportunity. I can tell you we will come out and compete.”
‘We’ll be fine’
Calipari dismissed the notion of the home loss to UCLA crippling UK’s chances for a good seed in the NCAA Tournament.
“Nah,” he said. “I don’t think it does anything. … If we are who we should be, we’ll be fine. We’ll be one of those teams.”
Valpo forward Shane Hammink is the son of former LSU player Geert Hammink.
The elder Hammink was Shaquille O’Neal’s backup at LSU and later the Orlando Magic. He scored nine points and grabbed 16 rebounds against UK in the 1993 SEC Tournament finals. That was the game Andre Riddick came within a block of a triple-double: 15 points, 10 rebounds and nine blocks.
Of the younger Hammink, Lottich said, “He’s not shooting the ball like he wants to yet, but he’s capable. We’re still waiting for that breakout game from him.”
Hammink, the only other Valpo player averaging double-digit points (15.4 per game), has made only two of 22 three-point shots.
Another Valpo player, 7-2 freshman Derrik Smits, is the son of former Indiana Pacer Rik Smits. He averages 5.6 minutes.
Valpo’s victory over then No. 21 Rhode Island snapped a 40-game losing streak against ranked teams. That streak dates to the famous upset of Mississippi (Bryce Drew’s winning shot at the buzzer) in the 1998 NCAA Tournament. … Tom Hart, former UK standout Tony Delk and Tara Petrolino will call the game for the SEC Network.