UK Men's Basketball

‘If this is who we are, I'm feeling good’: Calipari’s comments after loss to Tennessee

John Calipari takes blame for loss to Tennessee

Kentucky’s John Calipari says his own coaching decision cost his team in 61-59 loss to Tennessee on Tuesday night.
Up Next
Kentucky’s John Calipari says his own coaching decision cost his team in 61-59 loss to Tennessee on Tuesday night.

Here’s what UK Coach John Calipari had to say after the Wildcats’ 61-59 loss to Tennessee on Tuesday night in Rupp Arena:

Opening statement: “Let me start by just saying, you know, hopefully, I as a coach help my team win more games than I make mistakes at the end and cost them a game. But I should have called a timeout. I don’t ever like to in those situations, but this is a different team. This team is too young. They’re just too young to know what’s there and if they get in trouble just call a timeout. This team fought, we made a couple errors, a couple plays that I’ll have to go look on tape, but they just kept making foul shots, foul shots, foul shots, foul shots to keep them in it. Then the kid makes the three at the top, but then we still have the ball down 1. Again, 17 seconds, I wanted to see — should have called a timeout. This one’s on me. It’s not on this team. This team did everything they could to try to win the game.”

On not calling a timeout ...

“Here’s what happens. We play the game against Vandy, you see I did not call a timeout, you get a layup. Usually they’re going to miss — the defense is going to panic. It’s a one-point game. What are they saying? Don’t. And if he could get by somebody he was going to get a layup, because they weren’t going to foul him. That’s why I usually don’t. But this is such a young team and I could see they crowded the court and they were being physical, pushing guys around and into each other, I should have called a timeout. At least 10, 12 seconds to go I should have seen it and with — when I saw it I kind of let it going hoping he would make it — you can’t hope, not with these kids. And let me give Tennessee credit now. They came into this building, were up on us a little bit, it was a touch and go game the whole way. We get up, it looks like this thing’s ours, and they don’t stop. So give them credit.

“I’m saying that the chance that we had to win the game fell to me and I let it go. So this isn’t anything about any of these guys. We had some guys not play great defensively, but they played well enough, we fought, we did some good stuff, we still had some turnovers that were unnecessary, but we’re on the right track now. If this is who we are, I’m feeling good. If you notice, we went to a little more grind it out basketball because of who we are. And that was a good defensive team and a good offensive team and we did — like I said, other than them making just about every free throw down the stretch, we did what we were supposed to.”

Q. You guys got out on the outlet pass quickly, you were looking to beat the Vols down the floor and also the lob was there tonight. Would you please discuss that.

“Well we’re trying to play fast. If we rebound the ball or steal it, we’re going. The question becomes if they score on us or the ball bops out of bounds or they’re back there because we fumbled or did something, then we need to grind it out a little bit. We need to have everybody touching the ball, we need to get more people involved in how we’re playing offensively. And I think we did that today. But again, against a really good defensive or offensive team, they shoot 42 percent, 23 from the three, and have 13 turnovers. That’s, with us being this inexperienced and doing that, it’s pretty good. Offensively, I thought we did some good stuff, we still have a ways to go.”

Q. Hami played only 13 minutes tonight, four in the second half. You and (Tony) Barbee seemed to be talking to him quite a bit on the bench. What’s going on with him?

“He just wasn’t engaged defensively. He just, he was breaking down defensively, so — look, these kids aren’t machines and they’re not robots, they make mistakes, they have bad games, and then, OK, come back next week, we play this weekend, play this weekend, do it. But I just, I didn’t play Sacha as much. Sacha has a hard time with Williams. He had a hard time up in Tennessee with Williams. And we put Jarrod on Williams and he did pretty good. So now you had Jarred and P.J. both playing him well. And I thought Nick did some good stuff, Nick rebounded the ball, did some good stuff that way.”

Q. Can you comment at all on Tai’s suspension ...

“He was, he was, he violated team rules. He has — the back injury, he is out because of a back, but he’s now been suspended because of violating team rules and that’s all I’ll say.”

Q. How well do you think your guys can look at the good side of this, the competing, the going right down to the end?

“Well, we’ll see, but again, we had some spells that were so bad, like what, are you, why did you, what — and that’s what young kids do. Shai played 39 minutes and Kevin Knox played 37. It’s too many minutes. Probably hurt us in the end. But you know what, we’re trying to win the game. And if someone is going in for them and breaking down or — but again, I’m looking at this saying, you know what, we’re better. Quade was really good today, did some good stuff. The last play he gave that kid that three with his hands down. But again, he made baskets, he got to the rim. He made, he got guys involved. He was good. It looked like we were in control of stuff with him and Shai out there.”

Q. On Quade, the first half you were really struggling to score and without him you had no offense what was he doing that other guys weren’t doing?

“Made shots. You know what, it’s funny when the ball goes in it looks pretty good. Your offense looks better. We got some guys that are struggling and to make shots and a 3-14 from the three is not going to get it done. You’re not going to — you know, in a game like this — now they only made 5-21. But those two threes, if we make those, we win in pretty good fashion. So he was making them and the rest of the guys weren’t.”

Q. Have you stressed to Quade lately to take the ball to the basket more instead of just settling for the threes?

“We want him to play away from the ball because of his size. If he’s crowded he’s not the same guy. But if he’s away from the ball, give it up, get it back and make plays away. Or for to us drive and get him shots. And then he’s crafty with the ball. If you do stop him and he’s got space, he can get in the lane. And that little jumper he missed I thought it was down, because he usually makes that. I mean, again, they did what they had to, they made their free throws, they made that big three, and we missed some shots that we needed to have go down.”

Q. I think for three of the four halves you all played Tennessee this season, Grant Williams has looked like a different player than he has all season. What have you been able to do against him this season that others haven’t?

“PJ is a good matchup and now Jarred. We don’t have any other real good matchups for him but those two are. He’s a terrific player. He’s got to be one of the Player of the Year candidates, in my opinion.”

Q. Kevin Knox, second game where he looks like he has a hard time finding shots. How much is that on the defense or how much of that is on him?

“Well he took more shots than anybody on the team.”

Q. Were they good shots or poor shots?

“Well I would like him to go to the rim more. I would like him to get in there and get fouled more. The play he made, the and-one, I would like to see a bunch of those. When the court’s crowded he struggles a little bit with that, so maybe we got to do some things to make the court more open for him. But, again, guys, for some of the guys, it’s as much defense that I worry about. You guys will all look at this offense, but if a guy’s breaking down and killing us on defense, the offense, now you break down on offense and you are breaking down on defense, you’re really killing us. So we got to just shore up some of the small mistakes we’re making. But again, we gave ourselves a chance to win. That ball, he makes that three, it’s a one-point game. That game was in my hands to do something with and I dropped the ball. It’s not these guys. These kids did what they were supposed to. That was a hard-fought game against a team that’s winning five games in a row, now six. We’re struggling a little bit and we come out and have that kind of effort? Proud of these kids.”

Kentucky center Nick Richards talks about the 61-59 loss to Tennessee.

Kentucky guard Quade Green on the 61-59 loss to Tennessee.

Kentucky guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on his two late turnovers in UK’s 61-59 loss to Tennessee.

Tennessee Coach Rick Barnes on what made the difference in the Vols’ 61-59 win at Kentucky.

No. 15 Tennessee came up with the clutch plays it needed in the final minute of a 61-59 victory at No. 24 Kentucky.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader