Here’s everything John Calipari had to say after Louisiana State’s controversial 73-71 victory over Kentucky on Tuesday night:
Can you talk about what happened on the last play and what you saw with the shot that won the game?
“Look, the plays that cost us the game, and again, I don’t want to take anything away from LSU, to come in this building and do what they did down the stretch and make the shots that they made, and basically, rebound the ball offensively against us like they did, they deserve to win the game.
“But, that being said, I love that our kids fought and put themselves in a position to win the game. Then it came down to that last play and I mean, you have to judge it yourself, I guess. I haven’t looked at it. I know -- I looked at it when it happened but I haven’t looked at it.
As you understand it, do the refs have the opportunity to review judgment calls like that?
“No, and it’s another one -- do you remember we lost in the Final Four when there was a goal, a shot clock violation and they said it was not reviewable and then they changed the rule to say, why would you want to lose a game on a shot clock violation and it’s easy to go check? Well, this one is easy to go check, too. Just go check it. Why would you not -- why would that not be reviewable? So we’re like Wilt Chamberlain; we change rules. I don’t know.”
You’ve been saying since the beginning of the year that unless Nick gets his game going, you guys are not going to be able to reach your potential.
It’s the middle of February. Do you still feel that way?
Do you have a Plan B in place?
“I do. I do. Well again, you know, there were some rebounds late that we had to get, and we just weren’t able to get them. A guy like Nick with his size, you would hope that’s what he could do. But again, you’ve got to give them credit. They played. I mean, neither one of us turned the ball over that much. I mean, you know, we just didn’t, and we missed a bunch of shots in the second half we needed to make to keep them at bay. We got work to do. This is a -- this game and this week is the toughest week of the season for us. These are the two games that are the tough ones, and I knew that because these guys are talented.”
How big was P.J. late making those buckets?
“He gave us a chance. He gave us a chance. But there’s points in the game where you can get the game to 14, 15. You’ve got to play then. You can’t, you know, it’s -- if you think you’re going to win the game down the stretch like this as a team, I mean, Ashton didn’t play well today. Didn’t play well at all. I thought Immanuel played well. Really guarded and did a pretty good job, but Ashton couldn’t stay in front of anybody, so every time they ran downhill, they got whatever they wanted and they were doing it to him.
“You know, Tyler got beat a bunch on drives. I mean, it’s stuff that we had gotten better at. They shot the ball 32 percent in the first half. They shot it 51 percent in the second half. That’s why you lose. We’re supposed to be a defensive team that rebounds. Well, obviously we weren’t. Give them credit.”
We haven’t heard your Communism comment in a little while. Are you comfortable -- how comfortable are you with this nine-man rotation going down the stretch?
“Good. I wish -- we need some guys to be more confident. And you could say, well, you’ve got to leave them in. Yeah, but you’ve got to win. And the other side of it is, you know, some of the guys, the situation you’re in is the situation you’re in.
“So you’ve got to figure out, how do I go in here and how am I being aggressive and how do I -- you know, there’s a thing of missing shots and then there’s missing badly, and there’s a thing about defensive confidence. You can’t walk in a game and get scored on twice. You just can’t do it.
“So we’ve got to figure some of that out. But I like this team. We’re good. I mean, this is a tough game and we’ve got another tough one, and the ones that are left from here on in on the road are tough. It’s going to be a struggle.”
It seemed like several times the second half you got beat down the court for easy baskets, and also seemed like loose balls --
“A couple of them. And we got them in the first half. We got them in the first half. We got beat -- we beat them in the first half, and then, they beat us back in the second half the same way. So we kind of did it to each other.”
The rebounding, you out-rebounded them in the first half and they beat you on the boards in the second. Was that an effort thing? Did they do anything differently in the second half?
“I think the energy a little bit, we didn’t block out on a couple balls. They had straight runs at the rim. P.J. got his fourth foul on one of those. The guy ran right around him and in front of him. He was behind him four steps, and I thought that that affected us. We had a play where Reid didn’t block out, those were big plays that were stick-backs, in this kind of game, and sustaining effort and all those things.
“But let me just say this: Again, we get down and this team fights and makes big plays to get back in the game. The free throws that we made down the stretch, we missed some but we didn’t down the stretch. The threes that we missed during the game down the stretch, this team made.
“So you know, you hate for it to come down to the last play, but that happens sometimes. You hate that that play becomes questionable, but I will say that it should not take away from what LSU did. They beat us.”
You had to be devastated hearing about John Wall’s injury, but you had to be tickled to death about reports he was going to complete his degree. How important is that, as far as what you’re trying to establish?
“Well, he’s going to come back. He’s starting some stuff and I’m proud of him. But we have other guys doing it. We have four or five guys that have started already taking classes. You know, the kids here have lifetime scholarships and they can come back when they choose to. They can come back when the time’s right, and some of them are chipping away already and it’s great to see that John will do the same. He’s going to be out a little while.”