In addition to my column, three takeaways from Kentucky’s 84-83 loss to Seton Hall at Madison Square Garden.
1. I had no problem with no timeout.
Yes, John Calipari could have called timeout after Seton Hall’s Myles Cade sank a three-pointer from the left wing with nine seconds left to give Seton Hall an 84-83 lead in overtime. He could have used a timeout to try and set up a final play for his young team to win the game.
But, as Calipari might say, have you not been watching the games? Cal has been the Kentucky coach since 2009-10. He’s coached a ton of games. He’s won a ton of games. And in those situations, more often that not he doesn’t like to call a timeout in that situation.
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In this particular game, in this particular instance, I don’t blame him. Yes, the object of the game is to win the game. (Thank you, Herm Edwards.) But on Dec. 8, it’s also to develop your young team. Let the youngsters try to figure it out on their own. Sooner or later, they’ll have to do just that. And they can’t figure it out if they’re not given the opportunity to try.
Cal’s strategy didn’t work out, of course. Keldon Johnson’s forced three from the top of the key fell well short. The play the Cats had talked about when Seton Hall called timeout with 30 seconds left never materialized. And UK lost. That’s not the end of the world. Not now. Not in the middle of December.
“When you have a chance to look back and say, ‘How did this thing finish,’” Calipari said. “’What kind of play was it?.’”
I think back to the final play of the 2017 South Region finals in Memphis. When Malik Monk made the three-pointer that tied the game at 73 with seven seconds left, North Carolina Coach Roy Williams did not call time. Carolina pushed the ball up the floor and Luke Maye made his shot with 0.3 seconds left to send Carolina to the Final Four. And the national title.
2. Kentucky didn’t dominate the boards.
Board-work has been the prescription for UK’s recent success. The Cats have dominated people on the glass, especially the offensive glass. They outrebounded Southern Illinois by 29; North Dakota by 30; VMI by 21; Winthrop by 15; Tennessee State by nine; Monmouth by 15; UNC Greensboro by 16.
Saturday, they outrebounded Seton Hall by just four, 39-35. Their offensive-rebound percentage was just 35.9 percent. That’s good, not great. And before the trip to the Big Apple, UK had been great on the offensive glass, topping the 40 percent mark in five games of their seven-game win streak.
When the Cats went through that first-half drought in which they missed 14 shots, previous games would have seen some putbacks, rebound buckets or other second-chance points. That didn’t happen against the Pirates, a team much taller and more physical that some of UK’s previous opponents.
Final stat on second-chance points: Seton Hall 12, Kentucky 10
3. Cal is right: PJ Washington needs to do more.
The sophomore forward started quickly from the gate, scoring seven of his team’s first nine points and nine of its first 13. He ended the game with a flourish, as well, scoring 16 points in the final 5:56 of regulation and the five minutes of overtime to finish with a career-high 29 points to go with 13 rebounds.
“That kid is going to make a lot of money,” said Seton Hall Coach Kevin Willard afterward.
Indeed, UK doesn’t fight back to send the game into overtime without Washington. His baskets put UK up 60-57, 62-59 and 66-62. He was 12 of 13 from the foul line. This, from the same PJ who was eight of 20 from the stripe in the NCAA Sweet 16 loss to Kansas State last March.
And yet Washington seemed to disappear for a long stretch of the first half and the first 14 minutes of the second half. (He did have a key block of a Seton Hall shot, but nearly had the ball stolen when he stood a little too long over the fallen Pirate). He only asserted himself again when Pirates big men began fouling out. That’s when he took over.
Plus, after games in which his points/rebounds numbers were 25/7 against North Dakota, 19/18 against VMI and 19/11 against Winthrop, Washington scored just 23 points with 23 rebounds over the last three games.
“PJ in the end of the game, that’s who he should be the whole game,” Calipari said. “That’s who you are. Why aren’t you getting 35 and 20?
“If that’s who you are, and you’re making free throws and you’re doing the things that you’re doing, you’re as good as any player in the country. Be that guy every night.”