AUBURN, Ala. — Kentucky’s latest loss, a 76-66 decision at Auburn on Wednesday night, dropped John Calipari’s Wildcats below .500 in league play as NCAA Tournament doubts have begun to swirl.
Auburn fans chanted “NIT, NIT, NIT” just before their 10th-ranked Tigers sealed the win.
Kentucky has lost four consecutive games, the worst stretch in Calipari’s tenure. Here’s everything Calipari said after the loss.
Calipari: “No, they did good. We made strides today. What you have, again, we get a lead and a guy has a shot and because he hasn’t made one he drives it out of bounds baseline and he had a wide-open shot. Guys like Wenyen, who I think are pretty good shooters, don’t make any shots, layups, well he made some dunks. Not a jump shot, not a three, not a free throw.
We have a chance to win the game. We make some dumb inexperienced plays down the stretch. We made strides. I kind of like that smaller team and they’re not small. I mean, 6-9, 6-9, 6-9 maybe. I kind of like that team in there. You know, you hold this team to 36 percent and 29 from 3 when they’re shooting 50 and 45 and you out-rebound them on their court, only have about six turnovers in the second half, which is about that number. But again, Herron, left, left, left on the same guy. And they score eight straight points and we miss all these shots.
I feel for them and poor Hami — he’s making strides and getting better. He needed that 3 to drop and that thing went duh duh duh dat — we would have been up seven. It just didn’t go. I feel bad for him. I told him, you just keep working, but he looked rattled out there and I said, ‘we gotta win the game.’ You gotta worry about egos later when you’re just trying to win a game. Auburn, you know, they’re a terrific team. They fight. They scramble, they come up with balls and if you give them a chance to make 3s they make them. And in the first half I lost my mind. We came into the game — guard the 3 and we’re not fouling. They had 31 points of whatever they had at halftime from the line and from 3. And I look at my team — did anybody listen to me on this? And we went in and they threw out for 3. I mean, we did well for a while, but look, we just come back. We’ve got another tough game. We’ve got Alabama who’s on a win streak and beating everybody’s brains in and now you’ve got them. The league is not what’s it’s been and now you have no room — we don’t have any room for error. As a coach, I’ve got to keep them going. What do we do to try to turn this around? Good news is I’ve done this for 30 years. Haven’t had one of these in a while. Probably good for the soul. I wish it was good for someone’s else soul and not mine.”
On concern about making NCAA Tournament: I’ve got one thought: Let’s just try to win the next game. Just win a game. I really believe if we win a game we’ll get going. I’ve had teams in this kind of mode that we’re in, but the league is different, that we could go get a league game somewhere and we knew, ‘OK, finally.’ Well, guess what? Did Vanderbilt win tonight? I mean there’s none here. You better come and play. The other thing is, everybody gives us their best thought. There’s no one that’s gonna not play against Kentucky, especially if they think they’ve got a chance to beat you for the first time in six years. Now all of a sudden it’s, ya know.”
On what the team’s biggest issue is: “We fought today. Let me say this: They had three loose balls in the first half that we didn’t get, they were in our hands, that they threw out for three. You’re not gonna win. There were plays down the stretch, again, our ball their ball, their coming up with them. But we fought today. I thought we did. I’ll watch the tape. We did some good stuff. We’re trying to figure out again how we need to play. I like where we have a different kind of team in there and how we’re playing. I think we’re getting closer. We’ll see.”
On if they lost Brown somewhere in the final three minutes: “I’ll have to watch the tape. I don’t know. I mean I think at one point we left a corner, just ran to the basket and he’s standing there in front of their bench. I believe it was Wenyen, I don’t know who it was, someone should’ve been near him. We guarded him pretty good. We know how good he is.”
On dominating the paint: “We missed some right there too. A one-footer, I mean, it was a 4-point game. It wasn’t like nine. It was four. Make that and it’s two. Let’s see what happens. He missed it. So, we did do some good stuff, but we did miss it. One of our things was we should be able to get these guys near that rim. I was telling them, ‘Don’t turn it over, shoot it and let us try to rebound.’ But, they do a good job. They front and they jam you.”
On how he judges late-game situations now as opposed to a month ago: “Again, late game situation, you’ve gotta do what the team needs you to do. If they need you to shoot the ball, you need to shoot it. Wenyen took all open shots. They were wide open. Just didn’t make any. But he had to shoot that. If he walked or did something else, I would’ve lost my mind. He shot them and missed them. Well, hopefully next game, get in the gym, spend some time at night or in the morning, build your own confidence and go from there.”
On why Sacha Killeya-Jones didn’t play: “I told him prior to the game I’d probably go small. So I told him prior and I said Nick, you and Sacha, I’m just going to tell you right now, if I think we’re better playing a smaller lineup because they’re not the physical, like what Texas A&M is is physical, so those two guys being in there really bothered these guys. Those two are not that way. So now all of a sudden, Auburn’s physique, the way they play against those two, I didn’t like that. But I liked PJ and I liked Jarred.”
On being composed through the losing streak: “I’m old. I’ve been through just about everything. I just say I’m not phased by it. I’m not cracking. When you say that, this isn’t about me. OK. This season is not going to change anything about me. But my concern is I’ve got a bunch of young kids at times don’t listen. They don’t trust. I told them last night I failed them. I haven’t built enough trust where when I talk to them, I’m going to do what this man says. They’re not that. I don’t know if it’s outside stuff, but I told them I failed them. But they also failed each other because they don’t play for each other. They play like, again, a guy gets eight straight points scored on them, do you really want to win? If you want to win that’s just not happening, but you’re not concerned about that. You’re concerned how you’re playing. We have to get by it.
But I’ll say it again: my concern are these kids. I’m not worried about record, my record, whatever you want to say. I’m old now. We get on a run and we go to the Final Four this year, doesn’t change me. But it helps these kids. We go the wrong way and we don’t’ get it going, it’s affecting these kids. I am fine. Which is why, again, there are some ways that I’ve failed these ways and there’s ways they’ve failed each other. All that comes back to trust and being together and knowing that this is about them. It’s not about me. I don’t want it to be about me. I’ve had enough stuff written and said. Most of it bad. I don’t need anymore. I’m good. Let me go on and just help these kids.”
On if a Final Four run is possible: “Yeah, I do. You saw that team out there, if that’s a No. 1 seed and we’re on their court and we’ve got a 4, 6 point lead with a chance. But, everybody has got to play for us. Again, the other thing, you’ve got to make some shots. This is a game of basketball. When you’re wide open and you don’t think you can make a three, make a two. We’ve just gotta do that.”
Watch: John Calipari after Kentucky’s 76-66 loss at Auburn
The post Kentucky basketball: What John Calipari said after loss at Auburn appeared first on SEC Country.