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John Calipari on Kansas, tweaking offense, taking blame for Hawkins and more

Is the 'tweak' back?

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Losing hurts, especially in John Calipari's case Saturday night.

Cal's Cats put up a great fight in Allen Fieldhouse, where Cal got his first coaching opportunity in 1982. Now well into his Hall of Fame career, Cal was hoping to lead Kentucky to its first win at Kansas since 1983, one year after Cal began his career in Lawrence.

It was not to be on this night as Kentucky fell in overtime, 90-84. Cal had a lot to talk about after the game, including how he made another 'tweak' in the offense that helped spark UK's 46-point outburst in the first half that kept them in the game until the very end.

Cal also took the blame for playing Dominique Hawkins too much in this game after Hawk had missed nearly a month of action due to a high ankle sprain suffered vs Ole Miss. Hawkins scored four points, but missed three open looks from outside that UK needed down the stretch.

Here is a recap of what Cal had to say following the loss at Kansas.

On the game

"We had our chances in regulation. They had two offensive rebounds. What I told them after is I gotta do a better job of teaching these kids how to win. They do not know how to win a game. And that's my job. That's why they want me coaching them. And we have too many guys, €”we were playing (Wayne) Selden no catch.

"What? No catch, you left him open. I know. If you're watching the game and you're playing, there is no reason you're leaving the guy that's killing you. You just say no catch, which is what we said, and the kid gets three shots off. I mean, we switched off. It was just amazing. And the kid had to make them and he did.

"Offensively, €”I liked what Skal did, but, again, we have to rebound the ball. They got two offensive rebounds. We had two one-handed rebounds all in the last three minutes of regulation, one on an offensive rebound. If we grab it with two hands and stick it in, I think we win the game. And that's what winning players know. I'm not taking a chance. I'm grabbing this thing with two hands and it's something we talk about. But this is what my job is.

"Those kids gave everything they had. They fought like heck. They came in this building expecting to win. They, you know, €”basically we changed how we played. We opened up the court and just said we're going to try to beat them off the dribble. And we had a short turn and they did it. But we still, €”when the game is in the guts of the game, we're just learning now what it means to win and the plays you must make.

"And the plays, just as importantly, you don't make, not at winning time. This is a young team and hats off to Kansas. I thought they played well. They had chances to let go of the rope and there was no way. They fought. The play where Tyler rebounded that ball with two hands and got knocked over and they kick it out for a 3.

"Big play, but he had to make it. He had to make that shot. Tie game at that time with us having the ball would maybe be different. But they made those plays and it was a heck of a college game."

On the offense

"Well, we were running a baseline runner and the issue becomes the guys at the top didn't want to shoot the ball. So that's why I put Skal up there. And that's the elbow jumper Skal got and made twice. Alex wouldn't. Alex was 32 feet out. And I'm like, ‘Move in and shoot the ball.' And then he missed it so badly it was demoralizing. I said, ‘You gotta shot that with confidence. Shoot that ball. I'm telling you to shoot it.'

"Probably shouldn't have played Dom today. I mean, he hadn't played in a month and I put him in this game to make shots? That's on me. That's not on Dom. Poor kid. I feel bad. He had wide-open looks and he's been shooting well. But he (had) a high-ankle sprain. Hasn't played.

"But that's why we put Skal in. He did what he was supposed to. I was hoping Alex could do that because that's the shot that's there against that. Or you drive right down the middle."

On playing well in a tough environment

"I'm still hacked off that we lost. I'll probably think of something that was good. We fought and when you have a chance to win like we did, you choke it. Every play is a winning play. And it's not just about missing free throws. OK, we missed, but if I showed them tape this week of teams down nine.

"Virginia, showed them the end of that game with Wake (Forest). You're never out of it. Just keep playing. Well, when we missed those free throws, it's kind of like we let go of the rope. And I just had talked about it. But it's all part of the growth of this team and stuff that I have to do. I got a lot of work to do. I really do.

"A lot of work to do. Are were relying on one guy. You can't do that. And I couldn't get him enough of a break. I was going to take him out. The game was so close, he said, ‘Leave me in.' Derek getting in foul trouble really affected us. But I would say, if you're watching the game you would probably say it was a heck of a game. I'm sick to my stomach."

On how the team defended Perry Ellis

"We were playing off a couple of guys. The problem is that Carlton Bragg went in and we said, ‘You have to play him.' And we played off of him, then he made three jumpers. We said, ‘Guys, play him like you play Perry Ellis. You have to play him.' Perry is a terrific player and this ended up being a guard game more than anything else. It kind of neutralized everything else."

On Allen Fieldhouse

"I love the place. I love the campus. I mean, if you're a college student and you're in the Midwest - really, anywhere - this is a college campus, a college life, student life. And then the pride to take this basketball program, you know, Bill (Self) has taken it to another level. But it's always been here and being able to coach in the building. That's the first time I've coached in there. The other thing, the programs are so similar. There's two things: Have Kansas fans ever rushed the court in this building?

Reporter: Once when Roy (Williams) was here.

Cal: "See, that's Roy's fault. But like at Kentucky, if we beat the (Los Angeles) Lakers at the buzzer from halfcourt, banked it, they would never run. These fans are the same. Let me just say, I go a lot of places, and the respect like our fans, we lost to Texas A&M, a kid had 41 points, our fans gave him a standing ovation when he left the building.

"We lost, he got a standing ovation. That's how these fans are. I mean, how they treated all of our fans, I mean you had some people, but the normal, ‘Hey, I'm glad you're here. You're going to lose, you know you're going to lose.' But they will respect - It's what this is about.

"They're not in here drunk. It's just a great environment to coach in, to play in. And Kentucky is very similar the way things are done there."

On Isaiah Briscoe

"Yeah he missed some free throws, but he played pretty well. He cramped up. I was playing guys too many minutes. We put a couple guys in. I put two guys in, one got four points on one guy, then I put in another guy and they got seven points on the other guy. It limited well, we were able to go two on the bench."

On if UK took a step forward in defeat

"No, because we're still doing the same things. It's losing basketball, it's Auburn all over again. It just wasn't the entire game. At Auburn, it was for 15 minutes. Here it was about for five minutes. It was about five or six minutes of losing basketball.

"All we'll do is just go possession by possession, is that losing or winning basketball? And they have to say it's losing. Then you go to the next possession, both offense and defense, the last five, six minutes of regulation and even some in the overtime. But that's my job to teach them how to win.

"They fought, they followed a game-plan. We had two days and we went to a different offense. We didn't play this way all year. We went to a different way of playing and they responded to it. The young guys and even a couple of the vets, we just have to get them to understand the plays you have to make in this kind of game."