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John Calipari reacts to Kentucky’s thrilling win over North Carolina

I think we all need to give Malik Monk a hug for that epic performance.

NCAA Basketball: Canisius at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

They say that what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Fans of the Kentucky Wildcats hope that is not the case for Malik Monk’s scoring frenzy this afternoon.

Behind a freshman record 47 points by Monk, Kentucky outlasted North Carolina this afternoon in the CBS Sports Classic with a score of 103-100. With both teams shooting over 50% and committing 10 or fewer turnovers, this was a beautiful example of what college basketball can be.

Of course, John Calipari praised Monk’s unbelievable performance in his post-game comments. But he also did not seem very pleased with his team giving up 100 points, including 34 to Tar Heel forward Justin Jackson.

See below for the full transcript of Calipari’s comments, courtesy of UK Athletics.

Q. Talk about Malik Monk’s performance.

“It’s not just that he had a bunch of baskets. He made like daggers that gave us a chance. I made two players in our locker room stand up and come up and hug him because he saved them.

“Their breakdowns, they’re like, what did you just do? And I made him hug them because he saved them. Now I hope there is a point where he’s got to go hug one of them for something he’s done that they covered his back.

“But first of all, North Carolina’s unbelievable. That was, if you watched that game, if you never liked basketball, you’re going to start liking basketball. Like, wow, if that’s what it is, I’m going to watch that. I would say that as much as, and Roy’s just one of the great guys in our profession.

“As much as he wanted to win, and I wanted to win, I think we’re still both figuring out our teams. Defensively, I mean, what did they shoot? 54%, 53%. That was us that shot 54. They have 18 assists and only nine turns. It was like two teams that played fast and scored quickly, and opened the court up, let those kids do their thing.

“The biggest thing for us, and we talked all week, is we outrebounded them. I can’t believe it. Never thought it would happen.

Q. How important do you think it is for Malik and De’Aaron Fox early in their careers to have these kinds of performances in a game like this.

“We needed a close game. The game with UCLA wasn’t close. They killed us. We tried to make a little thing at the end and make it three, but it was never three. This game was what a game should be. They make a play, you better make one. They miss a shot, you better come up with one, and you can’t panic.

“You’ve got to do your stuff. There was one play that Bam was in the post, and I’m telling De’Aaron, don’t throw it in, and he threw it in there and Bam scored, and I said, great shot. They asked me about the last play with Malik Monk, and I said drive that ball, drive it, and he shot a three and it went in. I said, great shot, kid, way to shoot that ball.

“We’re still trying to figure each other out. They’re trying to figure each other out. But like I said, it’s a great ballgame, and I’m glad we won. But if we had lost that game, I’d be saying it’s December 17th, and this is who we are on December 17th against a really good team. Good enough to beat them. Good enough to lose to them. That’s who we are.

“Now my thing is, where are we going to be one month from now? Now, we’ve got another war in three or four days after we traveled half a country away to go back home and play Louisville on the road, which is going to be another war.”

Q. You said at the beginning of the year that this team could be one of your best defensive teams. Do you still feel that way?

“Well, I also said that it’s one of the fastest teams I’ve coached, and I was right about that. So I was 1 out of 2. What’s happened to us is people are exploiting individual players on my team. We’ve got to figure it out as a staff. How are we going to do this?

“They’re exploiting one, two, and three players. The minute they go in, they go right at them. Every team is doing the same thing. We’re working really hard with those guys to try to get them to be able to just, how about this one, stay in front of a guy with your hand up. You don’t have to take it from him.

“Just be in front of him and have your hand up so he can’t just shoot a jumpshot. A guard slips on our 6’9″ guy, our hands are like this, and the guy makes a three. There were three of those today. And you don’t understand, we work on that every single day, sometimes twice a day.

“So it’s what happens when you have young guys. They revert back to what they know best, which is back away from the guy, have his hands down. If he makes the three, it’s an AAU game. Can I get a hot dog, I’m hungry. They’ll revert back to that kind of stuff at times.”

Q. Malik told us when he knows it’s going to be one of those games for him. When do you know?

“I’ve not been around him yet, but let me say what we did do. I watched some film of him playing, and at the beginning of the game I said it looked like he was going to get 40. Do you remember, the guys that follow us, that don’t listen to me, but follow us? Then I said he went six minutes without touching a ball.

“Well, that’s on me now. So what we did was we put two or three things in for him, not only for this game for the season where if he doesn’t get the ball for a couple two, three trips down, then we’re running something that they have to throw him the ball.

“Now, I have an unselfish team and so does Carolina. But there are times we’re not moving the ball, so we have to have an offense that makes us pass four times. There are times we are not finding Bam in the post, so we have to have things that we have no choice but to throw him the ball. The other is Malik.”

Q. Why did you want Malik to drive on that play, and how often?

“It was a two-point game. You can’t ask me two questions. I can’t remember them. It was a two-point game, and I’d rather him gone to the rim and gotten fouled. Now you’ve got two, you’ve got one, and he threw it, bang, it went in, and now we’re up one. I said, great shot, kid, keep playing. Let’s go.”

Q. How often do players disobey you and it works out?

“They never disobey me. Dangerous move to disobey me.”

Q. What goes through your mind when Bam fouls out? How important was it for the team to win without him?

“Oh, just winning was important, but Bam has to understand you can’t go near people. Like when they’re driving in and they’re going to have a lay-up, then give them the lay-up. I keep telling them, this isn’t football. That is not a touchdown. We may score in four seconds.

Give them the lay-up. Your foul kills us. That basket we’ll make up. We’re the fastest team out there. We’ll throw it in, throw it in, 2-3, guess what? It’s a 2-for-1, we’re great. But they don’t get it yet. They still, I’ve got to stop this guy from scoring.

“What? If you didn’t play him before he caught it, you made a mistake already. He’s probably going to score on you, just don’t foul him. He’s a college player, so he may miss it. Just don’t foul him. He’s learning.”

Q. How common is it for you to put in multiple players for a specific player just to make sure he touches the ball?

“I used to do it for Jimmy McCoy. I had all kinds of stuff for him when he was at UMASS. We played different, though. The way we’re playing, those guys at UMASS are mad at me because they’ve seen my team play now and said why didn’t you let us play that way?

“I said because you weren’t that good. That’s why I didn’t let you play that way. But he deserves our attention. The biggest thing is that anybody that watches him now can’t believe he’s defending the way he’s defending.

“Now, there are two things if he wants to be really special. He’s got to rebound the ball better. How many rebounds did he have? Now, he puts his head on the rim, and on the top of his head, it’s his chin.

“And you don’t get a rebound? Second thing, get to the line ten times a game, why? Because you can. Are they going to play him to shoot jump shots? Yeah. What if they switch and there is a big guy on him, you have to shoot a jumpshot? Can’t guard you. Get there.

“We talked about it at halftime, you remember the flip to start the half? I talked about it for three minutes at halftime. He said, okay, okay, and then he did it. I said don’t flip any ball. Just get fouled. They can’t guard you when you go by. So he’s got a lot to learn, but he is special.

“De’Aaron Fox is special. I got on him because he wouldn’t shoot the ball. I mean, I literally screamed across the floor, pointed and jumped and stomped my — you better shoot the — he had three shots he passed up and he dribbled baseline. What are you doing?

“And if you don’t make them all and you miss them all on national television, you’ll be in the gym tonight. Neither one is bad. You figure it out. But you’ve got to shoot the shots that we create for each other.

Q. Can you talk about the arena, the atmosphere here today and how Las Vegas treated you as a host city?

“Yeah, this was in the works when I set down with Jim Murren and he said he was building a new building. And I said, if you build that new building, we’ll work to get this thing out here. And he built the building, and this is an unbelievable arena. Like with the dugouts and the seating and the sight lines and the amenities, it’s really a terrific arena.

“The thing I liked about it for us is maybe it’s another place we travel to because our fans love it. I’m not going to Hawaii. So there you go. As long as I’m coaching at Kentucky, I am not. When I leave, the first thing that next coach can do is take a trip to Hawaii. I’m not.

“No disrespect to Hawaii. I like to vacation in Hawaii. I don’t want to take my team there, it’s too far. But this, what we did in the Bahamas, our fans come with us, and this becomes a great environment.”

Q. In terms of regular season games, where is this in terms of excitement, well-played, et cetera, rank for you? It’s gotten a lot of attention as one of the best games in a long time. What do you think?

“I had to sit there and be in the middle of it, so I don’t know. But probably coached 900 games so you’re asking me like — yeah, it’s kind of — you know. But I’m going to say this: Two really good teams. Neither one quit.

“Both of them were playing to win, and we happened to make the last shot. That’s what happened. Now, they could have made the last one, the one up the middle where Isaiah Briscoe tried to run the gap instead of chasing him and the kid got the three.

“That could have been the game winner. We come back and make the three and then, you know, stuff was crazy. What a great ending to the game. I mean, just a great ending.”

Q. Justin Jackson had 34. How well do you think he played?

“He knew, as soon as he saw Isaiah was on him, he said, okay, we’ll take him inside. The minute I put one of those other guys on him, he took him outside, and Roy kept going back at him, just like I kept going at Malik.

“And that’s what it became. The other guys were playing off those two, their guys and my guys. But he is what I’ve always said, he’s like a Bobby Jones. Anybody with age here knows what I’m talking about. Some of you young guys, you’ll have to Google it, Bobby Jones.

“But he plays that kind of — just does everything, makes shots, rebounds, floaters. I mean, he is a terrific player. I’ve been watching him when he was in high school. He’s really talented and gave us fits. But the biggest difference between us and them is he got to the line 15 times.

“If we’re to be anything special, we have to get to the line and not just from big people. Our guards got to get us to the line. Their guards were running downhill on us the whole time.”