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John Calipari talks Vandy loss, rips big men, explains Ulis' dud and more

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Coach Cal wasn't too happy after his young Cats collapsed at Vandy.

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

While no one was too surprised seeing Kentucky losing at Vanderbilt, few saw the Cats tossing up a dud like they did.

Outside of Jamal Murray, every other Cats combined for just 29 points on 11-of-35 shooting with just 28 rebounds and nine assists. The bigs were especially bad as Alex Poythress, Isaac Humphries and Skal Labissiere combined for no points on 0-of-3 shooting and just five boards.

Even Tyler Ulis tossed up a dud, finishing with 12 points on 5-of-20 shooting. All of this was discussed by John Calipari during his postgame press conference, and he didn't hold back either.

On the bigs not contributing enough
"I don't think that's true. I don't think they contributed anything."

On why that happened
"I don't know. You'd have to ask them. You know, again, I'm not - look, I like to win every game I coach. Tyler (Ulis) had a tough one. He couldn't make a shot. How are we going to win if he's not making. He had a tough—it's the first game he—it's the first dud he's had. And I say dud, he had said six assists, one turn(over).

"What I said to them after the game: As bad as it was - guys fouling themselves out, all the other stuff - as bad as it was, we took a quick 3 in transition. We should have driven the ball and tried to get fouled. It was an eight-point game. We get the game to four, OK? Four.

"Skal (Labissiere) has the ball in the middle of the lane, OK? Next play, Tyler has a layup. Next play, Tyler has a shot, doesn't take it, throws it to Jamal. He drives, has a shot, doesn't take it, throws it to Isaiah (Briscoe)? You both have to shoot the ball. Isaiah misses. Well you just lost the game on those plays.

"But again, defensively, they shot 43 percent. It's not like they shot 55 percent or anything like that. But, you know, they made their (free throws). Give them credit. Vanderbilt played well. But we're - €”just think of this: Jamal carried us and tried the whole game. And that was it. And we had a chance to win.

"That's why I'm not like crazy right now."

On how much missing Derek Willis hurts
"Probably hurt us. But, again, if he's not fighting and rebounding and doing stuff. If you watch the game against them last time, he was not a factor. He was not a factor in that game. He made one jump shot."

On whether he can predict off nights for UK's bigs
"Obviously no. The game got rough. Either you relish that or you run from that. I don't know. They're great kids and they're terrific players and there are games that, you know..."

On why Alex Poythress struggled
"You'd have to ask him. Next question."

On saying he has a young team but Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress being veterans
"I have a young team."

On how frustrating is it that they're veterans and he's not getting consistency from them
"Alex is coming off that injury. Marcus is just starting to play well. I believe in both of them. My whole thing is: They had a bad game. These kids are not machines, they're not computers, and Vanderbilt played a great game, and fought like heck to win.

"And when it got rough, they out-fought us. That's what this came down to, and it would have been nice for Tyler to make two or three shots, maybe it would have been a different game."

On the minimum he would like to get from the bigs
"Anything right now. Give us something. Give us a couple blocks. Give us a couple baskets. And they're capable. Skal struggled. Isaac (Humphries) struggled. They all struggled. Let me just say this: Their front-court players were better than ours today. Now they weren't when they played us in Lexington. So you tell me—I wish I had the answer. I don't. Our bigs were better than their bigs at our place. Their bigs were better than ours here and took it right at us and we did not fight back. That's just what happened. Now we move on to the next game. We got another tough road game."

On whether Vandy is an NCAA Tournament team
"Oh yeah. Absolutely. They've won five in a row or five of six. Yeah. They struggled. Hey look, you have A&M struggling a little bit. We've struggled a little bit. But I could go around the country and tell you 15 teams that during their year at some point struggled. This is a different year. They're an NCAA Tournament team."

On whether he is concerned about Tyler Ulis getting tired
"I went in to talk to the guys about practice and I was trying to back him off of practice. He said, ‘Don't do that,' because I did it for a couple days. He said, ‘It'll screw me up. Let's go. Let's go up and down.' In this game, I could have subbed him at some different points but we couldn't ever get a gap and I didn't feel comfortable with who I had in the game.

"So I was just trying to get out of there. Only got this week. We got two games. Regular season's over. We got some time and we go into the tournament. He's fine. He just had a bad shooting night. He's had bad shooting nights, just not that bad. And again, he even missed two free throws.

"And then you have one guy go 0 for 4, you got another guy go 0 for 2 and you have another guy go 0 for 4. We're 0 for 10 and you expect to win a game? And can I say this? Badly missed. Like, demoralizing misses to the right. Like, dude, we play basketball. This what we do. You guys—it is what it is right now."

On whether Briscoe only took four shots because of a lack of aggressiveness ...
"And offensive rebounding like that other team did and having opportunities to score and passing it to somebody."

On whether Vandy adjusted on Jamal Murray
"No, he scored 33 points. They didn't adjust—yeah, he scored 33. He scored 33 points. He still scored in the second half. He got grabbed a bunch; there weren't calls. He did fine. What do you think, he should get 50?"

On Charles Matthews bringing energy late
"Yeah, he blocked a shot, he came up - he did some stuff. Yeah, that's who he's gotta be. I didn't think Isaiah had the same energy that he's had. So now all of a sudden you have another guy that's your defender and rebounder - €”the biggest rebound for us was the one that he went up to get and the kid jerked it from him, Roberson, and then it was an and-one.

"So what happened? ‘My fault.' My fault? If this were the NCAA Tournament, our season ended on a ‘my fault.' That's where we were today. Look, when you have a young team, these are all learning experiences. I told them, ‘I'm fine. Let's go. We're going home. We get ready for the next one. We got two days. We play Tuesday.'

"We got a tough game down at Florida. Probably Senior Night. It'll be packed. They'll be ready to charge the court like these guys. And I'll do what I did down at Auburn and here: You just tell the guys, ‘Go to the locker room. Go. Beat it. I'm not going to get anybody hurt. I looked at the coach, ‘Peace, brother. Good win.' And I left."

On where UK most needs to improve going into the last week of the season
"Just gotta play better. We gotta be the best version of ourselves, which at times we've been and we weren't today. What disappoints me is this was the kind of game - this is like an NCAA Tournament game. And it was like some guys didn't ring the bell. Now you become a little worried, can they ring the bell? Because this was an NCAA Tournament-type game.

"Now, you can say it was on the road, (but) we had a lot of fans here. So this became like an NCAA Tournament game. We had half the fans, they had half the fans. Guys didn't ring the bell. I don't know why. I'm not giving up on anybody. We're going to keep coaching.

"I told them, ‘We coach you every day. We coach you every shootaround. We're going to continue to coach you, but at the end of the day you've got to do this, and you have to want to do it, and you can't be afraid to do it. You want to be in the fray. I want to be the guy. I'm not afraid to miss the shot. I'm not going to try to shoot it because if I shoot it and get fouled I gotta go to the line and make free throws, so I'm not going to shoot it, which means then your front line doesn't have any shots.' ‘

"Why didn't they shoot more?' ‘Well, I'm not driving it and getting fouled.' I mean, we have a little bit of that rolling right now. We'll be fine."

On the chances that Willis plays Tuesday at Florida ...
"I have no idea. He'll probably take a picture of his ankle and sent it to you guys."