Kentucky may have gotten the W, but there are a few things that they continue to struggle with early on this season.
First, their transition defense is atrocious. It seemed like every time the Cats missed a shot, Vermont came down and hit a big shot that deflated the crowd.
Second, the offensive flow of the team can be stagnant at times. You’ll see these big runs from time to time followed by big droughts.
Both of these issues can be attributed to the youth of this team. If they don’t want to get exposed against Kansas in a couple of days, they’ll need to really hit on these in practice.
One of the few shining moments from the game is that Hamidou Diallo is proving that he made the right choice to stay in college. If he can keep this level of play up, expect him to be a top 5 draft pick.
Here’s the transcript from Calipari’s press conference after the game, and here is a link to a replay of his presser.
Q. As I suspect you're going to say that you needed one like this. What did you need and get out of a close game obviously we got to see what your lineup would be in a close one?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, there's -- look, I say this every year, but even more so with this team -- we're starting all freshmen, we bring in two sophomores who haven't played that much, with a freshman off the bench. You cannot play Popcorn State and learn anything. You got to play good teams. Now, I didn't realize how good this team was until I watched the tape and then I'm like, who scheduled this to be our second game? This is ridiculous. (Vermont) just do an unbelievable job. If you watch them, they create good shots for each other. Each time down they're either shooting layups or threes. Defensively they fight like crazy, they're a terrific rebounding team. We got them in a little bit of foul trouble, which affected them. And how about this, I knew they wouldn't give up and I told my team at halftime, these guys know how to win, man, they won 29 games last year. They had Purdue beat and then Purdue made some shots and stretched it out and they beat them. But that team, they're going to win a lot of games. So, for us to be able to -- I would rather have won it by more -- but to have to make the plays down at end I'm just going to tell you the plays. How about Kevin's (Knox) three? That was big. I need to know late in the game that he can make that shot. How about Quade making free throws? He needs to be in the game at the end. Quade played well today. And the reason I started him, and I told Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander), ‘This has nothing to do with you.’ We need him to make shots and play well for us. That's why I did it. I thought P.J. (Washington) was a beast, finally. First time this year. I just called him in I said, ‘That's what you need to be every practice and every game.’ Now, how many one-handed rebounds did we go after today? Now do you know why I'm nuts about one hand? How about the one-hand catch on the elbow pass that we're ready to -- the game's over -- and they steal a ball and go down and score on us on a pass entry to the elbow. One-handed stuff loses you games. Kevin Knox had one, one out of bounds with five seconds. P.J. had one before that. But the game winner P.J. grabbed with two hands. Maybe two minutes before that, Kevin Knox put his head on the rim literally and grabbed the ball with two hands in traffic. So this is a freshman team, we're learning. We learned against an execution team that can really shoot. And we out rebounded them, did -- I tell you what, for 20 minutes, but I know the next 20 would be kind of like, you know, they shot 85 percent in the first five minutes of the second half. But I knew that. Our guys just, okay, we played good, now let me do my thing and I'll run a gap here and I'll give a guy a layup and what's the big deal, Coach, it's still nine. What? But that's what young teams do.
Q. What did you think of the point guard matchup and did you have to take Quade (Green) out to try to get him, to improve the defense?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, we just - we're not staying in front of guards right now and it's scary because the teams we have coming up all have guards that are going to try to break you down and score by themselves and try to get 30 (points). So, you either guard -- look, you have to guard somebody, wouldn't you say? And there's some things you can't guard. You can't guard the officials, can't guard the other coach. There's five guys they have. One of those guys you got to be able to guard. And Quade though, I tell you what, if he plays that way and learns to stay in front of people, he's good. I mean this kid has courage, he's not afraid to take shots. We were dying at that point when he took those shots and made them.
Q. I think aside from P.J. Washington none of your other players missed multiple free throws. What kind of comfort does that give you knowing that when they get fouled they can make those?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, we're, Sacha (Killeya-Jones) making those free throws was big. By the way, let me not forget him. Sacha played his butt off today. You just saw him, the work that's put in. This is what he's looking like in practice and now he's carrying it over into the game. His confidence is going to be demonstrated performance, not me telling him, ‘You're great, you're the best, you're –‘ no. You do it in practice, you go in a game, you demonstrate that performance to your self. That's how you build confidence. I can't build it for these guys. He was terrific. Nick (Richards) struggled because they had five men that shot threes. But Nick will be fine.
Q. Does it concern you at all that down the stretch you missed seven of your last eight shots?
JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, I was trying to figure out who we go to. And I don't know yet. Do you know? If you know, write me a note, because right now we don't know. I tried -- if you notice, I was trying all kind of different things to see. What I did like is Kevin making that three. It shows me he has courage enough to make it. Couple other guys missed all their shots. Well, maybe late, I'm not going to have you shoot it. Somebody who can make it and, ready for this, and if you get fouled, make free throws, you'll have the ball in your hands at the end. I kind of like Quade with his hands on the ball at the end, to be honest, I thought it looked pretty good.
Q. How significant of a play was that Wenyen Gabriel defensive play it at the end of the game? Does that show you anything about his growth in that area?
JOHN CALIPARI: Where he went out on the guy that -- yeah. There was a couple plays he got beat on the dribble and recovered and blocked shots. He did that. But even this one - free throws. We have worked on it, but we don't do it every day, but we didn't block out on free throws. What? You're going to lose a game that you played for 40 minutes because you are not going to block out on a free throw? Really? Really? And that's what 17 and 18-year-olds do. They think, well, someone will get this one. You don't have guys hitting heads going for balls, all of them with two hands. So we have got some stuff to do, but this, I told them prior to the game, I'm so excited about this game because we're going to learn about ourselves. And we're going to learn about individuals, what they're capable of and maybe what they're not capable of. And we're going to learn. You're going to learn against an NCAA Tournament team that is going to beat a lot of people this year and I thought in the first half we were really good. In the second half not quite as good. Shot 60 percent in the second half. Come on.
Q. This game had a little bit of a March feel, I'm curious how you think it's going to carry over Tuesday against Kansas?
JOHN CALIPARI: Different. Different atmosphere, different team. They will play more mushmouth. They will play fast, bang bang, shoot threes and their guard play is unbelievable. (Bill Self) has a really good team. And they're veterans, he's got veterans on that team that have been there and done that and so it will be a hard game for us to win. But it's another game. Let's see, neutral floor, Top-5 team, where are we? They're top four, three, whatever they are, No. 1 in the country, whatever they are. Where is a freshman team, playing on the road, against a team like that? Where are we now? And we have a lot of time to prepare. So, I haven't looked at anything for Kansas. I will go to my office tonight and break down this tape. I'll watch some Kansas stuff, I'll be home by 9:30. I might bring the dogs to the office so I may stay a little longer. But tomorrow at 10 they will, 10:15, they will watch the Vermont high and low lights and then we're on to Chicago and it's all Kansas. So I can't -- it's against the rules for me to show them any tape tonight, which is fine -- but we'll go back and break it down and be ready to show them stuff and then get on with what we know is a tough game. Look, this game was in doubt as soon as I started watching the tape. I told them, I said, ‘Coach, loved watching the tape of your team, how they play and how they play together and how much courage they played with.’ I watched the Albany game in their tournament. Wow. No way they're winning this game. Oh, yeah, you don't know who we are. And they came back and figured out away to win. And Albany played great in the game. I just told them, I said, I like the tape, I'm not going to like what I see today and again, in the second half, you knew (Vermont) -- they're just a good team, they're well coached, they're not going to quit. It's a fun way to coach, even if you're down 10 or 12 at half and you look and say, ‘We're fine.’ I mean that's what I -- I've had teams that way -- not this one, but I've had teams that way. Where I know we're fine let's just keep playing.
Q. What was the referee's explanation on the technical and what did you say to P.J. in the huddle afterwards?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well I just, he said he, boom, and then everybody saw it and it was like, well wait a minute. I didn't see it yet, but he said he hit him and if he hit him -- then I looked at P.J. and I said, ‘Do you understand we were shooting fouls and getting the ball?’ Now they shoot fouls and then they get the ball. We're trying to win a ball game. This is all stuff winning basketball. How about Hami's (Diallo) one-handed foot kick throw? The game's in the balance, my man, this isn't like a horse shot. So, again, they're all freshmen, they don't get it yet. And I'm trying to be as positive as I can. Was I positive today?
Q. Pretty positive. Not as positive as the other night, but pretty positive.
JOHN CALIPARI: I just hope I'm not trending down. I'm trying to be positive. It's so hard. I punch walls when I get in my office. I smile.
Q. You started the same lineup first half, second half and then of course we saw who you had out at the end. What, I guess I'm wondering how far, is this the experiment
JOHN CALIPARI: This is going to be game to game. Nick (Richards) backed up off that five man and gave him a three and I said he can't play in this game right now with them. Then, if they put 25 in, we could have put him back in, but then Sacha gave 25 a three. I mean, we were telling him the whole time that's what they do. You got to make them bounce the ball. But Nick has been so good all year. It just was one of those games. It's a game that it's a hard one for him to play because of how they play. Kansas will be a different story. They got big guys and physical guys that are going to play around the rim. But he had a one-handed rebound that if he grabbed with two, then he could have dunked the ball. But he grabbed with one and fumbled and he said, ‘But I saved it.’ You saved it? You could have dunked it. Just grab it with two. So like I said, I got to go back and watch the tape. I would like us to shoot probably seven or eight more threes than we're shooting right now. But this is a team that can throw it to the post. They decided not to double team the post, which means you're not going to shoot many threes. If they double team the post, it's a kick out, a swing, swing and a three or a drive and kick out for a three. That's usually how it goes. And they made a choice to say now we're going to make them beat us making those baskets. And I thought P.J. was good in there and the other guys too.