Finally, the Kentucky Wildcats dominated from the opening whistle, never letting UIC get in the game en route to a 107-73 win.
John Calipari has been adamant all year about these guys being able to play a full 40 min. Well, it happened today. The consistent offensive flow this team showed to go along with their intensity on defense for the whole game proved that they can compete at a high level for 40 min.
Hamidou Diallo and Kevin Knox are continuing to show their value every game. Both of them are becoming the offensive leaders for this team. Kevin had 25 points on 9-13 shooting while Dialo scored 19 on 8-11 shooting. When both of these guys are feeling it, it’s going to be hard for any team to compete with the Cats.
The team as whole played really well. They shot 68% from the field, and each starter scored at least 10 points.
Here’s the transcript from the presser after tonight's game:
On PJ Washington …
JOHN CALIPARI: We’ve got to figure both of those guys out and I know how talented both of them are. I have to put them in positions where they can be efficient, not turn the ball over, make shots and plays. And I got to help them. If you're coaching freshmen and you just think, ‘Well, they should just figure it out,’ then that's not fair. It's not fair to the kids. So I think with each game, you see I'm starting to figure out Kevin (Knox), putting him in spots where he can make baskets. And I still want us to run. I'm all over Quade (Green). I told him after the game, “Who am I on the most?” Quade. I'm trying to get him to play a way that he's not playing yet. If you remember, this was kind of like what happened with us when we had Marquis Teague. If you remember those first seven, eight, nine games, where everybody was losing their mind and I was trying to get him to play a certain way that he just wasn't used to playing. And now, Quade, why do we need him -- does anybody watch the games, or are you just watching your phones? Just a curiosity. So tell me why we need him on the floor?
Q. His shooting.
JOHN CALIPARI: Because he can shoot. Like that's one out of 30 of you that recognized that, but that's okay. Because he can really shoot the ball. So now I don't need him dribbling 12 times. I need him to get rid of it and get away from it so we can get it back to him and score baskets.
And then defensively I thought we were a little bit better. We still broke down some at the -- there was a stretch in there in the beginning of the second half. But I feel we're getting better, we're trending the right way, and now we got to sustain. The kids will be off, they're going to have the rest of today off and then they have got Monday off and they have Tuesday off. So they got a long stretch off. We'll come back Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, practice. Play Saturday, off Sunday, come back Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, light, and play Saturday. So we basically have seven days of practice, finally, to where we can try to get better and I can try to focus on some areas that I know we got to get better at and I can try to focus on some areas that I know we got to get better at.
Q. How much more did you guys post up Kevin Knox tonight and is how important is that in his overall game?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well we posted him some and we also put him near the rim where he can pop out and make shots, but we also -- I'm trying to get him to drive the ball. So today he shoots four threes and it's the only shots that he missed. Normally he's not going to miss all those, but I don't mind him taking four threes. I don't want him taking seven or eight threes. Quade goes 2-of-3, he probably should have shot five or six. He's the one guy that I would say and you would say let him shoot more threes and I'm telling him to. I like that Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander) hit a shot, Wenyen (Gabriel) made one and missed one I thought would he make later, but when someone said, “Well, you're not taking a whole lot of threes.” Well, when you shoot 66 percent like we did, and you're getting it around the goal, and you're shooting at that high a percentage -- if you're going to shoot a bunch of threes, you're going to have to shoot 41, 40 percent, 41, and not many teams doing it.
So we'll figure out. I would like to get about 15 to 18 threes a game up. Some games a little less, maybe some a little bit more, but not much more with this team. It was better.
Q. This seems like a really exciting team and yet attendance is down in Rupp Arena this year. There were a lot of empty seats tonight. I was just curious as to what your take on that was?
JOHN CALIPARI: Sunday at six. TV. This is a fun team to watch and I think people will -- they will come here. Our attendance is down and it's really sad because we're No. 1 in the country in attendance and -- we're No. 1 in the country in attendance. It's kind of like you guys saying to me, “Cal, you only won by 22, can you tell me what's wrong with the Cats?” I think people will jump in and do it. And some of it is students -- Sunday night. I'm not -- we have a large student section and I think they're trying to do something with some of the student tickets. But I get it. I mean there's some games I don't feel like coming and I got to come here anyway, geez.
Q. You mentioned that you're looking forward to having more practice time. So as the schedule starts to open up more, how much do you think that practice time is going to help your team or how do you think it is going to affect them?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, there's so many things we got to figure out. A lot of scrimmaging to, again, to build these players into more efficient team and more efficient individually and better with the ball, limiting turnovers, trying to get them -- I thought this was the closest we played to a 40-minute basketball game this year. This is the closest. So that's good to see.
But there's some stuff we need to do in the press if we want to change the game up a little bit. We're so long and so big, I just don't believe stretching out the court for any serious amount of time is a smart way to go. Because if you're going to get one contested shot with a 6'-10" guy over the top of you and you're 6'-2", I would probably rather give you that than scrambling in a press and give you that three in the corner with no one on you or a lay up. So there's different ways of looking at it. I like the zone, the way we're playing it. But, again, today we -- did anybody watch the game, by the way? What did we do defensively in the second half a little bit, not playing zone in our man-to-man? Don't be embarrassed. We switched everything. Did you see it? You got to take your face up from that phone and look at this game. We switched everything.
Now when we start switching everything, think about it, what are you going to run? Now I told them after the a game the reason we haven't worked on that is because I need them to learn to play half court defense and know how to crack down and scramble and rotate to a teammate, how to help the helper, which we didn't do again today. All those kind of things, but, again, you think about us at this size. Denny Crum used to do it. Do you remember Denny's team? He had big guards and they switched everything. They won national titles switching everything. Took you right out of your offense, now you're playing man-to-man. Right? No you're not, you're playing one-on-one.
So we did some of that. We can work on all of that, we can work on trapping the post, trapping pick and rolls. We can do some different things in a zone press that try to change up the game, keep people up. This has been a grind. We have had how many games? In how many days? 16 days. And all freshmen. Youngest team maybe in the history of college basketball. I know the last 11 years it's the youngest team. But I tell you this, it may be the youngest team to ever try to do anything special.
Q. You know what it's like it to rebuild a program. Two years ago UIC had five wins, last year they were the youngest team in the country, they had 17 wins. I would imagine you think Steve's (McClain) got this going in the right direction, right?
JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, and Steve and I have known each other for a long time. As a matter of fact, Tony Barbee worked for Steve and so -- as a matter of fact the staff I hired at Memphis, it was his staff that was at Wyoming that I brought to Memphis. So I've known Steve and respected him for a long time. The hardest thing for young guys, which I can see he's going through, it starts with defense. All the other stuff aside, you got to guard. If we guard, we got a chance to win every game. That's a talented team. Their guards are talented, they're big guys, they have got size. But getting them together, that's the challenge we all have. He and I talked before the game. I said -- he looked at me and said, “You know –.” I said, “Don't talk to me, I'm doing this. You know you want to hear my story? I'll tell you mine before you tell me yours.”
But that's what makes this fun, especially when you're rebuilding. But guys got to really buy in. I mean, I got a team that's bought into what we do. Like today's shoot around was a bear. I'm not worried. It's a shoot around, you got a game that night, we got to get better in this hour. We got to use this hour to improve ourselves. You're not trying to just go through the motions.
But he's got a good team. That's a good team. Good drivers. The point guard (Ferguson) got hurt, what happened to him? Number 4. He was limping. I don't know if he got hurt. That -- he's really good, by the way.
Q. Your thoughts on Dixson, number 10.
JOHN CALIPARI: No, he's really good. I mean he gets down hill and he can move the ball, he's 6'7", he's long. I was -- I told Steve, we played as good -- would you say that's our best game? That's the best we have played. So you could say, “Oh, you beat them by –.” Well, let me tell you something. That's by far the best we've played. We were efficient, we passed the ball, we made shots, and we took one bad shot. Kevin Knox took one in the first half, just like a step back with him and another guy on him. Short of that I don't think we took a bad shot. They were all good shots. They didn't all go, but they were good shots. So but again, they got good players and they will get it together. Steve's done it before.
Q. A review. What was your thinking on not playing in the PK80? Was it just too much for a young team?
JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, yeah. Look, here's -- how many of those events have we played in since I've been here? And if I was going to play in one, it would have been for Phil Knight. I want you to hear what I'm saying. The only reason I would have played in that event was if Phil Knight told me, “You have to play in this event.” And he did not say that. Phil Knight's one of the gentlemen that, “I would really like you to do this but I get it and I understand.” Are you going to be, we, this, that -- the only reason I would have done it.
It's hard when you have teams like this. I mean, you've got teams that are now 1-2 and 0-3 and they're young teams and guess what? They're rattled right now. Teams are rattled. If we had played a tougher schedule -- Vermont was tough enough for us so was Utah Valley, am I right? Were we down nine to Utah Valley? Then we go and we're looking at teams that we're, “Oh, we can beat these guys.” Really? East Tennessee State, it's tied. I mean this team is growing and I got to be fair for them. Look, if I'm just worried about let's just keep putting this program out here, it isn't about the program it's about the kids in the program. If I have a veteran team coming back and I know it, I'll go in one of those events. It will be close to here, it ain't going to be a 19-hour flight. That ain't happening. I don't like to fly that long, I got a bad back. That is about me. But the reality of it is, if I had that kind of team and we should play in that kind of event, we do it. It's just this team wasn't, you know, we're not ready for that. Now by the end of the year I hope we are. But we're not ready right now.
Q. Paraphrasing here, I heard you tell the bench one time, “We're never going to be a team until everyone does what is best for the team.” I was wondering what you meant.
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, what does the team need me to do? Then I'm going to do that. What do I want to do? Sometimes it matches, sometimes it doesn't. If I'm asking a player to do something and play a certain way, it's for his benefit too. I'm not going to ask a kid to do something that's not going to benefit the young man. You guys know me, ladies, you know me well enough, I wouldn't do it. Most of my stuff is be more efficient, play faster, give the ball up sooner, straight line instead of mess with the ball. “But I like to mess with the ball.” Stop messing with the ball. Until we're all doing what the team needs us to do, it's hard to get somewhere. I thought we made great strides today, I really did. And it's a good, going into a little break. We all need a break, I need a break. So going into a little break, I'll probably do a little recruiting here in the next couple days, but they don't need to see me and I'm kind of happy I'm not seeing them, how about that?