The Kentucky Wildcats scored their eighth win of the season with a 93-76 win over Monmouth in Madison Square Garden.
After the game, head coach John Calipari expressed mixed emotions about the win, which should be expected. The Cats certainly had some night highlights, including a career-high scoring days by Hamidou Diallo (23), PJ Washington (20) and Shai Alexander (15).
But the Cats also had several lows, including a 1-for-10 shooting game by Kevin Knox, who also committed seven turnovers. As a team, the Cats committed 18 turnovers, one of their worst outings of the season in that regard.
Then there was the ankle sprain that kept Sacha Killeya-Jones from playing, followed by an eye injury to Quade Green, which cost him most of the second half.
All of these topics were discussed by Calipari during his postgame press conference. Here is a recap of everything Calipari said there:
On PJ Washington's breakout game
JOHN CALIPARI: He was good. Look, I come back to this and I've always tried to be this guy: Individual players have got to improve before your team can get better. So, PJ lost that weight and then all of a sudden he doesn't even look like the same guy. I wasn't sure if it would be this game, but he had practiced this way. Hami (Diallo), being a more willing passer, doing less looks way better. Doing less. Then you have Wenyen (Gabriel) who played like Derek Willis, except he rebounds and does some things that Derek could do but probably not as well as Wenyen would do. So, now we still have a couple of the pieces – Kevin Knox struggled today. It wasn't one of his better games, but that's fine. It's good for the soul to go 1 for 9.
Now, what you would learn, if you go 1 for 5 would you shoot jumpers or just keep going to the basket until they foul you and get baskets? Or you end up going 1 for 9, which is what he did. It's a great lesson for him. There were some good things from the game. We still had 19 turnovers, and my guess is 10 or 12 of them were unforced. They're not even forced turnovers. It's not like they put us in a bad position, they were just we gave them the ball and we gotta stop it. But we're better. There were things that we worked on, the press and some other things, that were better, how we were trying to play.
But we're still not capable of going 40 minutes. And Monmouth, I'll tell ya – and I told King (Rice) prior too – they've lost games like I cannot believe how they've lost. Four overtimes, a buzzer beater, a tip out versus a free throw miss? They have played, and again, the first half there were spells where they struggled, but then you see them at the end how they played. They're going to be good in their league, and I said to him, 'I watched the games and the tapes,' and he says, 'Oh my. We could have won this one, won that one.' That's how this stuff goes through.
On Hamidou Diallo’ performance
JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, yeah. Nick (Richards) struggled, fouled, there was some foul stuff going on, but I thought Nick at the end is learning and getting better. The zone, our zone, was big. Hami played well. Hami, again, less is more for him but that is so hard. Just do less and don't try to do as much. Do these things. Today, I told the guys prior to, I'm a little disappointed that the kids aren't getting the respect, I think, they deserve, as players.
Again, I've done this 30-some years, I know one player from another, and I don't know if it's people's opinion or their hope that this guy's not that good and this guy's not – I mean, what? And we're just getting going. I mean, this team is just – there were some things we did in the first half that you would think, 'Wow, we've cracked through.' Well, we really haven't, but we're getting in that direction. We're trending the right way.
On Diallo knocking down jumpers
JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, again, he's working at it, but the biggest thing is three days ago. Again, the shot and then going like that (moves his hand down) because it looks good. 'Yeah!' It looks good, you just can't make shots doing that. So, I forced him to hold his follow through. There's nothing wrong with his shot. It's sometimes shot selection, but you have to get in a habit of every shot I take I hold my follow through. Then it becomes the same shot every day. Then it becomes more consistent. You're not making every shot, but you'll be consistent.
I'm not trying to break any habits, I'm helping them create new habits. They get fatigued, they go back to their old habits. If they're fresh, they're good. The habits we've created now are getting there. But the minute they slip it's back to that and some of the other things.
But he's played, he's trying to do what we're asking him to do. He's getting better defensively. But this is hard. Every player, you come to Kentucky to get better. That's why you come here. If you don't think you need to get better, you don't come here. If you think you need to shoot 30 shots a game, you don't come to Kentucky. You come here like, 'I want to be challenged. I want to be in a practice where everybody can play. That's what I'm trying to do. Hami did it for that reason and he's getting better.
On Washington playing multiple spots in UK's zone defense
JOHN CALIPARI: That's who he is, but plus 15 pounds you can't be that. And I even said, maybe lose seven, eight more. Huh. Maybe you can even get better. Now, as Kenny (Payne) was working him out pre-practice and basically—the kid wasn't happy now. He was whining, complaining and then all of a sudden it starts kicking in. There's only one way if you're chasing greatness to convince yourself that you're good enough and that's through work, spending more time than anybody, being more committed than anybody and that's what I'm trying to do with each of these guys. Nick (Richards) has come out early to every practice. We got some other guys that are kind of slipping in a little bit later. It wasn't—in the case of PJ, it was a demand. It wasn't an ask. But this is good stuff. I was happy for him.
On his relationship with Monmouth head coach King Rice
JOHN CALIPARI: He and I have been friends for a long time and he's somebody that I've always respected because not only is he a basketball guy, he is one of the great people in our profession. He's good to kids, he's good to coaches and we've been friends. When we talked about this, the thing with Kentucky, if we have an opportunity to help someone like that by playing a game, we do it. And he's one of those guys and a heck of a coach, aside from being one of the great people in our profession.
On New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman being there
JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, I talked to him after. We talked trades and some different things we were going over. The guy (Shohei Otani) went to the Angels, I said, 'Hey, we're fine. You're going to be fine.
On whether they talked about Giancarlo Stanton
JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, we talked about Stanton. We're going to get that one done. We're getting that one done.
On Tai Wynyard
JOHN CALIPARI: I thought he did good. Yeah. See, one guy's misery is another guy's opportunity. There was a guy in this city, what was his name – Wally Pipp – who decided he was hurt for a doubleheader and Lou Gehrig played the next 6,000 straight games and we don't know who Wally Pipp is. One guy's misery is another guy's opportunity. And Tai was ready for his chance. You understand I am a Yankee fan? Pirate fan too because I grew up in Pittsburgh.
On committing 19 turnovers and being outscored in the second half
JOHN CALIPARI: We started the second half – you ready? – no pass, shot; no pass, shot; one pass, shot; no pass, shot. And they had visions of being back in Vegas in the AAU. 'It's my turn. We're up 23 and I'm just going to start shooting balls.' I subbed everybody. 'You're out. You're not playing that way.' I worry because we're going to get into league play and every game's going to be up or down five. It's not going to be 20. They're all going to be wars and I'm not sure we're ready to play a 40-minute game. The games we have coming up with Virginia Tech, with UCLA, with Louisville. We got tough games coming up.
On Quade Green
JOHN CALIPARI: We're checking, but (Green) got poked pretty good in the eye. His eye, it's shut right now.
On Sacha Killeya-Jones
JOHN CALIPARI: He had an ankle. He didn't practice two days and he was out, so the doc said he wasn't comfortable going. I said, 'Fine, next man up.'