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John Calipari talks about Kentucky’s escape from Georgia

That was not how he drew it up, but he loves that the Cats pulled out a tough win.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats edged out the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday, with a score of 82-77.

Even without their best player, Yante Maten, Georgia was in control the majority of the second half. But thanks to some impressive free throw shooting, UK closed out down the stretch for another SEC road victory.

Coach John Calipari was quick to praise his team’s bench contributions after the game. Derek Willis (+14), Mychal Mulder(+11), Dominique Hawkins (+8) actually led the team in the +/- metric, and all were huge throughout the game as there were several Cats in foul trouble.

For all of Coach Cal’s musings about escaping Athens with a road win, see the full transcript of his post-game press conference below, courtesy of UK Athletics.

On pulling this game out …

“I loved it. I loved it. We made free throws. We attacked. We didn’t look for easy plays. Every play was something at the rim, which was something we were begging the whole game, but the game got rough and these kids, they start fading away and shooting jumpers and going at a speed they know they can’t beat a mean so they have to do something different. But I like the fact that De’Aaron missed two free throws and then came back and made eight in a row. I love the fact that Dom got his hands on a ball that Bam ran down and we called a timeout and score a basket. Those scramble plays, hustle plays. J.J. was ridiculous and controlled the whole game. We had to trap him at the end just to make somebody else try to beat us. I had no choice because of what was going on. We just started sending people at him.”

On Derek Willis

“He did some good stuff today. I mean, he’s getting more minutes now which gives him more opportunities to rebound. We also got a couple guys that I gotta sit down with and talk to and figure out. Like, look, if this is who you are you gotta take a step back, you know, and we gotta go with the guys that we’re playing. We got four games left. It isn’t like, OK, you’re in midseason and you’re good. This is like—you gotta figure this out. And again, me trying to step back, more of this is on those kids. And I had to make some subs and probably be more involved than I wanted to be, but the way the game went I had no choice.”

On Mychal Mulder and Dominique Hawkins

“Dom was great and so was Mychal. Mychal’s playing as well as he’s ever played in a Kentucky uniform right now. And Dom is play. Dom has saved us. He’s saved us for a couple games now. And you look at it, I think he deserves more minutes and we gotta have to cut some guys.”

On Isaiah Briscoe’s off night …

“Yeah, and we won without him.”

On what he said to Briscoe …

“Glad you’re out. Glad you fouled out. Now we can try to win this thing. I didn’t say that (laughs).”

On J.J. Frazier and UK’s on-ball defense …

“Well, they’re putting him in—it’s more they were putting him in pick-and-rolls. Mark (Fox) did a great job at the end. What he did was he twisted a pick-and-roll, so he acted middle and the guy would flip on us and go the other way. That’s where Dom got caught two or three times. Hats off to Mark. And then I said, ‘We don’t have time to talk our way through it.’ That’s when we started trapping. Just forget it. We’re not going to be able to play it this way. Bam went up one time and he split Bam and went right by him. We were lucky to get out alive. Literally lucky to win the game, but, again, we rebounded the ball well, did some good things. But let’s be real. Maten was out. Here’s what bothers me about this profession right now: what Mark has been able to do here—and other coaches. So he goes to Florida, overtime. Should have won the game. He comes to us, overtime. Should have won the game. We were lucky to win. Loses at Texas A&M because the clock stalled. The clock stalled. That’s why he loses the game. But he keeps his team together. That’s coaching. Not when things are going good. It’s when things are going south and you lose a bunch in a row, how do you get them and go. He goes to Tennessee down 10 and goes and wins the game. Mississippi State plays pretty good and, again, almost beat Florida today. So don’t act like, well, Mississippi State—no. They had Florida beat. Tie game with 30 seconds or whatever. And he comes in and then they do to us. Listen. Without Maten, that’s what kind of coach Mark Fox is. And so, again, we want to win more. No kidding, we all want to win more. Live with my shoes. Want to win more? You gotta win by 25. We got problems. We win by two or in overtime, people are jumping off bridges. So we all want to win, but it’s about what kind of coach it is, what kind of man he is, what—and it just—we’re firing coaches in midseason. Are you (kidding) me? We’re firing coaches in midseason. You know what I’m putting in my contract? You can fire me at midseason but you’re going to have to pay me $3 million. Oh, you’ll let me stay now, won’t you? There’s a new one that’s going to be in the contract, DeWayne (Peevy). You can fire me at midseason, but you’re paying me. Why would I even have to think of that? Now, every coach in the country, put it in your contract. What if Mark Gottfried goes at the end and goes on a run, gets to the NCAA Tournament, which he was in four out of five years, two Sweet 16s, which is not done at NC State? What happens now if he goes and he wins and he gets another team? He had good players, but they’re young. They’re like my team. It’s hard to do this with young guys. Fake media! I’m just kidding.”

On what he’s trying to do to speed the development of his young players …

“Well, part of it is they gotta be with a group of guys that are playing with unbelievable energy and with confidence. See, a lack of confidence is contagious. It’s just like free-throw shooting. You go miss two, three and the next guy misses, it’s contagious now. You’ll miss five, seven, eight and it’ll be all different people. It’s all contagious. So our job is to make sure these kids understand. I want to back up and not coach as much. I literally did not coach as much today. In the end, I had to call timeouts and do some stuff, but I’m not coaching as much and it’s more on them. But they are responsible for their energy, their passion, their enthusiasm. I’m not responsible for that now. We got four games left. I’m responsible for the tactical stuff. Tony’s (Barbee) doing defense, Kenny’s (Payne) doing offense and I’m kind of watching what’s going on. And so they’re responsible. And if a guy is not playing with energy, you ought to ask him. Why do you look like you don’t really want to—you’re just kind of going through the motions? What is it? I told them. The greatest thing about me stepping back: They’re responsible now. So instead of me saying every time this is on me. Well, I’m stepping back. This is on you now. This is part of growing, putting on the big-man pants. This is now what we gotta do and where we gotta go.”

On Malik Monk trying to do things even though his shot wasn’t falling …

“Yeah. He went to the basket. He drove. He took one leaping leaner on the wing that I had to get on him about, but he’s going to have a couple of those. And a couple of those might go in, but I’m saying your percentages, you’re not winning close games like that.”

On winning a close game even though Maten was out …

“And we go on the road and win a road game in our league. I’m ecstatic. I’d rather learn from a close win than a loss. So I’m going to go watch the tape and we’ll try to fix some stuff. We play Tuesday. We have a very quick turn. They’re going to be off tomorrow. We’ll have a meeting Monday morning, we’ll go to class, we’ll practice and we travel to—where do we travel to? (Missouri) Thank you, Jerry (Tipton). You sure? Did you check on that?”

On the reason for the traveling violations …

“I thought there were a lot of walks on both sides. I thought there were a lot of walks on both sides. We’ll look at the tape. There were a couple that I’m not sure they moved their feet, but I’m going to see. And then I’ll watch the others to see if they did the same thing, exactly the same thing, and if they didn’t call those. I don’t really care what they call, but when they make that call you gotta call it down on the other end. You just can’t say, ‘I’m going to call these here and not call them there.’ You can’t do that. I don’t care what they call. If you’re going to call a push in the post with two hands, OK. And then when he gets pushed with two hands, you call it every single time. Every one. That’s what I tell them. I don’t care what you call. Now you’re going to have to call that at the other end. Like carries. You know, if you get my guy with a carry then I’m on it. You better call carries down at that other end. I don’t care. Don’t call it or call it, but you just—the consistency is the only thing that I complain about.”