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John Calipari reacts to Missouri win; “You have to enjoy winning”

Cal remains positive despite another ugly road win.

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

Turnovers, missed shots, and slippery basketballs. That’s the story for Kentucky’s victory over Missouri on Tuesday.

Behind a 22 point, 15 rebound (a career high) performance by Bam Adebayo, Kentucky pulled away late to defeat the struggling Tigers 72-62.

Coach John Calipari was thrilled with Bam’s effort. But he was not so pleased with the overall guard play, especially considering the team’s 17 turnovers.

See below for a full transcript of his post-game comments, courtesy of UK Athletics.

“Let me say this before we get started: I’ve watched tape the last couple days, watched it on the airplane and I knew we were coming here and I didn’t know much about the team. I watched the tape.

“And I told Kim (Anderson) before the game: For a team to be struggling win-loss wise—and I watched the Arkansas game. I watched the Vanderbilt game. I watched the Alabama game. I watched the Texas A&M game. And then I just watched them here fight like crazy. I’m going to say it again: That is coaching. They haven’t let go of the rope here. I loved it when the students (pause) cheered Kim when he walked in. What’d you think I was going to say?

“I mean, that means something to me, because it’s not easy what I took over. And to see this. And they had a chance to beat us. They could easily beat us. I’m telling you, they had Alabama beat. They had A&M beat. They went to Tennessee and they struggled a little bit. They didn’t play as well. My hat’s off to him and I can’t imagine. I know it’s hard. Because to try to get a team to keep fighting, but what he’s done—my hat’s off to him.”

On Bam Adebayo

“Well, let me say this: Somebody just told me that there are people out there saying, ‘Well, Bam’s not this and this.’ OK. Let me explain. If someone passes on him in the draft this year, they should be f-f-fired. And the reason is he can guard five positions. He’s not a guy that can’t guard pick-and-roll, can’t switch on a point guard. He guards all five positions. You saw him shooting free throws and, yes, I’m jamming him next to the basket.

“I think I did the same with Karl(-Anthony Towns) and I did the same with Anthony Davis. And I’m making him play next to the goal right now, but he can shoot. He can handle it. ‘Only thing he does is dunk.’ Yeah, he dunks. He’s going to dunk on your neck. He does that too, but he guards every position. For anybody to say, ‘Well, he’s not this and this.’ You’re not on an NBA team because if you were they’ll look back and you’ll get fired. If you’re taking a big guy that guard pick-and-roll and can’t guard and all he wants to do is shoot, yeah, I get that. That’s not this kid.

“So he goes for 25 and 12 tonight and I just couldn’t be more proud of him. He’s on a team where we’ve got some guards like shooting balls now. He just keeps playing. He doesn’t say much. And it’s on me to make sure we’re throwing him the ball more.”

On whether he called for Adebayo to get the ball when it was 52-52

“No, we went earlier than that in the half. He gets beat up. It’s, well, he’s big. They have to do that to guard him. I didn’t know that was a rule, but I guess it is. And he gets beat up in there and he still seemed to get balls in the basket.”

On what would have happened if Adebayo didn’t play that way

“Oh, we lose. We lose. My guards—one guard missed five layups and the other guard couldn’t make a jump shot until the one mattered and then they made free throws. And I told them the one thing I like is that when in tight games they make every free throw down the stretch, which is a big deal. But we’re just—we got some holes, and most of it is just confident players. I mean, I was so happy Mychal (Mulder) made that 3 because he just played so—even Dom (Hawkins) didn’t play with the confidence and Derek (Willis) looked like—like, what are you doing?

“So we had some of that and I don’t know why, but I told them after the game: Now’s not the time to be antsy. It’s when if you lose your season ends. That’s not this. Why are you playing this way? And most of it is just telling them to compete, but they came in a gym and this is every game we play, just so you know, that the other team plays out of their minds.

“But I come back to: Think about it. There are teams right now letting go of the rope. Missouri – or, as my father-in-law would say, Missouri – isn’t one of them. They are not letting go of the rope.”

On how other teams playing fired up affects his teams

“We didn’t have a great practice, we didn’t have a great shootaround today and I was a little disappointed, but these kids are not robots. They’re not computers. I’m trying to do less. I’m trying to back up and have the staff do more, but I had to get on some guys today. Just some of it lack of confidence. Come on, man. Just play. They outfought us, which is why the game was close.

“They just outfought us. They got 50/50 balls, balls on the floor. There were balls like we acted like they weren’t playing. Like that one rebound that – the game came out of nowhere. We had four guys around it and everybody ran from it like they’re not playing.

“How about they had nine turnovers? We’re a pretty aggressive team now. I’m just telling you, when I watched the tape, their execution offensively, their fight, what they’re doing, I’m sitting in there (and) I got sick watching the tape.”

On Isaiah Briscoe’s up-and-down play

“No, he was better today. It took him two, three weeks to get to where he was. Now it’s going to take him some time to get out of it. And we’re only in the first week of it. He’s probably two weeks away from really breaking what he needs to do to get back to where he was. I just said, ‘As a team, as an individual player, what were you doing that got you on this path? Stop! Don’t do that anymore. Go back to what you were doing, the mission you were on, the time in the gym you spent, all the things you were doing, do it again. But you’re going to have to do it over two, three straight weeks or you stay where you are.’”

On the technical foul in the second half

“I can say this: I did not swear, but I did deserve it. I did deserve it, I’ll just say that. But I did not swear. I don’t swear. I was at mass this morning with all of the kids at the Catholic church, begging forgiveness knowing I was going to get a technical tonight. Please, in advance I’m asking for forgiveness.”

On finishing strong and Saturday’s game against Florida

“Well, we’re going to have to play better, but again, it was a happy locker room. Look, you have to enjoy winning in this or just stop, especially as a coach. You gotta – you play bad and win, that’s too bad, we won, I’m ecstatic. You’ll see, I’ll be skipping on the way out the door.

“We’ll figure out what we’re doing and we’ll try to correct it. So, the only thing I told them after was you know we’re not where we need to be. We gotta start getting better and I also said we got guys in the room that aren’t playing confident enough.

“Wenyen (Gabriel’s) 3 was a big 3. I was so happy because he was playing shaky, but he made that one and it was a big one, it stretched the game out. So, we did have some of those things happen, but we’re just moving along trying to figure this thing out.

“This is every year that I coach and the reason is every year it’s a new team. It takes other teams half a year to figure out how we have to guard them because they don’t know these guys, they never saw them before, it’s a new team. By midseason you know this is how they’re guarding us and then we gotta figure out how we’re playing against that.

“Then the other side of it is there are things that work and things that don’t work. As the year goes on you’re just peeling stuff off, and adding stuff, and trying, and tweaking, and rebooting, and then at the end you just hope you didn’t run out of runway, you landed the plane. Last year, ran out of runway. The years before that, we touched down.

“One year, we touched down and the nose hit the fence, but we touched down. Just how it is.”

On how Missouri guard Terrence Phillips played

“Oh, he played great, played great. (Number) 15 (Jordan Geist) played great too. He’s not afraid. Like I said, they fought and got out alive. Seventeen turnovers. Can you imagine? We were the least amount of turnovers in the country per game probably four weeks ago, five weeks ago.”

On the difference between the last 6:30 of the game and before that

“I don’t know, I’ll have to watch the tape. I’ll have to watch the tape.

“By the way, at halftime, the girl (Laura Rutledge) asked me a question – folks, she came over to apologize after the game. I’m like, ‘I don’t even know what you’re talking about. I have no idea.’ If the other team, if I walk in the building and they’re not cussing me, booing me, I will retire. It’s time to retire.

“If I walk in an opponent’s court and they’re cheering me, either you should fire me or I should be retired. She looked at me and said, ‘I apologize.’ ‘What? I don’t even know what you’re talking about. We just Missouri, I’m happy as heck. Beat it, you’re good. Don’t worry about me.’ ”