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John Calipari recaps opening round win over NKU

“We’ll be fine.”

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Indianapolis Practice Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Despite having a lead as large at 18, the Kentucky Wildcats never found a rhythm in their 79-70 victory over Northern Kentucky on Friday.

Bam Adebayo is the lone standout on the stat sheet, recording 15 points and a career-high 18 rebounds. De’Aaron Fox and Isaiah Briscoe led the team in scoring with 19 and 17 points, respectively.

Although the team did not look very good at all, Coach John Calipari did not seem overly concerned. With such a late game, and with NKU getting hot from three late, he is not worried about his guys.

See below for the full transcript of the abbreviated post-game interview, courtesy of UK Athletics.

COACH CALIPARI: Folks, can you make this really quick. It’s 12:30. A college kid shouldn’t be playing at 12:30. The old man that’s coaching their team has to watch tapes tonight. Can you just ask a couple questions? We shouldn’t be playing this late, but that’s another issue for another day.

Q. John, what did you think of your team’s performance in light of the SEC tournament seemed to be an uptick?

COACH CALIPARI: We’ll be fine. I mean, you get up 18 and, you know, again, it’s 1:30 in the morning, and we’re playing. And then you have to give Northern credit. The thing they did all season is make 3s. And what I said at halftime, the one thing I’m worried about is they missed a bunch of 3s that they normally make, or the game would have been closer. And then late in the game, they made them all. So they made the game close.

Hat’s off to John and the job he’s done at Northern and their program and school and, you know, it was — the first one under the belt. We’ll be fine. I mean, we know how tough the next opponent is. Wichita is tough physically. Veterans, they play hard. They’re a very, very talented team, and we know that, and we’re going to have to play better to be in the game with them.

Q. What about Bam’s performance? How much did he sort of get you guys over the hump?

COACH CALIPARI: Well, again, what’s great about him is he’s making free throws. And our whole thing was we’re going at him. We knew they’d trap, which they did.

But he still ended up getting balls, and they fouled him. Just the stuff down the stretch. You know we use clock. We grind it out. We threw two quick passes away, like what are you doing, which gave them a chance. Well, that’s freshmen, so I will tell you this is all a learning curve.

We know we’ve got to play better, no question. I expect that we will.

Q. Coach, was there one particular thing that frustrated you? I noticed that as the game was going on, you seemed to be coaching this as if it was a tie game or maybe you were down?

COACH CALIPARI: Because I’m looking at all these games to try to tell them I wasn’t just worried about this game. You’re worried about playing in this tournament and how you’re going to have to play to win. And you can’t just think that there are certain things you can do in each round that goes by is tougher and tougher and tougher.

So I was coaching them to say this is not how you do this. We talked after the game. But I want them to enjoy the win. They’ll be sleeping here in another 45 minutes, but they can enjoy it for another 45 minutes anyway.

Q. De’Aaron, number 30, Lavone Holland for them, an important part for them. What did you see from him? Obviously, he kind of gets them going or could get them going if he finds a rhythm.

DE’AARON FOX: He was a very good player. He was great off the ball screen. He was able to rebound for them. He didn’t turn the ball over much. We tried to pressure him. He handled the pressure pretty well today. He scored the ball, and that’s what we knew he was going to do. We just tried to contain them.

THE MODERATOR: Any more questions?

COACH CALIPARI: Thank you very much.