After a seeding fiasco (Wichita State should have never been a ten), an NCAA fabricated story-line (hardly anyone is left on either team from the 2014 game), and some ill-advised trash talk from the Shockers, Kentucky did just enough to advance to the Sweet 16 with a 65-62 victory on Sunday.
Kentucky’s trio of freshman stars led the way for the Wildcats. Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox each had 14 points, and Bam Adebayo was anything but “shut down” as he recorded yet another double-double including 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Monk and Bam also came up huge defensively as they each blocked Shocker 3-point attempts with under 15 seconds left in the game.
After the game, Coach Calipari said he was proud of the team and their effort, and he identified contributions from almost everyone that played. The players at the podium broke down various plays that led to the victory.
See below for a full transcript of the post-game press conference, courtesy of UK Athletics.
THE MODERATOR: We’re going to start with an opening statement and take questions.
COACH CALIPARI: I’m really proud of the guys. Hard game to play. They really grind it out. The offensive rebound, I thought we rebounded with them, did good stuff.
It was great to have Malik back. Haven’t seen him for a while. He’s on that path, still not all the way back, but he’s on the path that we need him on. And these guys up here, they’re young, but they have a will to win and play with courage and are skilled basketball players and great kids who share. So proud of them.
Q. Bam, could you describe what you saw on their last play when you blocked them when they were going to the 3? And John, did you consider fouling in that situation?
EDRICE ADEBAYO: We was just playing defense. He pump faked, and I knew he had to shoot it so I just went up and tried to block it.
THE MODERATOR: Coach?
COACH CALIPARI: It entered my mind when they messed around with the ball, but I hadn’t said anything. When it got down to four, five, I’m thinking we gotta foul. Ten seconds is way too early, too many possessions left. I don’t like it with that time, but these guys guarded it.
We knew what we were doing, switching everything and playing high. And if they were going to take something, make it a two.
Q. Same question to Bam, but to Malik. What did you see on the blocked shot that you had the possession before?
MALIK MONK: Like he said, playing straight-up defense. We knew we couldn’t foul. We knew they was going to shoot a 3. Just play solid. I just contested well.
Q. Bam, were you aware of what Dominique was doing on that block? I mean, he jumped and had to avoid fouling. Did you have an awareness of his presence in that play?
EDRICE ADEBAYO: Yeah. The way it happened, my man had said a back screen for Zay. And the ball came to my side. He pump-faked Dom, so I had to help my teammate. As soon as he went to jump, I blocked it.
Q. Coach, how big were the seniors in this game?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, in the first half, Dom just played outstanding. I was thinking about starting him in the second half, but we got a good group that sticks together so I just went with what I was doing.
Mychal Mulder made a huge 3. I put him back in to play the four. I was going to play he and Derek as the fours. I played Derek almost the whole half. He played well. Then Derek made the 3 in the corner, made a couple of 3s, rebounded pretty good. Ended up with eight rebounds and nine points. Think of that. Three steals. Derek Willis.
I mean, it’s nice that we’ve got veterans like Isaiah and those seniors playing. Isaac did all right. I didn’t play him a whole lot, but he did fine.
Q. De’Aaron, the position, Wichita State went zone late and you went through it. Could you take us through what you saw there?
DE’AARON FOX: They had been playing man most of the whole half. I think they got in the 1-3-1, some type of defense. I called it out. It came from the right wing. I called it, and I saw nobody behind my defender. Most of the time, I’m not looking at the guy guarding me. When I saw there was nobody there and I had a clear lane, I just took it.
Q. John, you spoke highly of Landry Shamet before the game. Did he do anything in this one that exceeded even your expectations or praise?
COACH CALIPARI: He made big-time shots, like those are gutty shots. Like the game was over, and he makes a 3. He makes a 2. We got it to seven, ready to bust out and he made plays. He’s good. He’s a good player.
Q. Malik, seemed to get off to a soft start. How did you get it going in the second half?
MALIK MONK: Told me to be patient. He was going to give me the ball and run the offense through me and Bam. Bam made good-time dunks. He got me open and I knocked down the shots.
Q. Shamet picked up his fourth foul with four and a half minutes to go. Do you change your offense to attack a specific player like that or just run your offense?
COACH CALIPARI: Any time I’ve done that, it screws up the game, so I don’t. Every time, go at him, go at him. All of a sudden, you take yourself out of what you’re doing. I’m not worried about the other team, I’m worried about my team. If these guys are out there knowing a guy’s got four fouls and I’m going to drive him, that’s fine.
But I’ve done this 30 years, and every single time I’ve done that, I’ve screwed up a game. So no.
Q. For any of the players, you could get a rematch with UCLA in the next round. Your thoughts on maybe getting them again.
MALIK MONK: They play at 9:50 or 9:40. Whoever we play, we’ll focus on that. We’ll have great days of practice, but we’ll still focus on what Kentucky does.
Q. De’Aaron, at what point this season did it start to maybe turn around for you that in late game situations? You’ve found yourself sort of, for lack of a better term, maybe taking over and finding in the big spots?
DE’AARON FOX: There’s been a couple games like that. The first one was, I think, Mississippi State. I think the SEC tournament, I was really good down the stretch. Also, the Georgia game, at Georgia, I was good down the stretch. So it’s just been a few games. We don’t have a go-to person down the stretch because we’ve got multiple guys that can get it done.
If it’s my turn, I do it. Malik hit a big 3 off the dribble, and he knocked down clutch-free throws. Whoever hands the ball ends up in, that’s who does it.
COACH CALIPARI: Thanks, folks.