The Kentucky Wildcats basketball season came to an end on Sunday with a devastating 75-73 loss to the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Most of Kentucky’s starting lineup spent the majority of the first half on the bench with foul trouble, but the second half was a back and forth battle that epitomizes March Madness.
Of course Coach Calipari was happy with his team’s fight as they came back from a 6 point deficit with under a minute to go to tie the game before a buzzer beater by Luke May cut Kentucky’s championship run short.
Dominique Hawkins and Isaac Humphries, who kept Kentucky in the game early and played a key role throughout the contest, joined Calipari for the post-game press conference.
See the entire transcript of Coach Cal and his emotional players below, courtesy of UK Athletics.
JOHN CALIPARI: You know, it's amazing that we were in that game where they practically fouled out my team. Amazing that we had a chance. So proud of how these guys fought. So proud of Isaac. Can you imagine his first real opportunity to do this was in this game, and he performed? Amazing.
Five minutes to go, I told the staff in the huddle, they're going to go zone. Some guys argued. I said, they're going to go zone. And we did not quite execute. We kind of -- we weren't in the spots we were supposed to be in, and it kind of started from there.
But they never stopped, and the only -- I told them, they've got to self-reflect because we made some plays, some individuals made some plays down the stretch, like what were you thinking, but young kids. And the second thing is I've got to look at myself. When that three went in and it tied the game, I probably should have called a time-out. It entered my mind, but they got that son-of-a-b in so quick, I couldn't get to anybody to do it. But I needed to stop that right there. Someone said, well, what happened? I said, I don't know, and I probably will never know because I won't watch this tape, and I never watch the last tape of the season. Watched enough tapes all year. Watched a thousand tapes. I'm not watching a thousand and one.
But hats off to Carolina. What a great team. Well-coached. Roy deserves to be there. They out-played us, but I am proud of these guys. Really am.
Q. Isaac, can you talk about your performance today, what was clicking well for you, and then Dominique, can you just talk about Isaac's performance and how that impacted you all with the foul trouble that Coach alluded to?
ISAAC HUMPHRIES: We were all really obviously excited to play this game, so I was in the mindset of coming out and doing whatever I could to help my team. And I was given a great opportunity, and I just wanted to take advantage of it.
DOMINIQUE HAWKINS: We know how good Isaac is. In practice he shoots the lights out. We have a drill where we shoot for five minutes and he makes at least 80 shots. For him to step up in that moment, I'm proud of him, and I knew that he had it in him.
Q. Isaac, end of the first half, you guys go to a lineup you typically wouldn't play because of foul trouble, but you played UNC even. What was the move with all the guys on the floor there?
ISAAC HUMPHRIES: Like I said earlier, we were all super ready for this game, and I think we all just wanted to do as much as we can. In a moment like that, I don't think that crossed our mind once. I think we just needed to fight, and we tried to just fight, even though the lineup wasn't obviously what it usually was.
But honestly, we were just trying to fight, and we weren't even thinking about stuff like that.
Q. There was a couple big calls in the first half, the goal-tending and the wiped-out basket. How did that change your momentum in the first half?
JOHN CALIPARI: I'll come back to this. There was a lot of stuff that went on, and our kids fought through it. I told them at halftime, it is what it is. And you've got to beat who's out there, and let's go, and don't worry about it. And I even said, I'm going to back off because it's on TV. It's tape. You can't -- you can say that -- but deal with it, and they've got to deal with it, too.
But don't take away from North Carolina. I mean, you think of the plays they made, down five, to get back, and I mean, it was bang-bang. And then to get up, and then us come back and tie the game, and then they make one at the buzzer? Come on. It was a terrific game. I just wish we could have played a first half with a full roster. But it is what it is. I mean, you look at it, and guys stepped up. I mean, somebody just said, you played even with a group that you never played before. We never played those guys. We play them in practice some, but I was proud of them. I was proud of how they fought in the first half. Should have been down 15. We were down five. It's crazy.
Q. What did you see from the sideline during Carolina's 12-0 run in that second half?
JOHN CALIPARI: They went zone. We missed -- we didn't execute great, but we missed open shots. Then we took a bad shot. And then you take a turnover, and all of a sudden it's a 12-0 run. I want to say that, you know, we needed to make one to stem the tide and try to win the game, and we just missed them all. But how about, the game was tied up? What were we, on a 6-0 run at the end? What were they seeing? These were two teams just slugging at each other.