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John Calipari and Reid Travis still believe in these Cats

“I love our group of guys, and everyone does want to get better.”

Michael Whitlow - Sea of Blue

The first game of the season is in the books, and it was a stunner for the Kentucky Wildcats.

No. 4 Duke completely dominated No. 2 Kentucky in all phases.

It was a complete embarrassment for the Cats, as they suffered the worst loss in the John Calipari era.

Duke put their foot on the gas early as they came out shooting the lights out of the basket early, leading by over 20 in point of the first half and taking a 59-42 lead into the halftime locker room.

It went from bad to worse in the second half, as Duke cruised to a 118-84 victory.

Duke’s freshman trio of Zion Wilkinson, RJ Barret, and Cam Reddish all went for 19 plus points.

As for Kentucky, it was horrid across the board.

Both Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley struggled mightily struggled, Tyler Herro looked lost, and PJ Washington and Nick Richards did not look improved.

On top of that, Kentucky’s defense which struggled against Division III Transylvania and Division II IUP in the preseason got torn apart by the elite Blue Devils.

The only positives were Reid Travis, who put up 22 points, and Keldon Johnson who was the Cats leading scorer with 23.

As bad as the loss was, Calipari and senior forward Reid Travis still believe in this team. Here’s what Calipari and Travis had to say about the loss via UK Athletics.

John Calipari

”I have to give them credit. I told Mike after that you guys played great. They made shots, they passed the ball to each other, they attacked at the rim. We only created four turnovers. Either they are a great handling team or we aren’t doing enough defensively. I thought they beat us to offensive rebounds, I thought there were balls that we could have gotten. They were just better than us. I told them that I got out coached, you guys got out played, we’ll watch the tape and move on.”

”I told them in one of the huddles, ‘you guys thought this would be easy.’ I’ve done this so long, thank goodness I haven’t had many of these days, but I’ve had a few. And the most that you learn from this is that they wanted this more than we did. Instead of coming together, our guys splintered and started doing their own thing, which spread it from an 11-point game to 20. We had our chances, but we broke off. The guys that we’re playing may be better athletically than the teams we played in the Bahamas were. That has played a part. But I haven’t lost any faith in these guys, because they are a bunch of good guys. I told the two point guards in the hallway that I was going to spend more time with them. We have to get them on the same page as all of us and how we need them to play.

”We all need to do some soul searching here and figure this out. I’ve done this a long time and I have had guys struggle. What happens with young guys when they struggle is that they get a little rattled, so you have to be careful that you are teaching. You have to get them to play in a way that they can have success. My teams have taken some losses, where I have told them not to foul. We are getting out of this gym in three minutes and thirty seconds, don’t you foul. We just keep marching on.”

Reid Travis

On Duke …

”They are a great team, a great program, really well coached. I feel like once they caught fire, hit some shots, got some confidence, they were able to get to the line and start driving us. As we progress throughout the season, we will really get to a point where we can stop the bleeding. Tonight, we didn’t do a good job of that.”

On Duke’s freshman class …

”They are talented. They are right up there with a lot of talented freshman that I have played against. Obviously, I played against Duke my freshman year and they had a lot of talented guys on that team as well. I put them up there with that and give them a lot of credit for the way they play. They played very mature out there, they were talking on defense, the way they move the ball and the way they attacked the rim.”

On helping the team’s newcomers …

”I was telling them to stick to what we do. Don’t look up at the scoreboard. It got out of hand there and they started to go up and make a run. At the end of the day, we know how we need to play and how hard we need to play, the habits that we have. That was the biggest thing I was trying to stay. Stop looking up. Just continue to do what we have to do.”

”I wouldn’t say the moment was too big. Collectively we didn’t get the job done. I don’t know if it was the moment, the hype, but it just wasn’t a game for us tonight. I think as we go back and watch the film, we’ll get better. I love our group of guys, and everyone does want to get better. You can tell that this hurt because we do care. I think we are going to really watch the film and get better from this.”