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John Calipari recaps loss to Texas A&M: “I’m not cracking”

The Cats are running out of time, but Calipari is keeping the faith.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Texas A&M C. Morgan Engel-USA TODAY Sports

John Calipari suffered his first ever three-game losing streak while coaching at Kentucky.

Despite the fact that Kentucky was able to make it look like an average loss, it was arguably the worst one of the season.

From the start of the second half, we saw Kentucky give up easy baskets in transition and wide-open jump shots. Texas A&M jumped out to an 11 point lead after scoring 17 points in the first four minutes.

We saw the Cats get down as much as 23, looking lifeless on the court. They did fight there way back to a loss by 11, but there’s simply no reason Kentucky should’ve been down that much.

We’ve seen this team do this too much. They have now been down by at least 14 points in three of their last four games. You will not win games when you put yourself in such a large hole.

The problem continues to be their offense. In the first half, we saw them go on a 9-0 run to end the half, but then they came out so dry in the second. There’s a lot that needs to be figured out with these guys before postseason play.

If this team can ever find their identity, they will be good. Until then, they could very well lose their fourth straight on Tuesday against Auburn.

Here’s what John Calipari had to say in his post-game presser.

On the first half vs. the second half …

”We let go of the rope. I just told them after. I’m not cracking. I’ve coached 30 years and all I’m thinking about is how do I get these guys to play two halves the way they played the first half. And we’re still not there offensively. We need a team full of guys performing and we didn’t have it.

“But let me shift gears here and tell you, what Billy’s (Kennedy) done, because of the injuries and the stuff that happened, to have his team now on a win streak, that’s what coaching is. It’s easy when things are going well. I want to know when you lose three or four, how do you do now? And what he’s done, I told him prior to the game, ‘Man, amazing job.’ He’s got a good team, he’s got good players, but when things go south and you’ve got to corral everybody together and get them back on the same page, that’s what coaching is.

“So my hat’s off to Billy. He’s a good man and he’s a hell of a coach, and what they did to us in the second half—look, you can’t let lob dunk, lob dunk, lob dunk. You just don’t do it. You foul. You do something. You’re not going to give that. The offensive rebounds. A couple guys just not into the—you gotta want to fight and play and we’re just—Billy (Kennedy) hit me after, ‘Do you know how young your team is?’ I said, ‘Yeah, and I’m getting older by the day.’

“But I’ll say it again: I’m not cracking. This doesn’t faze me. I’m not mad at them. They’re young. I’m not frustrated. I get tired. Now I’m not 35 anymore. I’m 46, but—I get tired. I just gotta help them figure it out. I feel bad for individual players when they play the way they did. We’re back at work.

“We’re off tomorrow, which we all probably need a day off, and we get back at it Monday and Tuesday and we gotta go down to the best team in our league, go down to Auburn. That’s what’s next for us.”

On how frustrating is when they play well for long stretches and then poorly …

”Probably have to ask them. It’s not frustrating. What it becomes is, why is it happening? Again, you’re so into how you’re playing you can’t give that energy to the team. That’s what young guys do and I can’t seem to get them over that hump. They’re more concerned about how they’re playing and then when they’re concerned they look really bad individually. Look like you can’t play basketball.

“You’re not very good. And when you’re in that fighting mode and all of a sudden all of the good stuff that you have in your body comes out you really look like a good player and you’re playing for us instead of yourself. There’s not enough trust there yet. And it’s not just one guy. We got a bunch of guys that, you know, not doing the stuff that we need. Look, this league is unbelievable. It’s a heck of a league.

“I think we’re probably—our strength of schedule’s probably five or six in the country and I imagine even after this game our RPI is probably 14, 15, 16. And we’re—’Kentucky! Cal’s gonna go—’ No, no. We just gotta get a game where we put two halves together and let the winning take care of itself and we’ll go from there.”

On defending baseline in-bounds plays …

”It’s one guy breaks down. And that’s that discipline young kids don’t have. And then he says, ‘Well I was trying to—’ ‘Stop. That’s not your job. Your job was to do this and then we had everything covered.’ The one play that we got beat in the first half there was no screen. There was nothing.

“The guy just ran to the basket and laid it in. And then you say, ‘Who was guarding that guy and what happened?’ ‘My fault.’ We’re working through all this. And like I said, we play for March. That’s what we’re playing for. We gotta get this thing right. We still got time. I’ve been in this situation a couple different times at Kentucky and you know every team we play is giving us their best shot.

“So when we get this, we’ll bust through, but it’s getting old right now. Each week that goes by, it gets harder and harder to get this thing to where you want it to go. And so at some point, you’re right, somebody’s gotta lead and step up and say, ‘Hey, enough is enough.’ Right now, I’m not sure we have that guy. The reason is it’s hard to talk when you’re not playing well.

“It’s hard to talk when you’re saying the guy won’t fight until the game’s down 14. Then it’s hard to be that guy to say anything in those meetings. But I’ll say it again: Not cracking, not wavering. Hate losing. Can’t stand it. Liked our first half. Thought, OK, maybe we busted through. And then we let go of the rope. When things got funky, the guys just let go. Because my stuff’s not right so I’m hanging my head, which is what young kids do and we gotta break that.”

On what gives him faith that they can put together 40 minutes …

”Because I’ve done this 30 years. If I had been a two-year coach, I’d probably be panicked right now. But I’ve done this long enough. And then a big part of it is they have to want stuff to happen. I believe they do. I believe they’re embarrassed by their play. If I didn’t—I told them, ‘If I want this worse than you want this, please tell me so I can start taking my wife to movies and dinners.’ But they want this. They want it for each other. It’s just it’s a tough deal.”