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John Calipari recaps painful loss to K-State, takes blame for late-game falters

Cal tipped his hat to K-State and took the blame for UK’s late-game struggles.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-South Regional-Kansas State vs Kentucky Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky’s Sweet 16 matchup against Kansas State was just about as ugly as you could get. Lots of fouls, too many whistles, and poor shooting.

All of this ultimately proved costly in a 61-58 loss to the Big 12 Wildcats, and it ended what had become a special season for Kentucky.

The good guy Wildcats got behind by 12 early as the purple Wildcats came out on fire. However, Kentucky took that punch on the mouth and battled back to cut the lead to 4 at halftime.

Kentucky came out and took an early lead at 36-35 with 17:22 remaining in the second half before Kansas State hit back to back threes to spark another run of their own, leading by as many as 9 with 13:20 remaining.

Kentucky chipped away at the time before taking the lead at the 4 minute mark, 55-54. It was a back and forth game from that point. Kentucky was able to take a lead into the final minutes and even had a chance to tie it at the buzzer, but the Cats’ comeback effort came up short.

P.J. Washington, despite going 8 for 20 from the free throw line, has to be the game MVP. His presence inside was unmatched and he got his first double-double of the tournament with 17 points and 14 rebounds, including 6 bounds on the offensive glass.

Had Washington been able to make free throws, Kentucky could have put this game away early. But without his production otherwise, they would have never been in the game.

He was unquestionably the most valuable player on the floor tonight for Kentucky. That was emphasized by his huge block with just under a minute remaining.

After the game, Calipari, Washington, Knox and Gilgeous-Alexander spoke with the media about the tough loss. Here’s a recap of everything they had to say, courtesy of the NCAA:

JOHN CALIPARI: Congratulations to Kansas State. They played well. They played the kind of game, a physical game, and did what they had to do. Shot 35 percent and won a basketball game. My hats off to them. I’m proud of my team. Had our chance to win, didn’t play particularly well for us, but still had a chance to win.

I should have called that time-out late with 19 seconds to go, but we had worked on something, and I thought we could catch them off guard. Veteran team, should have called a time-out. Can’t put that on these guys. That’s right on my shoulders. Proud of our kids, though. Proud of their effort.

Q. PJ, you had a tough time making free throws tonight, but you still had 15 rebounds and 18 points. How would you assess how you played today?

P.J. WASHINGTON: We lost. I didn’t play good at all. As you saw, I went 8 for 20 from the line. I feel like if I would have made at least half of those, we would have won the game, so I didn’t play really good.

Q. Shai, what was the plan on the last possession of the game, and how did you feel about the look you got to tie it?

SHAI GILGEOUS-ALEXANDER: It was a pin at the free-throw line for Wenyen, but it took a little too long to progress. And then I had to take a tough shot, and obviously I missed, and I’m disappointed with the result.

Q. When you get that 7-0 deficit, when you get that 13-1 deficit, what’s going through your head at that point?

KEVIN KNOX: We just wanted to keep fighting at that point. We was down 12 early, but we knew we still had a lot of game left. We made our runs, they made their runs. We wanted to make sure that we just get back close in the game going into halftime and come out in the second half and fight, but we didn’t get the results that we wanted.

Q. Yesterday you were talking a lot about your team drinking the poison. Do you think they drank it at all?

JOHN CALIPARI: No, I think the game was physical. You know, there was the freedom of motion to cut and do it. It was a physical game. And it kind of got us a little out of rhythm, and it wears you down. I mean, I thought Shai got worn down. We were doing some things late. We had some turnovers that -- we have a lead now, and we turn it over a little bit. And there was a foul called on a free throw, and we have a one-point lead at that time, and playing like we did, which was amazing. We had our chances.

But I come back to the big play for us was down 2. We were going to run a play to go weak side corner for a three, and we end up not having it, throwing it to Quade, I was trying to get a time-out at that point. But that’s on me, that’s not on these kids. That was a choice I made.

The last play was a curl. We were trying to pop Wenyen, and it kind of got messed up. But look, you can’t -- these kids fought. They were down 13-1. I mean, I called them in and just said, hey, guys, there’s a whole game left. By the halftime, I said we won the rest of that half by seven. Just keep playing. There were plays in the game that we just didn’t make. But you’ve got to give Kansas State credit. They played in a way that they had to play to win the game, and they did.

Q. I was talking to a couple Kansas State players who were upset. They said your players left the court before they could shake their hands. I wonder what you saw with that, what happened there?

JOHN CALIPARI: Well, I went down to shake their hands, too, and they were turned and celebrating so that I walked off. I had no disrespect for anything, just that they were celebrating and I was happy for them. I walked off, too. But I went down, I shook all the coaches’ hands, I went down to shake their hands -- which I understood. They’re in an Elite 8 game now, a chance to go to the Final Four. My team is not like that, neither is our program. There’s no disrespect in any way. They beat us. They deserved to win the game.

Q. Obviously there were a lot of fouls on both sides. Do you really feel like a game that moves at a snail’s pace like that really drains the energy from the crowd?

JOHN CALIPARI: I don’t know. You know, you just have to -- again, it’s a hard game to play. But if it’s allowed to be that way where there’s a lot of physical contact and stuff, then you’ve just got to play. However it’s being officiated, you’ve got to play.

Q. You’ve called this your most rewarding season. Now that it’s over, do you feel like you got the most out of this team?

JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, again, both individually and collectively, this was a rewarding year for me. I wish it could have ended in another week, but you know, for me to see how individual players got better, for me to see how this team came together, for me to see Jarred in, Jarred out, all the stuff that went on with injuries, and they hung in there and played a bunch of freshmen. I thought they really performed.

Q. Do you expect to get the bulk of this team back, more players than usual, and do you think all the things that it’s gone through this season will pay off next year?

JOHN CALIPARI: I don’t know yet until I sit down with all the guys, sit down and talk and see where they are with things and where their families are. I have no idea. We haven’t discussed it.

Q. Just to follow up, Tai Wynyard hasn’t been making any trips in the postseason. Do you expect him to be back next season?

JOHN CALIPARI: I don’t know that yet until we get back on campus and we get with all the players.