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John Calipari & Wildcats recap loss to South Carolina

A tough loss, but still plenty of season left.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina’s Jermaine Couisnard hit a desperation three-pointer at the buzzer as the Gamecocks upset No. 10th-ranked Kentucky 81-78 on Wednesday night at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia.

Kentucky led by as many as 14 points in the second half only to watch the Gamecocks storm back to take their first lead of the game on a Justin Minaya three-pointer with 3:33 remaining for a 71-70 lead. South Carolina then scored on back-to-back possessions to extend the lead before Nick Richards made one-of-two free throws to cut the lead to 75-71 with 2:16 remaining.

The Gamecocks then recorded their 20th offensive rebound of the game and a trip to the free throw line resulted in a made free throw and a 76-71 lead. Kentucky’s Immanuel Quickly then converted a traditional three-point play to cut the deficit to two at 76-74.

With South Carolina leading 78-76, A.J. Lawson had a chance to ice the game for the Gamecocks, but missed two free throws and the Wildcats called a time out with 11.3 seconds remaining. When play resumed, Quickly scored to tie the game at 78-all to set the stage for Couisnard’s game-winner over the outstretched arms of Richards just above the top of the key.

Quickley led the Wildcats in scoring with 20 points, while Richards finished with 15 points and seven rebounds. Ashton Hagans and Tyrese Maxey each finished with 13 points, respectively. Couisnard led the Gamecocks with a game-high 26 points.

Kentucky raced to a 33-25 advantage at halftime, but turnovers, missed free throws and poor rebounding allowed South Carolina to score 56 points in the second half and pull off the upset. The Wildcats are now 4-4 under UK Coach John Calipari at Colonial Life Arena with loses coming in 2010, 2014, 2018 and now 2020.

The Wildcats, 12-4 (3-1 in the SEC) are back in action on Saturday afternoon at Arkansas and return to Rupp Arena on Tuesday to host Georgia.

After the game, Calipari and select players meet with the media to discuss the first conference loss of the season, courtesy of UK Athletics.

John Calipari

On the contest on the final shot …

”I don’t know. That’s the least of my thoughts right now. The lack of discipline that we have, especially offensively. Guys breaking off stuff, doing their own thing. We’re up 10, call stuff and they just do—you can’t play that way in a big-time game. We had some guys that the game was a little bit above them. They couldn’t come up with rebounds and balls, which I thought they would. But you gotta give South Carolina credit. They never stopped. I thought we had them when it was 14 and let’s get this to 20 and they didn’t stop. We left No. 10 (Justin Minaya)—for you that know me, ball-side corner, we never leave ball-side corner. We don’t leave ball-side corner. We left ball-side corner twice for him to get two 3s. I don’t understand where that breakdown was, but, again, we’re on the road, it’s a hostile environment. We had some young guys, some inexperienced guys. Everybody on the floor is inexperienced, but we’re trying to figure out a way to just stay in the game and win. And I gotta give them credit, they had free-throw shooters who don’t make free throws made every free throw. Made every free throw. And we had guys that make every free throw missing free throws. But they deserved to win the game. It would have been a shame if we’d somehow thrown one in and won the game. I would have been happy, but it would have been a shame. Frank (Martin) did a great job in this game.”

On Immanuel Quickley making plays late …

”He was good. We just had so many—there were so many breakdowns, so many turnovers. We had 15. We’re a team that turns it over 11, 12 times. We had 15 and most of them were like running somebody over or trying to make a play when you should be passing. We just became—the discipline issue I’ve been talking about came through today. And I keep saying, you have to be a disciplined player. This is about a group of guys coming out and playing together. You can’t be the guy that does your own thing. It’s not just one. And then we had a couple guys that—and we need guys to be able to step up and guys will want more minutes and, when you look at it, we had three guys go 2 for 13 and they’re all trying to get more minutes. Well, you’re 2 for 13 and we’re trying to win. Those guys gotta figure out, where can I make baskets and free throws?”

On South Carolina shooting better after halftime …

”They made shots. I saw them against Clemson. What they did to us they did to Clemson down there. They made five 3s in a row and everybody tells me they can’t shoot 3s. Well that day they did. I watched it. And so in the second half, they had guys that you would want to shoot the 3 and the kid made it. That’s what he did down at Clemson, so they’re capable. I mean, Frank—this team beat Virginia, they beat Clemson. I think they beat Clemson at Clemson. I think. Clemson had a good win last night, so this team is capable and I tried to tell our guys. Again, they had 12 offensive rebounds at half. Twelve. Seven on one guy of mine. Seven were on one. And now they end up 20, which is eight in a half, which isn’t bad, but we only get 10. You’re not winning. You’re not winning that way.”

On Cousinard’s performance …

”He played good. What hurt us was the pick-and-roll and we had Tyrese (Maxey) and he was hurt. I’m not sure exactly what was hurt on him, but, his leg, he couldn’t move and he was hitting into that screen and our big wasn’t switching. The kid just shot layup, layup, layup. He shot four layups. And then we tried to switch it and Nick (Richards) let him get beside him and he shot a layup. So he had 9 for 22, but he should have shot them because they were all—like I’m looking at it, he made some 3-pointers too, but most of them were like five layups. He did a good job. It was a heck of a game for him.”

On losing a big lead …

”We called the same play three times. And we had three turnovers. We didn’t even get started in it. The guy did his own thing. Three straight times. Three straight times. And I’m like, ‘Are you not hearing what I’m saying?’ And so, you know, we’ll go back and we’re going to talk about it. Like, hey, tell me what you were thinking, because you have to choice to do what you’re trying to do or do what we’re needing you to do. … It gets no easier in this league. Every road game you play in this league is a hard game. And this was a hard game. Give them credit though. It wasn’t us. They were physical, they made every free throw when they had to. I liked the fact that we got it to a tie ballgame. I like the fact that happened. That meant we were walking in timeouts and trying to do the right thing. But, you know, when you play like we did and you give them so many offensive rebounds, that’s when a team throws in a 30-footer that banks in.”

On this team’s resilience …

”I have no idea. I still gotta watch this tape to see how I really feel about how we played because I did like the first half. There were spurts in the first half where we could have had it to 10 or 12 instead of eight. And this team doesn’t get that yet. When you get a chance to get somebody to 20, you do it. This team does not do it. We haven’t done it all year. Then all of a sudden we kind of break off or we break down defensively and ‘it’s not that big a deal.’ You’re not playing St. Aloysius. This is Division I, major college, power five. Every possession matters. And when you get a chance to get somebody down, you do. But I’ll say this once again: They played, they deserved to win. Frank did a great job, their kids did a great job and they should be congratulated.”

On what this team needs to improve …

”I gotta watch the tape first to be honest. I’ll get that on the plane back.”

Nate Sestina

On South Carolina’s improved second-half shooting …

”They outrebounded us. It started with me not hitting guys on the offensive end. They outhustled us. Coach (Tony) Barbee said at the beginning of the game the more physical team’s going to win. They were more physical than us and that was the outcome.”

On Coach Cal’s postgame message …

”We lost. Let’s go home, get home safely and then get after it tomorrow.”

On when the momentum shifted …

”I missed a box-out on No. 24 (Keyshawn Bryant) and he got an offensive rebound, put-back dunk. Kind of shifted the momentum a little bit, crowd got into it and then hit another one down the middle of the lane. I didn’t crack down on him, got another opportunity at a dunk, got the crowd going again.”

On what they saw of Jermaine Couisnard on film …

”Everything that we did was part of the game plan. Just gotta communicate through it, communicate through ball screens. Gotta keep him in front. Definitely was in the scout that he was a driver and I think it was just a little bit of defensive lapses every once in a while.”

On the resilience of this team …

”I think we’re a tough team. I think we’ve proven that a little bit. We lost two in Vegas, came back and won a couple on the road, a couple big ones in a row. Lost one to Ohio State out in Vegas and we came back, had a couple good days of practice and beat Louisville, who’s a good team. I think that kind of shows how tough we are and this is just another opportunity for us to kind of take it, mourn for 24 hours – Coach always says – and then get back after it. Tomorrow’s a new day. Today’s in the past already. Game’s over. Can’t do anything about it now. The outcome is what it is and for us to move forward we kind of have to forget about it, get back tomorrow, watch film, see what we need to do to get better and continue to move forward.”

Nick Richards

On his contest on South Carolina’s game winner …

”I think it was a pretty good contest. In transition, I thought he was going to go for a layup. Obviously he took a deep 3, banked it in, made it.”