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John Calipari and Jacob Toppin recap what went wrong at Auburn

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More offensive struggles for the Wildcats lead to their eighth loss of the season.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

There’s one thing with this Kentucky team fans should get used to: they’re going to struggle to score and there doesn’t seem like any solutions are in the near future. That trend continued on Saturday, as the Kentucky Wildcats traveled to Auburn and fell 66-59.

The Wildcats mustered just 25 points in the first half, though their defense held true by holding Auburn to just 21 first half points. However, one team adjusted and executed while the other didn't. The Tigers came out and eventually pulled away to win the second half by a margin of 11 and take the victory.

Kentucky’s offense shot 40% from the field, 25% from behind the arc, 56% from the free throw line and coughed up 17 turnovers. It’s an offense that doesn’t have any identity and has proved time and time again that they can’t shoot themselves out of deficits.

Sure, Kentucky is more than talented enough to go out and narrowly win a game or two in a so-so Southeastern Conference. But in terms of this team’s long-term upside, you could say there isn’t much at all. Here’s what head coach John Calipari and his team had to say following the loss.

John Calipari

On the team fighting today but coming up short …

“All the tough plays and rebounds we needed to make, I just took guys out today. If you get beat to the ball, get out and let someone else play. We defended the way you defend to win games and no one wanted to shoot. They passed up until I yelled at them to shoot the ball. We missed wide-open shots and we had our chances. I’m disappointed. We came out of a couple of timeouts and didn’t do what we were trying to do. We let one slip away on the road. We should have been up big at the half and I can’t believe we weren’t. How we came in and guarded the things we did, we gave up two critical 3s. Guys just didn’t leave their feet. We were running through guys. We aren’t going to have that much gap on anyone we play from here on in.”

On how he gets his team to peak as he has normally done to make the NCAA Tournament …

“If we are skilled basketball players, we could have made easy plays and we didn’t. We made the hardest one. In a game like this, three baskets break the game open. We were still not there yet. The toughness on drives. We said we are going straight up and we are not trying to block any of these drives, we had three guys go like that. We have to figure out what’s next and how we get this thing on offense. We are a different kind of team. Inside-out 3s and how we play, we are built differently. But when you’re trying to throw to the post and that guy isn’t catching it, that becomes tough. Olivier (Sarr) has got to start dominating games. I’m telling you, stop worrying about offense and go rebound. Drive to get fouled instead of flipping and avoiding. There are points in the game where I’m proud of these guys and there are other points in the game that I’m thinking, what in the world are we doing?”

On why Dontaie Allen didn’t play more and the decision to go big …

“At the end of the day, we were running plays for Dontaie and he wouldn’t shoot the ball. That’s why I took him out the first time. One time we ran two things for him with shots and he wouldn’t take them. Dontaie wasn’t the issue. When you defend like we are defending, you have to figure out how to space the count, play offensively. How do we make them place extra passes and low turnovers? I tried to go zone and then I had a guy break down during the zone. You can see I’m frustrated. We are here. We still have our chances. Not giving up on anybody. Trying to figure it out. The toughness this team needs to play with. First half they had 10 or 12 offensive rebounds. What?! We should be a better offensive team. It got rough and we should be able to battle back.”

On why Dontaie Allen and Jacob Toppin didn’t start the second half after leading the team in scoring in the first half …

“One of the things we talked about – with Lance (Ware) too – I want to win every game I coach, but on the other side, I’m not trying to take anyone’s heart away. You can sub them three minutes in and go. We didn’t start the half that bad. That wasn’t the case. It’s not like substituting a quarterback; he played a bad quarter so I’m going to play a different one. You don’t coach that way. What you do is sub them in. Dontaie got great looks in the second half. He got fouled, but they were going at him defensively. We had a lot of breakdowns and could have changed lineups. At the end of the day, we got out-toughed.”

On if he’s at a point where he’s accepting that this isn’t a great offensive team …

“I’ll never stop tweaking and changing. So, it clicks in their minds. They have to feel all of this and how we have to play for each other. We aren’t good enough to go run by people. If we create space and assists, we should be averaging at least 18 assists on our baskets, maybe more. Everyone was trying to score instead of creating shots for each other. We are one of those teams that are trying to figure it out. You can’t just ride one or two guys. And I’ll be honest with you, it may be game to game. Who’s getting more looks and shots. What I like about Lance is that he will fight. Our guard play was just OK. Defensively, what we did with their point probably will be the game plan. Offensive rebounds, that’s what they got and that’s how the game was close. We have to make some open shots. They played well enough to win. They did what they had to do. We gave ourselves a chance at the end, and the tie-up with Keion (Brooks Jr.) I can’t wait to watch it on tape to see if it was foul because it ended the game.”

Jacob Toppin

On what the ideal offense looks like for them …

“Basketball. We have to drive and find the open man. Once we buy into team basketball and finding the open man, that’s when we will start winning games.”

On limiting Auburn’s Sharife Cooper in the first half and what changed in the second half …

“Other players on the team were hitting shots and making plays, so we had to change up things. We had to stop other players because Sharife wasn’t doing anything in the first half and others were.”

On how they stay positive …

“We know what kind of team we are and we have shown it in a couple of games. We have to be more consistent and play team basketball. We have to become more consistent and we will start winning.”

On how they find open shots …

“Some players don’t take the shots when it’s open. Maybe it’s mental because they missed the previous one. Once we get mentally strong and do not worry about getting the last shot, we will start making them. We need to focus and dial in more.”

On if missing shots is contagious …

“Maybe. When one person is missing another one is making shots so I don’t think it’s contagious. We all have to step up and make shots and that’s when we will start playing basketball and winning games.”

On why players wouldn’t be bought in at this point in the season …

“I think everyone is dialed in, but we have to become more consistent. Sometimes when we are playing, some players will go off and play “me” basketball, and that’s what we don’t need. We will figure it out and stay consistent.”

On why the team stood for the national anthem today after kneeling at Florida last week …

“We stand for what we believe in. There was no discussion. We decided to lock arms because we are going to stay united and we will fight for what we believe in even if it looks different from what we did before.”

On what Coach Calipari’s message was after the game …

“Toughness. We are supposed to be the tougher team every time and today we weren’t. We did play with effort but not enough toughness. In the first half, they had 12 offensive rebounds, which is unacceptable for any team. We need to find a way to get tougher and play with more grit.”