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Keion Brooks and John Calipari recap Kentucky’s loss to Georgia

These Wildcats simply can’t get it together.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Life as a Kentucky Wildcats fan is getting closer to taking a turn for the worst. The Wildcats (4-9) suffered yet another loss on Wednesday, this time at the hand of the Georgia Bulldogs (9-4) by a narrow margin of 63-62.

Witnessing the team unfold yet again was truly dreadful. Kentucky had a 56-49 lead with seven minutes to go and BJ Boston finally seemed to have it going for the Wildcats. The two teams went back and forth with baskets until Kentucky suddenly found themselves falling short around the basket.

Kentucky went scoreless over the last two minutes of the game, while Georgia went on a 7-0 run. The Wildcats had a turnover, missed jump-shot and a missed free throw during that stretch, while the Bulldogs converted on a three and two layups (including the game-winner). That’ll most certainly cost a team in the heat of a close game.

It’s clearly frustrating watching this team struggle time and time again to put things together when it matters most. It’s even more of a headache to think this team could very well end up not turning their season around. Other than Boston finally having a decent game, nothing seemed to go right for Kentucky on Wednesday. They can't seem to collectively play as a unit and head coach John Calipari doesn’t seem to have an answer.

The Wildcats will look to rebound on Saturday when they host the LSU Tigers. Tip-off is set for 6 PM EDT in Lexington. Until then, here’s what Calipari and his Wildcats had to say following another loss via UK Athletics.

John Calipari

On what he says to the team and if the team was discouraged after tonight …

“I need someone to talk to me because I’m discouraged. What I just saw, the way we finished the game – the shot selection at the end, missed free throws, turnovers, just throwing them the ball for layups. We gave them 20 points on turnovers just throwing them the ball. I’m discouraged. Again, we get beat to every tough ball. We had one ball in front of our bench that Devin (Askew got). Rest of them, we don’t get any. So what happens is, we just have to keep trying and figure out, but if they don’t understand the importance of toughness. That last basket, No. 4 ran down, caught it and just laid it in. Just laid it in? We were telling them on that last play, you can’t get screened on this, fight through it, fight. One guy got screened. Then they got it in, fumbled it and no one blocked it so you just gave them a layup. Come on. This is all stuff—we have to be better. Our guard play was awful. BJ [Brandon Boston Jr.] showed some life, the rest of the guard play was not good at all. You try to open up the court a little bit and you can’t get by anyone so you end up taking a bad shot. We have our hands full, but you know what, I’m not giving up on them. We should have won the game. We’re up six. We have the ball. Come on. But you have to give credit to Georgia. They never stopped. We missed two free throws, they get their chance, he (Tom Crean) didn’t even call a timeout, which I wouldn’t do either, then they get it on the baseline because we didn’t come up with a ball.”

On what worries him more, the lack of mental toughness or physical toughness …

“It’s both. I’m telling guys that if they don’t shoot it, I’m taking them out. Again, we had guys in roles that they we’re comfortable with. Now, you put them in other roles and you see they’re not as comfortable. This is why I always say I know my team. I’m with them every day. I know when they’re going to play their best when they’re in certain roles. When you start putting in other guys and they’re doing stuff—I’ll tell you what, it woke up BJ [Brandon Boston Jr.]. One of the other guards was so bad, I had to start him in the second half.”

On how he will attempt to fix the issues with less practice time …

“It may be good that we have less time on the court. What I keep saying is, these kids are respectful, they listen. They just don’t hear. Everyone had a one-handed rebound. Do you understand every day we’re working on two-handed rebounds? Every day. Not like every other day. Every day. Sometimes we’re doing it in the morning and evening, two-handed rebounding. Do you know how many we went after with one? The last one we got, the guy went after it with one hand, and we were lucky it was on the floor and we were able to pick it up. All that kind of stuff is just, you don’t want to lose because of that. You don’t block out on a free throw. Really? You blank on offense? You’re supposed to go screen the ball, you don’t really screen and the guy doesn’t come off so now it’s one-on-one. We can’t play that way. We can’t get the ball by anybody. We’re not that kind of team. So now, we end up having a tough shot, we go in and now you’re begging for fouls. Like I said, you can tell my frustration right now, but, I’m the coach of the team and I have a job to do and we have to figure out how we’re going to win games. That’s all it is.”

On how frustrating it is to not know who is going to show up mentally for a game …

“It’s not show up. They’re there and ready. It’s mentally, if something goes wrong. And that’s why I like guys, whenever they come off the bench and whatever they do is good, when you start doing different things all of a sudden you’re thinking, well, maybe he shouldn’t. I know. You’re right. The consistency of these players, it’s made it hard, and I told the staff, ‘I’d like to be playing six or seven guys right now and that’s it.’ The problem is, who would they be? Now you’re trying to play nine or 10, you can’t play nine or 10. Why are we playing that many? Who is going to be rough? Who is going to make that play? Who is going to come up with that rebound? Who is going to make that play defensively? A lot of it is based on, if I’m not doing well offensively, all that other stuff slips. I keep coming back to the easiest thing. Forget about all that and do the stuff that doesn’t take skill, because maybe you’re not real skilled. So, do the stuff that doesn’t take skill, or, ready for this word? Talent. Do all the things that don’t take skill or talent and go hard. Now, you start building your own confidence. I told them, fall back on the training, I told them before the game. We even said as coaches that we didn’t care what they shoot, I’m not saying anything, let them see if they can get going and I’m looking around saying, ‘Oh my gosh.’ I know we’re not as bad as we played. Give Georgia credit. I do not want to take away from their win, it was a good win for them. We’re not as bad as we played but you know what, we better start playing better. It’s not getting any easier. Every game from here on in, really hard. So, we’re going to have to step on the gas.”

On Devin Askew’s tough night and how to move forward with him …

“I don’t know. I feel bad for him and I even told him I’m putting you in this last play because I believe in you and that last free throw I know crushed him. And that wasn’t the game. The game was we had a turnover, threw it ahead, threw it back to him, the guy gets a break away layup on the transition basket. No. 4, no one picked him up and they throw it under the basket. Are you kidding me? With a minute to go in the game, how does that happen? You know, you watched. He didn’t play great but I believe in him. This stuff is hard. All I keep coming back to, again, play to the training. Here’s how I want Devin to play so you all know: I don’t want him to have a lot of dribbles. I want him to get it up and get away from the ball. The reason I like that is because away from the ball, he can make plays and he can make shots. On the ball where everyone is watching him, he’s not effective. He’s just not. If we put him in pick-and-rolls, get rid of the ball. If you have a layup, take it. You can’t come off thinking you have to score because now you add two dribbles to everything. Now you understand what I’m saying. Less dribbles, get rid of the ball, go away from the ball and when it comes to you, make plays. Again, he’s a respectful kid, I just don’t know if he’s hearing what we’re trying to get him to do. He will. These kids are good kids. This is a struggle. We needed a breakthrough for this game and we didn’t. What do we do? Now, we go on to the next game. We have a practice tomorrow, we have a practice on Friday and we play a really good LSU team at home with no fans. There were no fans here today though either.”

On whether the team misses former assistant coach Kenny Payne being a good cop to his bad cop …

“My staff is doing it, believe me. They’re there, every day with these guys. They go to the lodge and check them out, do extra work. Kenny was great at what he does but we have guys doing the same thing. Do I miss him? I miss him because he was like a brother, but we have guys here doing that. If you think anybody could change guys’ games or their abilities, I’m not sure there’s one guy that could do that. We’re believing. We’re taking time, and I’m spending extra time with these kids, but it adds up. We’re at Kentucky. This isn’t easy. You start losing, everybody has an answer. Not only that, they try to move guys in and do different things, now all of a sudden you screw up a couple—I am trying to do everything I can to help everyone play their best. They have to hear what we’re saying on the toughness and the mental toughness. Make those plays. I think we will. So we go on to the next folks.”

Keion Brooks

On what the mood of the team is …

“Losing like that is tough, especially when we had a pretty good lead. We were up six with under three minutes. We basically just gave the game away, which is tough. We got to continue to work on not beating ourselves, executing the game plan. This loss sucks, but we have a short turnaround. We have another game on Saturday and we have to do what we can to get that one.”

On the difference between this year’s team and last year’s team …

“I mean the only way you can really explain it is personnel. It’s difficult when last year we had four returners who understood and knew how coach wanted to play. This year, with COVID and stuff like that, no excuses, but, it’s difficult to get acclimated and adjusted to one another when you don’t really have that time. Last year’s team, we had leadership by committee with the four guys that returned. Earlier in the year, I was the only returner and we all know I wasn’t playing, so it was kind of tough to try to lead from afar. We got to keep believing in one another, believing in the coaching staff and keep pushing, because we work hard every day. We just got to put it all together.”

On apparent lack of physical and mental toughness and how to correct it …

“I think we’re mentally tough. It’s just we have too many breakdowns at times. Physically, it’s just the other team seemed like they wanted the ball more than us. We can’t let that happen. We have to continue to fight and get the loose and 50-50 balls. We don’t get nearly as much of them as we should, and we got to come into the game with that on our mind, that being an emphasis. We’re going to win the backboard, win the 50-50 balls and the rest will take care of itself. We got to be the aggressor. We kind of get pushed around a little too much. We get hit and react instead of being proactive and hitting them first.”

On Brandon Boston Jr.’s game …

“We all know BJ can hoop. He’s just a great player. BJ wouldn’t be here if Coach didn’t believe in him and if the rest of the staff didn’t believe in him. This stuff is hard. You got to give us a chance and these players a chance to finally break through. I feel like BJ needs to keep pushing. He’s been working extremely hard. He’s always in the gym and he went out there and had a good game tonight. I’m just happy for him to be able to go out there and make some plays and help his confidence group. I hope it continues, playing the way that he did.”

On how Devin Askew is holding up after missing a late free throw …

“Devin is fine and Devin is going to be fine. He’s not the reason we lost the game. It was a group effort, a team effort. We all broke down at one point during the game. Devin is tough. He’s mentally strong. I know he’s probably taking it a little hard right now, but we’ve all been in those positions where we felt like we caused the team to lose or we didn’t do our job. We feel like we single-handedly affected the outcome of the game, but Devin is going to be fine. All I can say to him is to keep your head. I’m with you, the whole team is with you, our staff is with you, so Devin’s going to be OK.”

On the tough schedule ahead and how they will continue to believe …

“We call upon our work that we put in every single day in the gym. Nobody on this team takes days off. Everybody on this team goes hard every day. We have great practices. Sometimes, the outcome doesn’t always go your way, but we’re going to keep believing and keep pushing through, because we have put in so much work that we would be doing ourselves a disfavor if we stopped believing in our talent and our abilities to win games.”