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John Calipari and Wildcats recap win vs. Robert Morris, plus postgame notes

After last season, all wins feel good.

Drew Brown - Sea of Blue

The Kentucky Wildcats are now 1-1 on the young season following a 100-60 win over Robert Morris.

Following the game, head coach John Calipari and select players met with the media to discuss the game. Here is a recap of what they said via UK Athletics.

John Calipari

Q. What we saw from Daimion [Collins] down the stretch, how much is that potential to what he can do?

JOHN CALIPARI: He needs to play. You know, I question whether I should have played him more in the Duke game, but as I told the team, you do understand if he plays more what that means, Jon Hale?

Can I petition to see if I can add minutes to the game? I’m trying to get it to an extra eight a quarter. I don’t think they’re going to go for that. The other kid that’s got to play more and get more comfortable, month and a half ago he may have been our best player, is Bryce [Hopkins].

Then he shot some air balls in an exhibition game and just kind of — I’m trying to tell the players about contentment. You’ve got to be happy with where you are, who you are, what you’re about. You still strive to get better, but I’m happy with where I am.

These guys, at times, and it’s all the clutter around them, you got to be this, you got to do that, and most of it’s based on shooting more balls and playing more minutes. I bet you not one person is in their ears saying, ‘Rebound better, defend, block shots.’ What does Daimion give to us?

Length.

JOHN CALIPARI: What does length do, Jon Hale? Excuse me? Yeah, he blocked four shots. What else does length do? We need him in the game. Now, even if it’s 20 minutes, we need him to play. Lance [Ware], I was so proud of him. Hurt and tried to go and I laughed, and I told him, ‘I appreciate you trying.’

You got C.J. [Fredrick] with the hamstring injury. Again, going to be out for a minute again. How long? I don’t know. Imagine that.

And now, Jacob [Toppin], his shoulder, a different part of his shoulder, but it’s bothering him and he’s getting an MRI tomorrow; couldn’t play today.

One good thing is one man’s misery is another man’s opportunity. Now, do you remember Derek Willis? I love Derek. He’s one of the greatest kids I’ve ever coached here. Where did he struggle? But we needed him to do what?

Make shots.

JOHN CALIPARI: So, when he got the ball, the entire team yelled. We’re here for you, kid. I think we’re going to have to do that with Dontaie [Allen], because in the first half he scored a three. It was great, but gave up two.

We lose. So, I want to get him some time. But today Davion [Mintz] did exactly what I want him to do: Be that guy. You don’t have to make every shot, but don’t miss two and then start driving it and going crazy. Just shoot balls.

I thought Kellan [Grady] was good today again. He just plays within himself. Our guard play, I like the fact that assist, turnovers and Oscar [Tshiebwe], he knew we needed one more rebound for 20.

This place has always been about the three and the next three. We’re going to put somewhere else for him so he can look up and count. I’m going to get five more. He’ll go get them.

But it got kind of silly when you watched it. He was just going and grabbing and jerking them in. My issue, and what I said to the guys all year, is going to be one thing: When somebody has it going and you play less minutes and the clutter comes to you, how are you going to deal with it? Are you able to say, ‘He has got it going?’ If I get it going, I’m going to stay.

So that’s going to be an issue, because we have got to have a rotation. You can’t play 11, 12 guys. It may be that we settle in for a game. There is the eight. We got it.

The guys got tired today. They did not get tired up in New York. They got tired today. TyTy [Washington, Jr.] got tired. Kellan got tired. Keion [Brooks, Jr.] got tired twice. Daimion got tired. Oscar got tired. He wasn’t going to take himself out, but he got tired.

And, again, I apologized because I should’ve had the walk-ons in earlier. It just didn’t enter my mind, folks. I told the team after the game, ‘When we get into a situation like this, your job is to remind me, ‘Hey, Coach, get those guys in.’ They deserve to play, too.’

I apologized to the kid as their coach and said, ‘Look, I should have got him in earlier. I apologize.’

Q. Daimion, who gives you the length and the rear protection, but he’s still thin and going to get bounced around. How does he compensate for that until he gets stronger?

JOHN CALIPARI: You just be really active. You play people before they catch the ball. You position with leverage. I asked a player or an NBA personnel guy who’s a friend, ‘How do you evaluate toughness?’

He said something really interesting. He said, ‘Well, first of all, there is a physical toughness, but some guys are a little bit thinner and they’ll use leverage. That means they’re tough. They’ll play a guy before it hits the rim. They’ll move. They’re tough.’

I said, ‘What about the other stuff?’ He said, ‘Real simple, body language.’ I said, ‘What do you mean, body language?’ I don’t want to evaluate everything. The kid misses two shots and his head goes down or he jogs back. He’s not a tough kid. He’s just not.

It’s body language. I told the kids that I’ve just given you the answer to the test. You want them to say you’re tough, your body language never changes. Even if you’re not playing great, you’re always playing hard and clapping. He looks a little at a spirited player or at a guy that backs up, and then he says he’s not tough.

Everybody wants tough players. You know, he and Bryce, I felt so bad for them up at New York because they were crushed. They wanted to play more. But I called them in. I said, ‘We have to play you.’ What did we need in the game against Duke? So, Bryce was the guy, but he hadn’t been playing as well. I didn’t want to do the other side, to throw him in and crush him. They were crushed that they didn’t play. Daimion wanted to play Paolo [Banchero]. I said that Jacob was playing Paulo well, which is why I didn’t go one more and try him.

But today they’re happy and, like I said after the game, someone is playing really well, someone else has to play less. They’re just going to have to accept it if you want this to be a good team. Or the other option is you can’t be here.

Q. Oscar’s performance specifically, you mentioned the rebounding. What has he brought to this team early on this season?

JOHN CALIPARI: You know, he’s a great kid. He smiles every day. I’m trying not to give him too much stuff, but we still don’t have a good post scheme yet for him. We just don’t. I told the team after that we have got to figure this out. I tried some new stuff today, but I’m a guy that my mind works so I experiment with stuff. But I think their mind doesn’t work like mine.

The more you throw at them the more they get confused. So, we have got to come up with some specific things to where we’re getting him the ball and letting him go to work. The other thing is he has got to learn to dunk balls when we throw lobs. When we throw a lob, dunk the ball.

Now, he’s never played that way. It’s always been bounce, pass, post, mush mouth. Now it’s we’re running you to the goal. How about he shoots an air ball. I looked at him and I said, ‘You’re a great shooter. How did you do that?’ But post game for us, if we’re going to be legitimate, we got to be able to do it.

We aren’t making 12 threes every game. There are going to be some games where we will make three or four. Then you’re going to have to play and do other things. We’ll have to have a high two-point field goal percentage, which means you got to get some lay-ups and some lobs and you got to get some post play.

Q. How comfortable is Oscar in posting up? Doesn’t look like he establishes position in there.

JOHN CALIPARI: I’m going to have you guard him in practice and then see if you say the same thing. No, we’re still working on footwork. He’s stopping his feet. You have got to keep your feet moving. Then when you catch it, you got to go right into the shot, or you catch it and ball fake and go into the shot. And we just have a lot of work to do in a lot of areas, to be honest with you.

Q. Talking about Oscar’s feet not moving, but aren’t his feet always moving when he’s thinking about going after a rebound? Seems like that’s a natural thing. I wonder, how does he do that?

JOHN CALIPARI: Here’s the one thing you all should be watching. He is so big that there are times he’s going to jump for a rebound and the guy in front of him is going to act like he got hit. These officials need to know he’s 255 pounds with seven percent body fat. If he pushes in the back, call it. But if he jumps for a rebound and that guy is fighting like crazy and ducks his head, it is not a foul.

He’s 255 pounds and goes after every ball like that, and if you’re ducking, you’re not going to get the ball from him. My concern right now is you go on the road, and all of a sudden the guy is going overboard trying to box him out and he rebounds it and they say over the back. Then I’ll lose my mind.

We are working and teaching holding your ground and going after the ball, not pushing. There were other coaches that used to do this. As the shot was in the air they push. They teach you. So, the shot is in the air, push. Now all of a sudden you get jerked and the guy goes and gets the ball. They’re like, ‘Where was the push?’ Push was early. We don’t teach it.

This is the shot goes up, get your body on him. You’re 255 pounds. He’s not moving you. You get him under the basket, the only one he gets is the one that goes through rim. He can grab that one. Other than that, we want him to go get these balls.

Q. Last week Jay told us that the really good thing about Daimion is he’s kind of this blank slate where nobody has told him what to be before. How rare is that for a top-level player? What does that say about his potential still?

JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, he’s in the making. We just got to play him. It’s going to take minutes from some guys but it is what it is. I mean, you know how I am about things. I’ve done things in different ways to try to get people minutes, but we have guards that should play more minutes than the rest, so you can’t do platoon.

You can platoon three guys, but not those two. Then you’re taking away minutes. You know, we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do. Get our rotation, get those two in, figure out how we do this, and we still broke down on defense a bunch. Just a bunch. We’ll watch the tape.

The communication when Bryce is in, you’ve got to talk to him because he’ll get confused. We twirled or switched a couple of times and he went with his man. I mean, it’s the same way with Daimion. The veterans have to talk to the young kids to tell them what they need to do.

#4, Daimion Collins, Fr., F

On getting more playing time …

“It feels really good. I just went out there and played hard, and did what coach told me to do, and, you know, it just turned out well. I just trust the process and keep working hard, and everything fell in place. I just went out there and played hard, Coach Cal (Calipari) just told me to trust him, and when I get my chance be ready and that’s what I did I was ready when I had my chance.”

On the big dunk …

“I mean I just run the floor, my teammates see me, and it’s just me and the rim.”

On building his confidence …

““This game was a big confidence builder, just knowing I can go out there and help out and do what I have to do, so it was a real confidence builder.”

On Oscar Tshiebwe’s rebounding…

““Oscar is a good rebounder because he just never stops hustling, he just fights for every rebound, that’s his mentality he just wants to get every single rebound.”

#34, Oscar Tshiebwe, Jr., F

On rebounding vs. scoring …

“I told coach, I don’t really worry about me scoring because I know we have a bunch of players that can score, they can make a three. But coach said why are you here? So I told him, I want to rebound. Rebounding is going to help us win the game. So, I think I’m doing good from what I told coach.”

On if he asked to go back in the game to get his 20th rebound …

“Yeah, I told him ‘I have 19 coach, I told you I need 20. I’m going to have 20. You have to put me back in again so I can get one more.’”

On what rebounding meant to him when he started playing basketball at 15…

“Everybody wants to get better, everybody wants to do fancy, different things, but for me, rebounding means a lot. Rebounding can help your team to win the game. You give one more chance to your team. Since I figured it out, if I have to fight, I have to work for the rebound, I’m going to fight for that rebound like no one believes. I have to know where the ball’s going. I have to know my guy’s boxing me out. I got to do a lot of work. I got to be in a position where I’m going to take the ball.”

On if he’s always been a good rebounder …

“In everything, you need time, like my dad used to tell me. There’s no shortcuts in life, you have to work on everything. If somebody shoots from deep, I know 75 percent might go one way, 25 percent might come back a different way. So I have to position myself in the 75 percent, because I know if you miss, it’s probably going to go that way. And I’ll get it.”

On what Daimion Collins gave them…

“Daimion did good, I’m proud of that kid. That’s what we need from him - a lot of energy and to dunk the ball. We’ve got to figure out about me dunking the ball too, I’ll get that done. He did good. I’m proud of him. We need energy. This is just the beginning. We got some good teams coming. We’re going to need everybody to be willing to go. We need to be motivated to play teams like that every day.”

#10, Davion Mintz, Graduate Student, Guard

On second half stretch…

“It was really good. It was a confidence booster. I’m finally getting my feet under me and making shots. It was definitely big for me and big for the team. Just seeing their support, guys getting up off the bench, that really helped me get going. It was a good moment for me.”

On figuring out role on the team…

“It is a growing process every day. You know, I’m still trying to understand and to do what’s asked of me, and it is definitely different but I’m still embracing it every day. And I’m still trying to get better every day.”

On the offense this year…

“It’s a hard guard. You have guys starting that can make shots, guys coming off the bench that can make shots. So, you always have to be aware of certain guys on the floor at all times. It is definitely different, playing at a faster pace. You have guys that can get up and catch alleys. It’s different threats every single night, so it’s fun.”


And here are the postgame notes and milestones via UK Athletics.

Team Records and Series Notes

  • Kentucky notched its first win of the season to get back to .500 at 1-1. Robert Morris fell to 0-2.
  • This was the regular-season home opener for UK.
  • The Wildcats are now 42-4 in home openers in Rupp Arena and a perfect 13-0 under head coach John Calipari.
  • UK now leads the series 3-1 and 3-0 in games in Lexington, Ky.
  • This was the first of three straight games in the Kentucky Classic, a multi-team event.
  • Next up: Kentucky hosts Mount St. Mary’s on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Rupp Arena in game two of the Kentucky Classic. The game will be televised on SEC Network.

Team Notes

  • Kentucky reached the 100-point mark for the first time since scoring 107 vs. UIC on Nov. 26, 2017 in a 107-73 win.
  • The Wildcats’ 40-point victory was their largest margin of victory since defeating Eastern Kentucky by 42 points (91-49) on Nov. 8, 2019.
  • With an up-tempo pace for much of the game, Kentucky scored 1.449 points per possession, the most since posting 1.47 points per possession vs. Alabama in the Southeastern Conference on March 11, 2016.
  • Led by another Herculean effort by Oscar Tshiebwe on the boards (20 total for the junior), Kentucky outrebounded Robert Morris 43-24, including 14 offensive rebounds.
  • The Wildcats capitalized with 18 second-chance points.
  • After shooting just 37.7% vs. Duke, Kentucky was 40 of 70 from the floor on Friday, 57.1%.
  • Meanwhile, the Wildcats limited RMU to 37.7% shooting, improving Kentucky’s record to 210-24 (89.7%) when holding the opponent to 40% or less from the floor.
  • The Wildcats made 12 of 23 from 3-point range, 52.2%.
  • Six Wildcats scored in double figures, the first time that’s happened since Nov. 8, 2019, vs. Eastern Kentucky.
  • UK held Robert Morris to 60 points to improve to 189-9 (95.9%) when holding the opponent to 63 points or less under John Calipari.

Player Notes

  • Oscar Tshiebwe posted his second straight double-double to start the season and 14th of his career with 14 points and 20 rebounds.
  • He has 40 rebounds through two games, the most by a UK player to start a career.
  • According to ESPN Stats & Info, his 22 offensive rebounds through two games is tied with Louisiana Tech’s Paul Millsap for the most by an NCAA Division I player in any two-game span over the last 25 seasons.
  • His 20 rebounds tied for the most by a UK player in Rupp Arena history (Chris Mills had 20 vs. Miami [Ohio] on Dec. 17, 1988, and Jared Prickett pulled down 20 vs. Arkansas on Feb. 9, 1994).
  • Shaquille O’Neal totaled 21 rebounds vs. UK on Feb. 15, 1990, for a Rupp Arena record that still stands today.
  • Kellan Grady led all scorers with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting and 4 of 6 from behind the arc.
  • He also had a game-high-tying three steals.
  • Sahvir Wheeler dished out 12 assists, his second straight game with double-figure dimes. Through two games, he has 22 assists, the best two-game total to start a Kentucky career.
  • Wheeler also added a game-high-tying three steals.
  • After playing just two minutes vs. Duke on Tuesday, Daimion Collins enjoyed a breakout game with 14 points with six rebounds and a game-high four blocks.
  • He made 7 of 8 shots in 21 minutes of action.
  • Davion Mintz scored 13 points with 12 of them coming in the second half on four 3-pointers.
  • Keion Brooks Jr. reached double figures with 13 points.
  • TyTy Washington Jr. chipped in with 10 points, all coming in the first half.

Coach Calipari

  • Calipari improved to 340-94 at UK.
  • Calipari has a 785-234 all-time on-court record.
  • UK is 276-55 in games vs. unranked Associated Press competition.
  • Calipari is 2-1 in his career vs. Robert Morris.

In the First Half

  • Kentucky started Sahvir Wheeler, TyTy Washington Jr., Kellan Grady, Keion Brooks Jr. and Oscar Tshiebwe for the second straight game.
  • Grady opened the game with a 3 on the first possession.
  • Daimion Collins was the first sub at the 17:12 mark.
  • The Wildcats got off to a fast start with a 13-2 lead. At the first media timeout, Tshiebwe already had four points and five rebounds.
  • Up 28-20, Kentucky went on a 12-2 run to begin to pull away. Collins was key in the stretch with a pair of offensive rebounds, back-to-back baskets and an impressive swat at the top of the key.
  • Dontaie Allen saw his first action of the season late in the second half and splashed in a 3 at the 3:46 mark to put Kentucky up 40-22.
  • Washington and Grady led the Wildcats with 10 points apiece in the first half.
  • Tshiebwe was well on his way to a double-double with seven points and six boards, including six offensive rebounds.
  • Kentucky led 46-30 at the half.

In the Second Half

  • Kentucky started the second half with the same starting five: Wheeler, Washington, Grady, Brooks and Tshiebwe.
  • Wheeler opened the second stanza with a layup and the Wildcats picked up full-court pressure. It immediately paid off with a steal by Grady for an alley-oop layup to Brooks.
  • Davion Mintz caught fire in the second half with four 3-pointers – three in the left corner coming over a two-and-a-half minute stretch midway through the second half. They helped stretch what was a 65-44 lead to 76-46 advantage, an 11-2 run.
  • He followed with a fourth just over a minute later and finished the half with four treys and 12 points.
  • A game-best 11-0 run midway through the second half extended Kentucky’s lead to 87-48 with 5:23 to play.
  • Collins stole the show over the final seven minutes of the game with 10 points and four dunks, the final one of which got the Wildcats to the 100-point mark with 39 seconds left.
  • Wheeler was responsible for the final three buckets and had seven assists in the half.