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John Calipari and Wildcats recap win over Mount St. Mary’s, plus postgame notes

Calipari may very well have something special brewing in Lexington.

John Calipari Jason Marcum - Sea of Blue

The Kentucky Wildcats picked up their second win of the year in an 80-55 win over Mount St. Mary’s Tuesday night in Lexington.

The Cats won convincingly in Lexington, and it seemed to be a lot of the same stories for how it happened: A lot of rebounds from Oscar Tshiebwe, and a bunch of assists from Sahvir Wheeler.

In the Cats’ 25-point victory, they jumped out to an 11 point lead at halftime, then opened up a little more with working all the way up to an 31-point lead at one point of the game.

Even though we have been used to impressive performances from Tshiebwe, he was even better in this one thanks to arguably the best offensive game he’s had in his college career. He scored a career-high 24 points while still grabbing 16 rebounds, which helped the Cats win the rebounding battle 41-27

Kentucky also saw double-digit performances from TyTy Washington, Keion Brooks Jr. and Sahvir Wheeler, who also had eight assists vs. one turnover.

After the game, head coach John Calipari and select players met with the media to discuss win No. 2. Here is a recap of what they said via UK Athletics.

John Calipari

Q: Oscar Tshiebwe hit a bunch of jump shots today. Was that an emphasis for him?

JOHN CALIPARI: I told you all that he can shoot the ball. He is one of our best 15, 17-foot shooters. The other day we did the five-minute shooting drill that we do, and in five minutes he made 87 shots. Eighty-seven. I think the most ever was by Kyle Wiltjer. He might have made 89 one time. The kid made 87.

Then I’m telling the team, how can he shoot an airball? Like, it’s in his mind. Shoot the ball. We put in some stuff for him to shoot jumpers, which is what we did. It’s an easier way to get him a shot. Like we know that this is for him, but, you know, he made baskets. Didn’t get quite as many rebounds. Keion [Brooks Jr.] got them in the first half. I loved it. That’s how he has to play, or people will move by him. I told him, ‘Just go play.’ He had energy.

Now, I did send him to go trap to make him and Bryce [Hopkins] play with motor, and then they ran hard enough where they’re ahead of the game, so they’re a team that takes away the three-point shot. Well, by taking away the three, Oscar had baskets. We had a bunch of layups, but they did what they did. They don’t give you threes. We passed up on two or three, the guys who were open. The guys that we want to shoot it, shoot the ball. Then they drive in and nothing. It’s not something good that happens. I would rather you shoot it or drive it to pass it to somebody else. They played well, though. I thought Mount St. Mary’s played well.

Q. How much closer was what TyTy did tonight to how you want him to play?

JOHN CALIPARI: He had four turnovers, though. Again, here’s what I’m saying to the team. Again, I say stuff and I tell the truth. Sometimes that aggravates people. Yeah, it’s negative, but I’m telling the truth. We run, and when we throw it ahead, if they ran back, we did our job because we made them run, and then we reverse the ball out, and we play basketball.

After they’ve run that way about seven straight times. You throw it ahead, and the guy gets a layup. Today we threw it ahead, and they ran for their lives back, and we drove in on them. There’s nothing there. They’re there. We’ve done our job. We’ve made them sprint. Swing that ball out and play, so that happened. He had four turnovers. Probably two of them were on that.

I got on him because of the lob he threw. He could have thrown it, hit the top of the back board, and Daimion [Collins] would go get it. He threw it low. Why would you throw it low? He’s getting better. He’ll be fine.

Q. On Friday you asked for an R counter for Oscar’s rebounds, and they got the counter in the corner. I don’t know if you saw it or not.

JOHN CALIPARI: I didn’t know. I said, ‘Where are the rebound things?’ and they put down the threes, and they put up that. I love it. He knew how many more he had to get, but if he was one or two away, I would have left him in for another minute and let him get two rebounds because that’s not being selfish. He needs two more points. Sit down. It’s not about points. That’s ego stuff. Rebounds are hard to get, and that’s not being selfish. The other one is. You want to get 10 assists a game? You’re my newest hero. Why don’t you get 12? Again, we had 12 assists, or 15 assists, but I’m telling you - they make you shoot layups and make you bounce the ball to score. It’s how they play.

Q. How hard is it to be as consistent as Oscar is in rebounding? How difficult is that?

JOHN CALIPARI: You know they were throwing bodies at him. I got mad on the screen because if you hit him and you are running fast, what do you think is going to happen? He doesn’t have to move. He just goes like this, and you hit 255 pounds and 7 percent body fat. You are going to spin and look like you got smashed. That is not a foul. It’s his advantage being 255 pounds. Other guys’ advantage is they’re 7 feet tall. That isn’t him. Don’t take away his advantage.

The same thing when he rebounds like this, and the guy is backing under him to try to block him out, and he jumps straight up and does this. Believe me, I will go nuts if that’s called an over in the back because they’re underneath him pushing. He sets a screen. Now, if he obviously moves like it’s a sliding move, but if he leans like everyone in the country and he leans on a screen, you’re going to knock the guy down because of how big he is. That’s his advantage. Don’t take away his advantage. Let him be who he is.

Q. Sahvir [Wheeler], eight assists, just one turnover tonight. What’s been different and better about his decision-making the last couple of games?

JOHN CALIPARI: He is not losing his mind. Believe me, after the game he looked at me and said, ‘I had one turnover.’ He knows it’s important to me. Who is it going to be important to? Him. We still have some guys that I’m telling them exactly what I want them to do and how to play, and they fight it a little bit, and it just hurts them, and hurts us. He has totally bought into what I’m saying. Totally bought in.

Like that three he took with the guy on him. I said, ‘Why would you do that? If the ball went in and out to you, shoot the three every single time. The guy is on you. Go by him. Get us something.’ You don’t shoot that ball. It’s a bank miss. I like the fact that I’m able to get on our best players. That means I can coach everybody on this team.

Q. You’ve used the expression in the past: “You told on yourself” when a player does something exceptional. Oscar is going out and doing it, like, every night. Is he the kind of guy that can keep this pace up?

JOHN CALIPARI: He will try. He will try. My guess is that there’s going to be teams that are going to put two guys on him. Would you say that? So, what does the other guy have to do? Keion rebounded today. Daimion didn’t. I played Keion more. You don’t understand all the other parts of the game. I know the one part this team is going to need. That position is going to have to rebound because they’re about to put two guys on him, which means you’re going to be free to go get balls. Both defensively and maybe even offensively, but you got to go.

We’ve been working on it. I was so proud of Keion today. Second half he didn’t rebound as much, but Oscar got every one, but what he did was he played with an energy. He played. There is a sense of urgency every time you play, and I just told him, ‘We need to play like we started the second half.’ Every time we step on the court. Whatever you’re doing, you get yourself in that frame of mind. Like I said, when I put those other guys in and they miss a shot, or they take a bad shot, or they give up a basket, I took them all out. I said, ‘You all are together in this, and if one guy is breaking you down, say something to them. Tell them you are giving up baskets. He is going to take us all out.’

Like I said, we’ve got a lot to work on. We’ve got a lot to do. Oscar, I played more. Part of that was I didn’t think Daimion was playing the way he had played the last game.

Let me just say one other thing. The greatest thing is they’re coaching each other. They’re holding each other accountable. At halftime one of the players looked right at the other guy and said, ‘We need you. Where is your energy? Where is your spirit?’ You know what I said? ‘When someone tells the truth, don’t be mad.’ Well, I think that’s negative. When someone tells the truth and the rest of you should be saying, ‘Facts.’ He didn’t yell and cuss. He just told you. Now it’s facts. Come on. We need you. That’s when this team begins to be empowered.

I had Sahvir coaching the guards in pick-and-roll defense. He coached them. You don’t need to be in this drill. They all need the drill. Show them what you are doing. He showed them. Then he coached them. Then he started coaching the bigs. I said, ‘Coach the whole team.’ That’s fine for me. I don’t care. We’re just trying to grow, but this is a team that needs everybody to play well.

Q. You said the other day that Jacob [Toppin] was getting an MRI. Did anything come back that it’s a long-term issue, or what do you expect from that?

JOHN CALIPARI: I hope not, but there was no damage-damage. He has a bruised shoulder, and we’ll see. Lance [Ware] has the ankle, so whether he will play in two days, I don’t know. We’re playing Ohio. I haven’t watched any tape on them. They’re 4-0. They shoot 30 threes a game and make 12. If they make 12 against us, we’ll lose. Now we got to spend a day absolutely saying, ‘Okay, how are we going to guard this stuff?’

They’ve got five guys that all can play. Today, did you see Oscar go out and guard guards? The only problem is when they try to drive, what’s he doing? He is trying to reach. Don’t. Just stay in front of the guy. He has feet that he can do that. The Ohio game is going to be a hard one for us, a hard game.

Q. Any update on C.J. [Fredrick] and his surgery, and what steps do you take on purpose to keep him involved because rehab can be pretty lonely.

JOHN CALIPARI: I talked to him before the surgery today, and he was in a good frame of mind. We need him. He can’t travel for a while, but I want him to be around the team because he needs the guys.

I’m telling you, folks, he came up to me when he found out what it was, and I hugged him, and he said, ‘I’m sorry.’ You’re sorry? Are you crazy? He said, ‘Coach, I love these guys. I really wanted to play with this group.’ That’s the kind of kid he is.

I’m just telling you, you saw how he shoots. You put one more guy out there that can make shots. He also had a 6-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He doesn’t turn it over. He guards. He will guard and keep people in front and come up with balls. It’s a bad blow for us and for him, too.

Q. Has there been any discussion with Mike Woodson, the new head coach up there [at Indiana], about trying to bring that series back in some way, shape, or form in the future?

JOHN CALIPARI: Mike and I are good friends. We’ve talked about stuff, but there’s nothing imminent that I could talk to you about. I think we’ve got to go to Notre Dame. I think we’ve got to do a Michigan thing. You still got the Big 12. You still got Louisville every year. You got the two tournaments that everyone wants in that we’re in. Everybody wants those tournaments. The greatest thing about those two neutral games is the four teams that are in it are lucky because the minute anybody would drop out, there would be 50 teams calling and begging to be in those tournaments. Got through the Georgia Tech thing, but, yeah. Mike is a good guy.

From what I understand, they’re doing well, too, and playing good basketball. Let me tell you, he is a hell of a coach, and he is a great guy. I could tell you stories about what makes him a great guy, but he’s doing great.

#3, TyTy Washington, Fr., G

On the sense of urgency coming out of the locker room in the second half…

“Yeah, pretty much he just told us before the game, just spark up onto your training. Pretty much all we’ve been doing, good enough through the season, we are running. We feel like we are in tip top shape, so we feel like the more we run, the better it’s going to work for us. We are also making defense runs, so we just feel like we just have so many weapons so once we get tired, we can sub out and our sub can do the same exact thing. So just coming out of the locker room, we are just focusing on beating them down the floor, making them tired, just really falling back on our work.”

On what was working in game 3…

“I want to say it was a really good game for me. Way too many turnovers but other than that I feel like as the season progresses, we keep playing these games, keep practicing on a high level, or something like that, I’m going to get more and more comfortable with it. I know my teammates got my back regardless on playing good or bad. So, I just know having trust, still having them trust and believe in me and the coaches still believe in me the way they do. I know I’m going to be perfectly fine. Just got to keep going out there and playing it, you know, never force anything. Just let the game come to me. If that’s me scoring, that’s me scoring. If that’s me rebounding, that’s me rebounding. Pretty much doing whatever it takes to win.”

On how much of a lesson was the Duke game…

“It was a huge lesson. You know what Coach Cal says, it was a humbling experience. Which it was. I just went out there and played to the best of my abilities. I just know to keep the trust that the coaches have in me. I know if I keep staying in the gym like they want me to, if I just keep being who I am, I know good or bad, they’re always going to rock with me at a high level. So, I just feel like with them in my pocket, in my corner, I know with them just supporting me and my teammates supporting me, I can do anything.”

#34, Oscar Tshiebwe, Junior, forward

On how much it helps UK’s offense when he can make mid-range jumpers consistently …

“It helped a lot because they were taking the three pointers away from my teammates so that left me one-on-one, that was easy. Now, the teams we are playing next are going to say ‘OK, what can we do to stop Oscar from shooting? What can you do to stop us from going to the rim?’ Now they’re going to leave one of my teammates open.”

On being seen counting how many more rebounds he needs …

“Yes, yes, I looked up and say 16 (reb) and I was like one, two, three, four… I can get that we’ve got four minutes left. I can work for that and I was like ‘come on coach, I need like 4 more for me, I think I can grab that’. But that’s good, I’ll save (those four) for next game.”

On how much better Sahvir Wheeler has already made him this season …

“He makes me better. I like how he talks, I like how he is communicating. Sometimes I miss stuff in the game and he just grabs me and says ‘hey we’ve got to do this! We’ve got to do this!’ He has leadership and he’s so quick, like if he sees somebody doing something that does not really help us he talks to them. Like in the locker room we need to speak and I love Sahvir as my communicator and my relationship with him is so great.”

“I need him because he’s the one that explains that you’ve got to call things. We do so good in practice because we talk a lot and you see out there too I talk a lot on defense and I’ve got to make sure you don’t get screened, and I see the most out of everyone else. So we are doing good so far.”

#12, Keion Brooks Jr., Jr., Forward

On how he had to make sure Oscar Tshiebwe did not get 20 rebounds...

“I wanted him to get 20 rebounds. That’s amazing the way that he does that. I feel like it’s a disservice to him if I don’t go in and rebound myself. I feel like I am a pretty good rebounder, but he is an exceptional rebounder. I feel like it would be hard for teams to rebound with us if Oscar is getting 20 and I am pitching in my eight or 10 where I can.

On if he believes the team is learning continuity throughout the past couple games…

“Yeah, the teams we have played have given us three different looks. Mount St. Mary’s came out tonight and played well in the first half and put a little pressure on us. I feel like our ability to keep pushing and fighting and keep running riled the team a little bit. But I feel like these first three games with those three different looks and three different styles of play from other teams are good for us right now.”

On how Jacob Toppin and other forwards are pushing each other…

“We push each other. It’s not really about the game, it’s about at practice. Every day at practice is like a war. Each and every day we are making each other better. One night it might have been my night, another night Jacob’s, and another night it might be Daimion [Collins]’s. We know that we are prepared because we balance each other every day.”

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

Team Records and Series Notes

  • Kentucky moved above .500 with its second consecutive win to get to 2-1. Mount St. Mary’s dropped to 1-3 this season.
  • UK now leads the series 3-0, including 2-0 in games in Lexington, Kentucky.
  • This was the second of three straight games in the Kentucky Classic, a multi-team event.
  • Next up: Kentucky will wrap up its Kentucky Classic participation when it hosts Ohio on Friday at 7 p.m. in Rupp Arena. The game will be televised on SEC Network.

Team Notes

  • By holding Mount St. Mary’s to 55 points, UK is now 80-0 under head coach John Calipari when limiting the opponent to 55 or fewer.
  • Kentucky limited Mount St. Mary’s to 34.0% from the field, UK’s best defensive percentage of the young season. UK is 211-24 (89.8%) under Calipari when keeping the opponent to 40% or less.
  • UK shot 53.1% from the field, a second consecutive game with better than a 50% clip.
  • The Wildcats made all eight of their free throws and has made 15 of 16 over the last two games.
  • UK won the rebounding 41-27. The Wildcats have won all three games on the backboards by an average of 14 per game.
  • Kentucky dominated points in the paint, 46-16, and led 13-4 in fast break points.

Player Notes

  • Oscar Tshiebwe continued his early season dominance with a career-high 24 points and 16 rebounds for his third straight double-double to open the 2021-22 year.
  • Tshiebwe’s 56 rebounds are the most by a Wildcat over three games to start a career since at least 1956-57 (as far back as comprehensive box scores go).
  • It was his 15th career double-double.
  • Tshiebwe is the first Wildcat with three straight double-doubles since PJ Washington did it in January and February of 2019 and the first UK player with three straight to start a career since Julius Randle opened his Kentucky career with seven straight in the 2013-14 season.
  • He is the first Wildcat with at least 20 points and at least 15 rebounds in a game since Nick Richards posted 25 points and 15 boards vs. Fort Wayne on Nov. 22, 2017.
  • He was 11 of 14 from the floor, a career high for field goals made.
  • He also had three blocks for a second time this season.
  • TyTy Washington Jr. had the best game of his young UK career with 16 points.
  • He made 7 of 12 from the floor, including two 3-pointers.
  • He added three assists.
  • Sahvir Wheeler just missed out on a double-double with 12 points and eight assists.
  • His 30 assists through his first three games as a Wildcat are the most by any UK player to start a career.
  • Keion Brooks Jr. reached double-figure scoring for the second straight game with 10 points in addition to seven rebounds.
  • Kellan Grady added eight points with two 3-pointers.
  • Jacob Toppin (shoulder) and Lance Ware (ankle) did not play because of injury. Both are day-to-day.
  • Toppin also missed the home opener vs. Robert Morris.

Coach Calipari

  • Calipari improved to 341-94 at UK.
  • Calipari has a 786-234 all-time on-court record.
  • UK is 277-55 in games vs. unranked Associated Press competition.
  • Calipari is 2-0 in his career vs. Mount St. Mary’s

In the First Half

  • Kentucky started Sahvir Wheeler, TyTy Washington Jr., Kellan Grady, Keion Brooks Jr. and Oscar Tshiebwe for the third straight game and is now 2-1 with that lineup.
  • Tshiebwe picked up right where he left off in the first two games with a jumper on the Wildcats’ opening possession and scored 10 of UK’s first 16 points.
  • Four of his first five field goals were on jumpers.
  • Daimion Collins was the first sub of the game at the 17:38 mark.
  • Mount St. Mary’s opened the game strong with a 7-4 lead and hung tough for much of the first half. The Wildcats began to separate just a bit at 25-18 after a layup by Brooks at 8:19 to take a 25-18 lead, part of a 9-3 run.
  • Just as it looked like the Wildcats were primed to pull away with a 29-20 lead after a Washington layup, MSM answered with five quick points to cut the deficit to 29-25 and force Calipari to burn a timeout with 4:02 left in the half.
  • Kentucky responded with a 9-2 run to close the half, capped by Washington’s second 3-pointer of the half.
  • UK led 38-27 at halftime.
  • Tshiebwe was dominant again. He scored 14 points, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked two shots in the opening half.
  • He was 6 of 7 from the floor.
  • Washington played the best half of his young career with 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting, including his first two career 3-pointers at Kentucky.

In the Second Half

  • Kentucky started the second half with the same starting five: Wheeler, Washington, Grady, Brooks and Tshiebwe.
  • The Wildcats scored four quick points out of halftime with a Wheeler layup and a Tshiebwe dunk on a slick feed from Wheeler. Mount St. Mary’s called timeout 43 seconds into the half.
  • The timeout did not slow down the Wildcats, who reeled off 13 straight points to begin the second half before MSM’s Josh Reaves ended the run with a 3 at the 15:55 mark.
  • Before the trey, the run had extended what was a 33-27 lead with 1:52 in the first half to a 51-27 Kentucky advantage at the 16:15 mark of the second half, an 18-0 stretch.
  • Another 8-0 run extended Kentucky’s lead to 61-32 with 13:09 to go.
  • The Wildcats’ largest lead was 70-39 (31 points) with 7:24 to play.
  • MSM answered with nine straight points.
  • Tshiebwe paced the Cats in the second stanza with 10 points and nine rebounds.
  • All eight of Grady’s points came in the second half.