Another day, another Rupp Arena blowout in favor of the Kentucky Wildcats.
This time, Western Kentucky was the team to venture into Rupp Arena and get thoroughly manhandled by the Cats, who came away with a 95-60 victory, their ninth of the season.
Because the game got out of hand quickly in the second half, it was strange not seeing Lance Ware or Dontaie Allen ever enter the game, especially after the former gave Kentucky good minutes in the win over North Carolina.
After the game, Calipari revealed Allen suffered an injury in practice, while Ware simply didn’t feel right and opted to sit this one out.
John Calipari on Dontaie Allen, who did not play again tonight: "He hurt himself in practice...I asked Dontaie before the game, 'How you feeling?' 'I’m a little shaky.'" Lance Ware also said he wasn't feeling right, so he didn't play.— Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) December 23, 2021
Hopefully, we’ll see both guys back on the court against Missouri next week.
Here is a recap of what Calipari and select players had to say after the win via UK Athletics.
Q. Cal, how much when Kellan Grady is shooting like he has the last two weeks just kind of open up things for everybody in your offense?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, when you — again, we’re not a team — we only took 20 threes. You know, “You should be taking 40 threes.” No, no. You’re trying to win at the highest level. There are games you’re going to take 20, 15, maybe 22. Any time my team has taken 30 threes we’ve lost. Now, maybe it’s the way I coach, I don’t know. But what we did today was we continued to pass to each other. We had one guy that drove some passes that he could have made that led to turnovers that led to (Western Kentucky) getting back in before the half. But the reality is we had 27 assists. That’s how you play basketball and that’s how you create for each other.
Q. You put Oscar (Tshiebwe) back in there. Did you want to let him chase some more? Was he going for 30, and what did you make of just...
JOHN CALIPARI: I got mad because we had some guys, your minutes, and if you’re not going to play you’re out. I’ll put the guys back in. I’m not settling for that. There is a high standard here. Then a minute later I put them back in. But I think you got to hold kids to a standard and hold them accountable, so I took them out and then I put them back in. They wanted me to leave (Tshiebwe) in to go get 30 rebounds and I just didn’t want to do it. I said 28 is enough. Leave them alone.
Q. What did you think of that effort (by Oscar Tshiebwe)? Twenty-eight (rebounds) is the (Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center) record.
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, in the first half — and we told (Tshiebwe), you know, you better shoot it quick on (Western Kentucky center Jamarion Sharp) because if you try to bounce it and move he’s just seven foot, he doesn’t move. The kid blocked the shot and made it hard. When he was able to catch it and go right to the basket he scored, but in the first half they outrebounded us. (Western Kentucky head coach) Rick (Stansbury) went to that 1-3-1 (defense). It confused us a little bit. We were able to talk about it at halftime. I said at halftime, They’re either going to do one of two things: They’re either going to go man-to-man or they are going to 1-3-1, and they went man-to-man. And so we were trying to run some of your grinded stuff to create opportunities, and the kids did well. How about Kellan Grady? How about Jacob Toppin? And it’s not his skill. It’s just energy, you know, getting after it. Now, he had some breakdowns. There were some rebounds he needed to go get. But his energy was terrific. Or speed with Sahvir (Wheeler) and TyTy (Washington Jr.). Kellan flies. I was happy to see Davion (Mintz) make a shot or two. You know, look, we’re a good team. I always say is it your opinion or your hope? We’re a good team. When we pass the ball and play this way, we’re a good team. And so like I said, it’s a great way to go to Christmas, you know, back-to-back two really good games and unbelievable energy. You know, it’s good to go to Christmas. I mean, I told them, you know, how many of you guys — this morning at the shootaround, how many of you guys are ready to go for Christmas? Who was the first person to raise their hand? Me. Me, I’m ready. They all laughed and they said, “We’re all ready.” Well let’s have a great game so we could have a good Christmas. A great game means we’re going to be the best defensive team and play extremely hard, harder than the guy we are playing, and they did it.
Q. Just a few games ago Kellan (Grady) was struggling with his shooting. What you did think made the difference there?
JOHN CALIPARI: You know, he and I went to the gym and I worked with him. I took him out at North Carolina. He passed up on two shots, you’re out. I won’t pass them up again. How many has he passed up to step out of bounds in the corner? Now, the other thing was the reason you’re having to pass up a shot, you’re catching it like it’s H-O-R-S-E game and you’re dropping it before — now he does it. When he’s open wherever he catches it, he shoots it from there. Well now you’re going to get it off.
I’m trying to get Davion (Mintz) to do the same thing, because he drives by jump shots, and now you put yourself in jeopardy. And those turnovers end up being breakouts, so just shoot it. In the second half Davion put the shot at the top of the key. He missed it, but we rebounded it. Kicked it out and Keion (Brooks Jr.) ended up getting the three points. Now, he could have driven it and turned it over and breakout. That’s why I’m saying shoot balls.
Q. The other question I wanted to ask, you had 27 assists (as a team). How does that number play on your mind?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, we’re trying to get 18 (assists) a game. 20 would be better, but 18. And part of it is you got to make the baskets. So it’s hard to get assists when you go 2-for-19 or you can miss a jump shot or you miss and stick back easy baskets. It’s hard, so you got to make baskets. How about this? You got to make the pass, and the only way we’ll he’ll get open is if you’re not trying to make the play yourself. You’re just giving it up and moving it. We got ball movement. We then drive, and all of a sudden the guys that collapsed on the weak side, we get a good shot on a good pass.
Q. Can you just look at TyTy (Washington Jr.)’s stat sheet and tell me what you see there and is that just kind of the efficient game you expect from him?
JOHN CALIPARI: Yep. That’s who he is. He’s a terrific player. You know what else he is? A good defender. He’s a good rebounder, and he’s comfortable in his own skin.
Q. Is Dontaie (Allen) injured or something else going on there?
JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, he hurt himself in practice. I went to stick Lance (Ware) in and Lance said, “Coach, I’m not feeling right. You know, I’m not loose or whatever.” I’m fine with it. I mean, because I was going to Lance and said let Daimion (Collins) play.
So that’s what happened. And I asked Dontaie before the game, how are you feeling? “Eh, I’m a little shaky.”
Q. Cal, this is two straight really, really good performances for you guys coming on not necessarily a short week, but short notice on the opponent and having to scramble on who you’re playing. Is there something about that team that when it’s a challenge like this maybe they respond?
JOHN CALIPARI: I’ve got a very, very smart basketball team. And this is crazy, I’ve got some older guys that understand how to be engaged, how to be laser focused. They know because they play. I got some young guys that are still learning, but I got a veteran group.
Q. I wanted to ask about the tornado relief. I think they said 4.6 million (dollars raised), and I wondered what you though when the governor was introduced at halftime. There were boos, audible boos. What do you think of that?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, because you’re telling me, (Lexington Herald-Leader reporter Jerry Tipton), there may have been six people booing and you’ll say there were boos. I will tell you that I don’t — that doesn’t bother me. It’s all what our government, our state government is doing to help our people. We raised 4.7 million (dollars). I think they gave 100,000 to the game, to the American Red Cross, and so now the whole point is, where are we putting this money? We got to get money in people’s pockets, like money, money, but we’re going to have to do something about housing. It’s got to be long term. How are we rebuilding downtowns?
You know, we went down and, again, we did some shoots, which are immediate stuff. We raised $5 million, so now it becomes a chore of the government, and it’s got to be public, private, there is no question. But today — and let me thank all the fans. I know the fans know it wasn’t our fault that we had to play Western (Kentucky). I’m so happy for Western and Rick (Stansbury) that they were able to join us in this, and then have people see a good game. Like we played well. That’s — we are — it’s not that they didn’t — they beat Louisville by 10; could have been more. They beat Mississippi. They played, whether it was Memphis on the road — this team, his team is good. That’s an NCAA Tournament team. They’ll be in their league championship race and the tournament championship race, and we beat them pretty good. But I will tell you that, you know, all of it from our are governor to our legislature, it’s all hands on deck. How about this? Federal government, FEMA, let’s go. It’s got to happen now. I will go back to Mayfield, Dawson Springs. I talked to the high school coach. He’s bringing up his team to watch us practice. I mean, if they call me to come down, I will be down first thing I can be there. If there is any way any of us, and I know that’s all of our coaches. That’s (Kentucky Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart). What Mitch did today to say we’re giving money to this, that’s a big deal, and just appreciate what he’s doing.
Q. You talk a lot about not letting go of the rope over the years. Both these games this week it was looking like it is going to get close at halftime and then your guys turned it into a blowout after that. What does that say about this team’s progression?
JOHN CALIPARI: I think conditioning-wise that the other guys know, Holy cow, these guys don’t stop. Again, free throws. I’m going to say it again: They shot more than us. They did. But I’m telling you, those floaters, and you saw them, the inside out stuff, Oscar (Tshiebwe) next to the basket, the one good thing is we ended up shooting — does that say 56%? I can’t see it. But the game doesn’t stop. Here we come. We are, pressing, we’re running, it doesn’t stop, and that’s the way we want the game. Now, we’re going to be playing teams that are going to try to shorten the game, so I got to figure out ways when they’re trying to throw 15, 20 passes before they play, what are we going to do? How do we say, you’re not playing that way? Well, I’ve coached teams and had to do different things like that, and I got some time over Christmas that I’ll look at some things, if they’re trying to hold it, what are we going to do, how are we going to play? But I’m happy that these guys get to go home for Christmas. And again, I’ll say it: If anybody wants to know about Ohio State and how they play, I watched about five, six hours. If you want to know about Louisville and how they play, I watched about five, six hours of that tape. So you’re right, it was a quick turnaround to play North Carolina and this team. Tells you really sharp, smart players who are engaged and really focused on how we got to do this to win.
#31, Kellan Grady, Gr. Guard
On the difference in his shooting abilities from this game and earlier this season …
“At Davidson, we were a three-point shooting team, but there were some shots where we would rather use the shot clock. I realized quickly in the first half against Carolina that if I’m open, regardless of whether it’s 26 on the shot clock or six on the shot clock, I’m supposed to shoot it. So that was really all I needed to hear. I guess I kind of should have known that already, but it’s great to have a coach that believes in you and wants you to shoot.”
On Oscars Tshiebwe’s rebound record …
“It’s hard to put into words frankly, and that’s the honest truth. CJ [Fredrick] and I were sitting on the bench towards the end of the game and we were just both like, I’ve just never seen anything like this. I realized that he was getting most of the rebounds. Apparently, he out-rebounded Western, just himself. He out-rebounded the whole team. They only had 27 rebounds. But it’s incredible. I mean, just his will and his motor, and his effort and his heart. It just becomes contagious. When you see how hard Oscar plays, we end up playing that hard. And he was plus-35 today. So, he gives us 28 rebounds and he’s 35 points better on the court. We’ll take that.”
On the difference in energy the last few games …
“I think we’ve had an added chip on our shoulder. I think the Notre Dame game, I think when the season’s over and we look back at that game, we’ll be filled with gratitude. We didn’t play great. They played well enough to win. And we did some things, and it exposed some things that we just need to work on, and some of our weaknesses. We have responded and it’s frankly been a maturation process for us. I’m really proud to be a part of this team and to see the way we’ve responded. The biggest thing is the ball is flying around the court and we’re playing really fast. I think we had 27 assists today. That’s just incredible. I’m not sure the exact number against Carolina, but the ball was moving. As evidenced by today and against Carolina, it just leads to great shots and a lot of fun. You can see the joy that we’re playing with. So, a combination of all those factors have led to our success the last two games.”
#34, Oscar Tshiebwe, Jr., Forward
On setting the rebound record …
“First of all, that’s crazy. It is crazy. For me, when I go out there, I just go to fight. When I stop fighting is when the time is up. The game is over. That’s when I stop fighting. It’s about fighting. When I came here, I told everybody, I told the coach: I don’t care about points. I am going to get my points, but I just want to go out and grab every rebound and fight to get the rebound. When I get 20 rebounds, I give more positions. It might seem that it is helping us to win again. That’s one thing I did the best today, and we got a victory. For me, it’s all about victory. That’s what I am there for.”
On the locker room celebration with his teammates …
“That was amazing. Something like that has never happened in my life. It was amazing to see my teammates celebrate and pour water on me like that. They called me ‘The Machine.’ I think you can call me a peaceful little guy. I don’t think I qualify as a machine yet. Coach Cal let me go for those three. Then if I go out with 30, maybe you can call me the machine. But right now, probably call me a beast. Got it?”
On the reason for being a successful rebounder …
“I am not the tallest guy, but I have big heart. When you need something, it does not matter how big you are. My god said everything is possible. He did not say for certain people, he said to everybody. When you go for it, you’re going to get it. If you don’t go for it, they’re not going to bring it to you. For me, I just go for it and fight for it. That’s what I do: Fight. When you go to fight, you are waiting, and you always turn, you’re going to come out with something good. But when you stop fighting, that’s where you cannot get what you’re looking for. I never stop fighting. I am always fighting until the time is up. And I am so blessed. God has been so good to me because I run better, and I move better. And I have morals. I give thanks to God for about every single day in my life for everything that God has blessed me with. So, I will keep doing the best I can to glorify his name and to thank him for everything. And I got to do the things I got to do to help this team.