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John Calipari and Keion Brooks recap Cats’ loss to Ole Miss

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The Cats keep finding new ways to shoot themselves repeatedly in the foot.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Mississippi Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats suffered yet another crushing loss Tuesday night, falling 70-62 to the Ole Miss Rebels.

Following Kentucky’s 15th loss of the season, head coach John Calipari and sophomore forward Keion Brooks Jr. recapped the game in UK’s postgame Zoom session. Here is a recap of what they had to say via UK Athletics.

John Calipari

On getting outrebounded by Ole Miss …

“You summed it up, Larry (Vaught). How about we have 16 assists and seven turnovers? What’s that usually mean for us” [Reporter: Normally would mean a win]. Yeah. Not when you get outrebounded and absolutely—it’s just disappointing because all I keep saying is, look, we’ve just got to worry about us being our best. Well, you’ve got guys who are trying to be cute. I don’t know. I don’t have an answer. When it’s you and that guy and he throws you to the floor or you’re not ready to battle or you don’t hit first, you’re not going to get the ball.

“But again, this is another game we could win. I mean, we’ve had one game where I had a bad game plan against Alabama the first time. Every other game we could have won. I hate to tell you, probably a bunch of them we could have lost, too. I mean, if you fight, you win. ‘Well, I don’t like to fight. It’s physical and I get pushed and stuff.’ You know, it’s just disappointing, but you know what, got to get ready for Saturday. And all I’m telling them is, like I said after, ‘You get beat by 16 rebounds, you’re not winning. You guys act like you want to win. Then go get balls, go get rebounds.’ We started the game, we didn’t rebound. We were down seven rebounds, or eight, at half, I think. And the whole game plan was, just like Tennessee, you have to fight and take that out of the game. If you do—and again, this is a team that creates turnovers now. What they do is, other teams have 15, 16, 17 turnovers a game against them. We had seven. And again, they went to 1-3-1, didn’t really bother us. We had one play that Davion (Mintz) threw is cross-court. Like, what? Why would you do that? Other than that, we missed some shots. I put Dontaie (Allen) in and again, if we’re missing shots, Dontaie is going to play. He missed one, I wish he would have taken more, but they’re playing him not to give him shots. But he needs to be in the game right now. But it wasn’t the shooting or not having Dontaie in. It’s you lose by 16 rebounds. That was the game. Boom. But I look at it and I’m saying, OK, who’s playing well and who’s not and let’s roll with those guys.”

On what’s the most disappointing part of this season …

“That we were right on the edge of pushing over the edge to go the right way and be right there and do some crazy stuff and then they revert back to what is easier and what they’d rather do. Normally my teams understand, ‘OK, I’ve got it, I see what he’s saying, I’m hearing him now and this is the way I play.’ And then they go on from here and they’ve learned how to fight, how to make it personal with another player. ‘It’s you and me’. And they learn all that here. They learn that winning matters. They learn dagger plays. They know what they are. And we were getting to where I’m like, all right, we’re getting this. We’re going to be good. We’re going to be one of those teams and all we have to do is crack this and this and this is going to be one of those. And then we revert back for two games. Totally revert back.

“And again, you’re looking at guys and you’re saying, what they don’t understand when they do this, each individual player, you just don’t look like a good player. But when you’re fighting and you’re doing it together and you’re creating shots for each other, shots that we can make and the game is easier, all of the sudden, everyone on the team looks like, ‘Wow, guy’s really good. He’s this guy.’ But we’re just not cracking it yet. And, let’s hope. Look, it’s not over. It ain’t over ‘til it’s over. We’ve got one Saturday and we’ve got a league tournament and, you know, like I said, everybody we play, we can beat or they can beat us. That’s where we are with this.”

On if this team has a “dog” among this group …

“Well, we still, I haven’t been able to empower this team, as you can tell, late in games. Like, we just will walk out of a timeout and guys do the wrong things. They’re not an empowered team. And an empowered team takes things on themselves and we’re not there. But I keep coming back to, the way this was and what it was, it’s been hard on these kids. I get it. But, I’m used to winning. I’m not used to (this). Folks, you haven’t asked me, ‘What’s your postgame? What do you say to these guys?’ I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m saying right or wrong because I haven’t been there for 35 years.

“But to get them to understand you’ve got to fight, you’ve got to make this personal, you’ve got to figure out, in your own mind, what gets you going. I’m not the one who can get you going or another coach. You. All this stuff that they’ve got to learn. And, you know, I said to them, you know, I’m happy that I’m able to walk with them through this because this has been hard. And I’m happy that I’m able to walk through with them. I just want to have an impact as a coach. There are times you look at this team and you say, ‘That’s one of his teams.’ There are other times you look and say, ‘Has he coached these guys?’

“So, you know, it’s winding down, we’re up against it now. We’re playing a team (Saturday) that just won by 30. They beat Georgia by 30, South Carolina. And, you know, let’s see. They played a 2-3 zone, and I called Frank (Martin) and said, ‘Don’t you come in here with that 2-3 zone.’ You know Frank’s teams, how they play.

“Look, I’m not quitting on these kids. I’m not cracking. You can tell, my mindset is fine. I’m not used to this but, you know what, I’ve said how many times, I don’t have a magic wand. Now, everybody believes me. I don’t have a magic wand. If I had one, I’d be using it on individual players and the team.”

On if they go with Davion Mintz at point guard going forward …

“Maybe, maybe. We’ll see. Look, I love Devin (Askew). This kid works so hard and cares so much. But he’s learning. He basically reclassified. He should still be in high school. Then going through all this and then you have a bad game or two, it piles up on you.

“Here’s what I keep saying to the guys: The adversity, if you make it about our team, you’re only going to have a small piece of it. If all this stuff is only about you and how you’re playing, it weighs heavy on you because it’s only your stuff. How about our stuff? How about our team right now? How about you do something to help us win? Which would have been rebounding. Whoever, I don’t care, guard, forward, center. Rebound. We’re getting mauled. ‘Well, yeah, but I missed two shots and I missed a free throw.’ What? This had nothing to do with any of that. And I liked what we were trying to do against them and how we played. But when you get a 16-rebound difference, you’re not winning.”

On how Mintz looked at point guard and what the team did well with him in that position …

“And he wants to, that’s the other side of it. He wants to be that guy. The only thing I told him was, he passed up on some jump shots. And I said, you still have to shoot balls for us. Now, maybe I’m asking you to do a lot – defend, run the team and shoot balls – but we need that. The other thing is, with him at point, it gets a chance for Dontaie to maybe come in now and be that other guard, too.

“I like Jacob (Toppin). why am I playing Jacob like I am. [Reporter: Energy]. And he defends. So now, he can guard a guard and you noticed, when he was out, that kid went crazy. He’s just doing whatever he wanted. With (Toppin) in there, it made it harder for him. And again, you know, shooting the way we are and then not rebounding makes it tough. But we had our chance. Make a free throw. I got mad. Normally I don’t do much on that but I had enough of missed free throws. Front end (of) one-and-ones, Second one, missed it. I had enough. Two misses, no. And that’s why I went crazy, I shouldn’t have but that’s the emotional part of me. Thanks, guys.”

Keion Brooks Jr.

On what gives him hope for the rest of the season …

“What gives me hope is I know how our guys work hard every single day. Sometimes stuff doesn’t go your way but my teammates and I, we continue to fight. We continue to battle. So, that’s what gives me hope going forward.”

On how Ole Miss dominated the rebounding category…

“They wanted it more than us at the end of the day. They were more physical at the point of attack, kind of knocking us out of the way a little bit. It just came down to us against you, who’s going to get the ball. And they got a majority of them, if not all of them.”

On Davion Mintz being the “go-to guy”…

“I’ve got faith in Davion and Devin (Askew) as our point guards to get us into stuff and to make the right decisions. Like I said, they both do a great job of getting us into our stuff and they both do the best that they can. When Davion’s on the ball, he does a great job of pushing the tempo and getting us great looks. They’re similar but different. Devin does some things a little different than Davion, but you don’t want two players that are exactly the same. So, I have the utmost faith in both of them to play well at that point guard position.”

On tonight’s free throw shooting …

“We just had a couple bad rolls, bad bounces. We had some where the ball hit the rim five times and popped out. We had other ones where it literally just rolled out of the rim. With that being said we’ve still got to knock the free throws down. Like you said, we’re a good free-throw shooting team and we can’t let stuff like that happen.”