It’s crazy to think the Wildcats were playing their 18th game of the season in late January on Wednesday and had yet to really have a gut-check win this season.
Despite already having 14 wins, those all came by double-digits, many of which in the 20+ point margin. Kentucky simply hadn’t found a way to win those three close games that turned into losses, and their wins all came in rather easy fashion.
This was the first game the Cats had to really battle in for 40 minutes and actually found a way to come away victorious. They did just that with their 64-58 triumph at Texas A&M, who was playing in front of a record-breaking crowd at Reed Arena that had to have their hearts broken on this night.
After the game, head coach John Calipari and select players virtually met with the media to discuss the win. Here is a recap of what they said via UK Athletics.
Opening statement …
“Let me hit on a couple of things. First of all, I did a really bad job in this pick and roll stuff for Sahvir (Wheeler) and made him look bad. We’ve got to be better prepared for what we’re doing and talk them through – you’ve got to drill them. This is what we’re doing.
“The second thing, that I loved, a couple of guys didn’t play well. That’s OK. You’re not machines, you’re not robots. Other guys stepped in and played well. How about Jacob (Toppin) and how he played? How about Lance (Ware)? When Lance went in, when we needed him. And went in and, we ran an offense through him? Unbelievable. Then, what happened with TyTy (Washington Jr.), we were going to him, he turned it over twice. I took him out and said ‘hey kid, in a big game, this is who you are? You can’t make a play? You turn it over? You’ve got to prove, in this game, you can make baskets.’ And I stuck him back in and went at him and he made two big hoops. He kind of bowed his neck and I was happy with that.”
#0 Jacob Toppin, Jr., Forward
On how many positions he guarded tonight …
“As I’ve said before in the past, whoever coach needs me to guard, I’m going to guard and I’m going to do it with pride because I take pride in my defense. So, whoever is in front of me, I’m going to try my hardest to stop them.”
On how the team played down the stretch …
“Down the stretch, we definitely made plays that won us the game. We definitely played a lot better in the last four minutes. Coach has always emphasized the last four minutes of the game if we’re in a close game situation, how we’re going to finish. And I think we did a pretty well job of finishing the game. We still have some things we need to work on but that’s just a part of basketball. So, we’re going to go back to the drawing board, see what we need to fix and get better at it.”
#10 Davion Mintz, Gr., Guard
On winning ugly …
“We had four threes tonight. We missed a ton of free throws. We turned the ball over. We just didn’t get in a rhythm. Credit to them, they played hard. They’re a good team and it was a great environment. That was SEC basketball tonight. It was what it was. We learned a lot about ourselves and I’m just proud of this team that we stuck together because we’ve struggled a lot in the last four minutes. Just to know that we finally got one under our belts in crunch time. That’s big for our confidence going forward.”
On poor shooting …
“It’s just the way the game is. My first one, having to chuck it up with two seconds left as soon as I got in the game, that kind of threw me out of rhythm, just to have that be my first shot I had to take. I can’t speak for Kellan (Grady), he’s a great shooter. For both of us, our mentality, we can miss 200 shots, I’m going to keep shooting.”