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Cal and the Cats recap Florida A&M

Cupcake season is over.

Calipari Florida A&M Dylan Ballard - A Sea Of Blue

The Kentucky Wildcats picked up a 88-68 win over Florida A&M on Wednesday. Despite the 20-point win there wasn’t too much to get excited about outside of a stellar performance for Cason Wallace, as he finished with 27 points, nine assists and only two turnovers. Kentucky also shot an impressive 56.5% from deep.

Kentucky also was a 37.5-point Vegas favorite, failing to cover against a team that was ranked 358th at KenPoms. The Cats also shot a rough 68% from the free throw line.

Despite the disappointing stats, a win is a win. The Cats move on to facing Missouri on the road next game as SEC play begins.

John Calipari, Cason Wallace, Lance Ware, and CJ Fredrick spoke with the media after the game, which you can see below (transcripts via UK Athletics).




#22, Cason Wallace, G

On if he approached this game differently ...

I think I came to the game with a different mindset and tried to get to the basket a little bit instead of shooting so many threes and it led to me being more aggressive on offense.”

On if his game tonight was more like how he played in high school ...

Yeah, the threes had started falling so I kind of fell in love with it but getting back to that old feel and getting open shots (felt good).”

On if the free throws are a mental thing for the team ...

Yeah, we shoot them at practice, and we take them seriously so it feels worse when it does not go in, we are shooting them with confidence so they will start falling.”

#1, CJ Fredrick, G

On how good it feels to get out there and make some shots ….

“It felt good. You know just staying confident in my shooting and I’m going to work every day. It’s no different than coming to practice and working. So, it felt good to come out here and make some shots and help my team win.”

On how the team fed off of Cason today ….

“It was huge, we found something the last five minutes and we just kept rolling with it. Got the ball in his hands coming off of a double drag and just him making plays.”

On was making transitions key to your win ….

“For sure, the big emphasis on tonight was playing good and then getting out on the break and trying to get easy buckets. And trying to get them confused in transition and trying to free up Oscar for a free throw shot.”

#55, Lance Ware, F

On being in the starting lineup …

“It was fun, it was fun. Just getting to go out there and get the game started and get to bring my intensity and all my energy from the get-go, instead of having to wait. It was fun.”

On when he knew he was going to start …

“They told me this morning. Same mindset, the only difference is that I don’t get to see the game going up and down (from the bench), I have to hop right in there and go hard.”

On if the offense changes when he and Oscar are playing together …

“People will say that the spacing might be bad or stuff like that, but me and Oscar probably had a little mishap in the beginning of the game when we were right on top of each other, but spacing wasn’t too bad tonight. We had a lot of high-lows and offensive rebounds and just pushed the other team underneath the basket. That is probably our best offense when me and Oscar are out there, is just rebound everything.”

John Calipari

Q. Does Cason have another level in his game despite what he did on the floor tonight?

JOHN CALIPARI: Well, he made shots tonight. You know, we’ve got to keep working with him as he plays point. Decision making, seeing the court better. What he did today is he made shots so you couldn’t go under on the pick-and-roll. He dings a ball in.

But he’s a terrific player.

Let me just say this: Really happy. I thought Chris did some good stuff. I thought Adou did some good stuff. I really did.

Lance got the biggest rebound of the game on that missed free throw, and kick it out and we make a three, and it basically ends the game.

We’re still not — we left two time-outs and didn’t run stuff the right way, and one of them the guy asked me, ‘so you want me to do this?’ ‘Yeah.’ And he didn’t do it.

We’re still not — I told them after the game, you cannot be worried about how you’re playing. You’ve got to worry about how we’re playing. We’ve got to talk.

I like with Lance, we’re physical. We’re not getting bullied when he’s in there. Now we’ve just got to figure some other stuff out.

It doesn’t mean he’s going to play 35 minutes a game, but you put him in, he mixes it up, he defends, he talks. He’s trying to do stuff.

Q. Where is the balance; you’ve got some guys that are struggling and want to let them play through that versus I’ve got to win the game…?

JOHN CALIPARI: Well, this one, like it got to 10 points, so you could imagine what if we lost the game: Why did you let him play through and you lose to Florida A&M? We had to play to win the game at the end. We did good stuff. We posted, we did it, Oscar — that’s how we finish a game. Not this team, but that’s the first time. We ran clock, ran clock, ran clock, posted the ball, foul, two-point, they don’t have enough time now to catch up.

But, like I said, I’m not budging. This team, we — combinations matter with this group. We’re going to have to have some good combinations. We’re still a work in progress, and I would tell everybody, just be patient. You know, if you’ve watched me work and coach in the past, it takes time to get it all together, and I’m not panicked. Some of the guys, I’m the biggest proponent for guys in that room.

We’ve got work to do now. We do. How about we didn’t defend today like we’ve been defending. It’s crazy. I mean, the one thing that we could rely on is that we would really, really guard. Well, they beat us on the bounce, they beat us shooting threes, they beat us offensive rebounding. We just had a little bit more than them, but Robert had his team ready to go.

Q. CJ had a big night —

JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, we need CJ to win. We really do. I’m going to tell you, he’s the one that made the pass to Oscar to get the two free throws. There were other passes that we’re throwing that you’re like, dude, you threw to the inside. That almost got stolen. Those are things that, he’s not going to make those kind of errors.

I told him, like, I believe in you, kid. Making shots and making plays and he fights on defense, we switched, he fronted. The reason I had those guys in at the end, they’re veterans, playing to win.

Q. This is another game against another HBCU; how important are these matchups and the Unity Series as a whole to you and your team?

JOHN CALIPARI: Well, I think it’s important that we’re using our platform here to promote other programs, and especially programs that are terrific programs that people don’t know about. The HBCUs, you’re talking about terrific coaches. It was fun walking the line after telling guys they played so well. They’re thanking us for the hospitality.

But why we did it, how about we get a chance to honor Reggie Warford. That’s a big deal. People, I would say they wouldn’t know Reggie — one of you guys wrote a story they sent to me. I don’t look at names, but they sent me, and I read the Reggie article one of you did.

When I read it, I said, ‘I can’t believe this because now everyone knows what I know’, and Goose was in it and it talked about his importance. His family is here, Marissa is here, his two sons are here. So tying it all together is a pretty big deal.

Doing the series and continuing it, doing it next year — again, you have to understand, now I’m getting all the calls from all their coaches, ‘we’ve got to be the next team, it’s got to be us.’ It wouldn’t have been so fun if we got beat, but we didn’t, and we get to go home for Christmas with a 20-point win.

Q. On the defense, was it a lack of intensity? Is it because you’re using different combinations —

JOHN CALIPARI: Partly. Partly. The other thing is, like I had to ask them at halftime, ‘who are the two guys that have all the points. Do you know the number? Why would you leave the guy?’ There were two guys, and you left them, or you went out and guarded them with your arms down. ‘Are you crazy? Are you not watching?’

Again, this is hard. You know, playing here and playing for teams that come in and are inspired to play, you’ve got to bring it. If you’re into you and you’re out there by yourself, this is impossible. You have to be together, all of you and talking. We did some good stuff, but at halftime — no one shot 50 percent on us this year. They did. I don’t know what the game was. They shot 52 for the game? That’s the first team to do that to us.

Now, just so you know, my stuff has been packed since this morning, and my guess is their stuff has been packed since this morning, too, and ready to get out of here, but there’s no excuse for what they did to us offensively. But give them credit; they were playing inspired.

Again, they haven’t shot the ball from the three that way all year, but they did today.

Q. John, with SEC play on the horizon, how do you assess the mental toughness of your team so far this season?

JOHN CALIPARI: You know, I mean, the free-throw shooting is driving me crazy because we should be one of the best in the country. We’re missing front-end one-on-ones, like badly, like demoralizingly.

Now, just like anything else, they bank three shots in. That’s how it is here. Bank, bank, you’re like, that’s normal here.

But we should be one of the best free-throw shooting teams. Again, that is mental toughness. I don’t know if you know, in the Power Five Gonzaga games, we’re shooting 58 percent from the foul line. 58 percent. You can’t win games shooting 58 percent. We’re taking four more threes than all those teams per game. Four more. So you’re doing some things different, but making free throws is how you advance.

We’ve got to do it. We haven’t been doing it. We’re doing different things and making them shoot one-on-ones and make 10 in a row and make 100 before you leave the gym. I really believe the more attention you bring to it, the worse it gets. I also know it is contagious; when one guy gets up and misses two, the next guy is missing two.

So I like, like Cason today, I said, here’s a good one: ‘Don’t get fouled, then you don’t have to miss it.’ That’s what I said to him. ‘Don’t get fouled; how about that? Don’t even try. Just avoid it and lay it in.’

Like I said, we’re one of those teams that hasn’t figured all this stuff out yet, and you notice I tried all different kind of combinations today, but I wanted to see them. I wanted to see what looked — I thought maybe Ugonna and Oscar together would be okay. Oscar has got to guard a four and he left their four twice for I think six points. Like, you can’t leave that guy; he’s a shooter.

Again, you may say, well, it’s the first time you played him, and you’re right. You’re right. Maybe we do it again. I thought Ugonna in the second half did some good stuff. I thought Adou played well. It’s kind of like waiting your turn, and he’s the one guy that hasn’t had the opportunity that the other guys on the team have had. But his time is coming, you watch.

I’ll say this, and I’m not saying this lightly. I don’t know when it’s going to happen, but he will have a huge impact on college basketball. He will. Because he can play basketball. He’s tough physically. Plays better in the games than he does in practice, to be honest with you. He does stuff, I’m like ‘why?’ — if you showed me all this stuff when we practiced, you’re building the confidence in me, too. But I’ll tell you, he’s a great kid. I love him. I hugged him, I said, ‘Look, man, I love you; you’re going to be fine.’ But it’s hard not playing.

Can I just say Merry Christmas to everyone here, and I hope you’re with family, and I hope you get a chance to step back and reflect and know all the good stuff for you and your family, all the things that have happened, being thankful for all that, and I’m going to be able to be with my family, so I’m kind of excited.