The Kentucky Wildcats took a brutal loss to South Carolina on Tuesday in a 71-68 defeat as 20-point favorites in Vegas.
The Gamecocks came to Lexington regarded as the worst team in SEC. In the game prior, they lost by 40 at home to Tennessee.
The Wildcats struggled in a major way to start out the game, as South Carolina started the game on a 21-8 run. Kentucky could never fully dig out of the hole, as John Calipari said in the postgame, “We lost the game in the first half”
With that being said, the Cats did fight back in the second half and got back within one and even down three in the final possession of the game with the ball, but they couldn’t figure out a way to get a bucket.
The Kentucky fans seeing the sky falling and Cal and the players addressed it after the game with me and other media members.
“This was probably the worst loss in the history of Kentucky, in my opinion,” said Oscar Tshiebwe,
Here’s a recap of what everyone said (transcripts via UK Athletics
Coach Calipari opens the press conference pic.twitter.com/n31kYCVkfy— Dylan Ballard (@DylanBallard_UK) January 11, 2023
Coach Calipari talks about the current situation of the team and the fans and says stick with the kids.— Dylan Ballard (@DylanBallard_UK) January 11, 2023
“The fans should be mad”
Take a listen. Very interesting pic.twitter.com/gZFRhiHQn3
JOHN CALIPARI: Offensively we looked better. But, you know — and in the end a loose ball we don’t get. We do a great job of guarding them and a guy runs in and gets a tip. We didn’t block him out.
Those are winning plays. Those are the difference between win and losing. And making some free throws. But it’s just — you know, this is a long season. It’s a marathon. Am I happy? No, I’m not happy. I hate losing. We were undermanned, but it doesn’t matter. You’re still playing to win.
The first half I was just like, you know, come on. And look, this team, I got to be a little bit of everything with this team. First of all, I’ve got to build them up. But I’ve still got to hold them accountable. And you’re looking at guys, like going nuts on people right now is not the answer. It’s just not the answer.
Now can I be tougher on them in practice and all that? Yeah, I can. But, you know, again, there were things today that I look at and I just say, We’re better than that.
Now, for me, this is a marathon. I still think this team could be good. Got to have a full roster and then we got to go.
I thought offensively we did some good stuff today. But defensively, you know, again, you have six turnovers in a game and you lose the game. I’ve not heard that before. But, again, you know, they outrebound us. So, questions?
Q. You say it’s a long season, but is there a sense of urgency that there comes a point, hey, we’ve got to get this thing turned around?
JOHN CALIPARI: Today. Today was a sense of urgency. So now we got the next one. It’s a hard game up at Tennessee. They’re really good. All right, let’s go. Let’s see where we are. You just keep marching.
You got teams that will play us that have nothing to lose and all of a sudden they’re making shots and banking and doing things that they’re not normally doing.
But let me give South Carolina credit, they played well. In the first half, their start and the plays they made, some straight-line drives. I mean everybody’s going at Oscar so we’ve got to figure out some stuff. We’re trying to do it different ways but we’re going to have to see what we do to keep people from running downhill. Because that’s not, we’re going to have to figure it out.
Q. Four three-point attempts in the first 35 minutes. How did it get to that point? How does that happen?
JOHN CALIPARI: They didn’t trap as much on Oscar (Tshiebwe) where you could get more off. We were running some things to get threes, but they were running us off the three-point line and we were taking twos.
We shot almost 51 percent for the game. We took 10. We only made three. And the guys that were supposed to shoot them were shooting them.
Q. Right before the Michigan State game you put out a statement and said that this team’s going to take time, that they had some issues that you were seeing. Are you still seeing those same issues this far in the season or is it a new set of things that this team’s just kind of evolved into?
JOHN CALIPARI: I thought that we would be a hell of a defensive team and we’ve got to shore that up, because that’s the basis of what we do.
Again, having the right guys on the court — because we can play with guards and, again, undermanned without Cason (Wallace), without Jacob (Toppin). But now Chris (Livingston) gives you a toughness that we need. So, they’re going to have to carve up time.
Q. You talk about some of the fans piling on players and they’re piling on you big time. What do you say to the fan base at this point?
JOHN CALIPARI: Stick with these kids. If you want to get on me, that’s fine. I’m the coach. If we weren’t ready to play, then I’ve got to look at me and say, well, what, why, where were we mentally.
And I was trying things today to get them in a positive mindset. Because it’s hard. It’s hard here. I mean, I always say, this isn’t for everybody. Including coaches. It’s not for everybody.
When things go bad like this, there’s, you know. So, if you want to be mad, be mad at me. These kids, they’re trying. We’re still not quite in sync.
Again, talking about three, I thought we passed up some, but we’re not in a pick and roll with a point guard that’s going to launch threes like some of the teams we’re playing. That’s not who we are.
But we’ve got to be better. We’ve got to be better than this. And that’s on me. Got to be better.
I’m on a mission. I was into the game today. I was being as enthusiastic as I could be watching some of the stuff. Because, you know, just like you’re going to get mad, I get mad. These kids need me to keep teaching and keep working with them and keep believing in them. That’s what they need from me.
I don’t listen to any of the clutter. None of it has any effect on me coaching these players. And are fans mad? They should be. We lost at home. We don’t lose at home. We lost at home. And we were down 10 at half. I expect fans to be mad.
And we have the best fans. And I love our fans. I know they may be mad at me right now, but I’ve been here a long time teaching and working and having our fans be a big part of this. And all I’m saying is, just be with these kids. They need you now more than they need you when they’re 4-0. They need you.
And like I said, I’m going to keep working, keep fighting. The kids are going to keep fighting. Are we all disappointed? Yeah, you should be in there. We’re all disappointed. But this happened in the first half.
And really when we got it close and some things happened in the second half that it went back to, like, what in the world? Miss this, miss — I mean, there were things that like you want to shake your head. But listen, I’m coaching a team. I just had to keep being positive. We can do this. Let’s go.
And we had our chances. It would have been — I would have liked to have won the game, but we didn’t deserve to win it, but let’s try to steal one anyway. That’s what that would have been.
Q. What is the situation with Cason?
JOHN CALIPARI: Said he had back spasms. I just, when I saw him in the locker room. What was up? He said, back spasms.
Q. Had it happened before?
JOHN CALIPARI: He’s had the issue at times.
Oscar unwraps A LOT here— Dylan Ballard (@DylanBallard_UK) January 11, 2023
He talks about players not being ready to fight and a lot more
Mentions “This is one of the worst losses in Kentucky history, you can’t lose to South Carolina”
Take a listen to the this 6 minute interview pic.twitter.com/FfEmKKuuua
On situations like this what do you say to your team …
“I just say we have to be willing to play. Some of us coming in are taking things for granted. I give credit to the coach he did a great job. I just tell them, the coaches, they cannot do it for us. They just come out with the game plan with who we are going to depend on and how we are going to play offense. They can’t do it for us. We need to go out and fight. We come to Kentucky for a very good reason, we come chasing greatness. And if you come not willing to fight it’s going to be tough.”
On improving defensively …
“We just got to go fight. I was down a little bit because that was really tough for me. First thing we can start on defense. I mean defense wins the game.”
On having to coach up some of his teammates? …
“I just come in and fight. You came for a very good reason.
CJ Fredrick talks about the team and how the game unraveled and stays on the theme of the night of this team not fighting and more.— Dylan Ballard (@DylanBallard_UK) January 11, 2023
Take a listen pic.twitter.com/Qcpj6W73Kf
On what was his perspective was every time Kentucky tried to claw back and South Carolina hit a shot…
“They came in here ready to play. They punched us in the mouth early they were hitting shots, so we’ve got to give them all the credit in the world.They came in here and beat us and I thought we did some things at the end of the game. Things that we did well to try to get back in the game. We didn’t close it out.”
On how hard it is to stay focused…
“It’s on to the next. I mean this sucks, there’s no other way to say. You know it stings, you never want to lose on your home court so this one is going to stay. Tomorrow it’s back to work and get ready for Tennessee, that’s all you can do. It’s a tough league. It’s always got to be the next game mentality.”
On what happened in the beginning of the game and if there was any carry over from Alabama…
“You’ve got to give credit to them. They came out here, punched us in the mouth early, they got up 13-2, got comfortable made shots, got in the rhythm. We just couldn’t claw back, and they were feeling good. They were moving the ball well, hitting open shots, hitting shots, so just like I said, you just got to give them credit. They came in here hit shots and beat us.”
On the slow start…
“I think we have to come out and player harder. We started out slow, so we need to start off how we started the second half—playing hard, fighting, rebounding and defending. I think we could have came away with the win but we have to go back to practice, focus on our mistakes and getting better and get ready for the next game.”
On moving forward through a tough SEC slate …
“Every game we play is going to be a dogfight with us being Kentucky. Everybody is going to come with everything we got. We just have to fight, work hard, rebound and defend. If we do those things we’ll win some games.”
On South Carolina’s shooting…
“That’s good for them—hitting shots. We have to a better job of defending and staying locked in throughout the shot clock. We have to limit our mistakes and fix what we messed up on.”