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John Calipari and Wildcats recap Kansas, plus postgame notes

A frustrating end to Kentucky’s four-game winning streak.

Calipari Dylan Ballard - A Sea of Blue

The Kentucky Wildcats dropped a tough one Saturday in front of a sold-out Rupp Arena crowd, as the Kansas Jayhawks came away with a 77-68 victory.

Kentucky struggled to guard Kansas star Jalen Wilson, who finished with 22 points. The Cats also struggled from 3-point range, going 2/13 from deep while grabbing only two offensive boards.

Up next, the Cats look to get back on the winning track this Tuesday when they go on the road to Ole Miss.

After the game, head coach John Calipari and select players met with the media, Here is a recap of what they had to say (transcripts via UK Athletics.

John Calipari

JOHN CALIPARI: Hard-fought game. Give them credit. They were physical. Their ball screen was really physical, knocked us off point a few times, they were coming right at it that way but they deserved to win the game because they made three threes down the stretch. You’ve got to make those kind of plays, and they made them.

Q. The ball screen thing has been an issue for Oscar (Tshiebwe), what are the conversations like with him?

JOHN CALIPARI: There’s two pieces to it. One, they had some guys that we were saying, you can get off them a little bit. But if it’s an empty-side ball screen, they have got to get in there, and they weren’t.

We were saying, play (Grady) Dick and play (Jalen) Wilson but we were playing too wide and we were opening up the court so he should be able to stay and then get out but we needed to do a couple emergency switches and again, it was a one-point game, it was a two-point, three-point game, a four-point game.

With all that being said, we didn’t — and I said after, Chris Livingston should have played more in the second half and the reason is, he could offensive rebound. He’d go get balls. The problem was they weren’t playing him, and it was crowding the court for Oscar. That’s why I told him when I took him out, “I’m only taking you out because they are not playing you and they are crowding the court and we need Oscar to get the ball.”

But you’ve got to give it to them. Again, blocking out Oscar, facing him, I don’t think you’re allowed to do that. I don’t. Maybe you are but if they face him on a shot, don’t know if you can do it but he fought and you know, again we had our chances to win the game.

I thought we were going to win the game. We had it right there, and then all of a sudden there’s a turnover, a play, they make a shot, there’s a charge here and a charge — well, a block there, and you know, and all of a sudden it’s eight, nine. And it was still, like I told them at six, we’re okay.

But again, Dick makes a three. Wilson makes the three, and then we didn’t bum rush 15 as the shot clock wind down. We went at him hands down and he made that. Now, he hadn’t shot it that way all year but neither did their point guard.

They came in, and we fought. I mean, they are a Top-10 team and we’re trying to re-establish who we are and I was hoping we could get this but you know what, kids fought and tried and you know, no second points. No second-chance points. None. You’ve got to be kidding me. So, I’ve got to watch the tape and say, why did that happen.

And pick-and-roll defense, like I said, we’ll get better, and how we were playing it and what we were trying to do, we just — we kept getting knocked off point and you say, well, how did that happen? I don’t know, watch the tape. They did a great job of the initial screen. But you’ve got to make some shots, guys. The first half we don’t make free throws, including two front end one-on-ones.

In the second half we go 12-for-12. That’s who we are. We could be a 75 percent, 80 percent free throw shooting team but in the first half that kind of hurt us. The last play by Sahvir (Wheeler) made it seven, and I thought, we’re okay, let’s get this.


Q. CJ (Fredrick) does so much on the floor, even when he’s shot-making shots you’ve got to keep him on there but it felt like when you were six or seven points —

JOHN CALIPARI: Well, he it got to four and I put him in, but again, those are decisions I’ve got to make, maybe Chris could have gone in and rebounded the ball and getting us, you know, changed the complexion of the game. When we got it to four and three and one; I thought we’re in good shape. We’re winning this. I said to CJ, I said, “You’re going to make a three,” and it just wasn’t his day.

They are not machines, they are not robots but in these games, someone got to step up and make a shot. They left case on, he made that three in the corner and I thought finally, here we come. But they are a seasoned, veteran team and they made those threes late. That’s nine points.

Q. You talk about needing to make shots. Did you like the shots that you guys got?


Q. Did you like the way the offense flowed tonight?

JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, I would have rather how we started the game continued to fly up and down. But you know, if you heard me the whole game, move the ball, move the ball. We were holding a little bit, looking for Oscar. I thought we missed him probably four or five times we could have thrown it more to him.

But you know, they crowded him and you know, it’s not like he was as much as they ran and went at him that he turned it over. He didn’t. He turned it over a couple times. But we got some stuff to work on, and you know, they were — you know, they were crushed after that. I think they went in with the idea.

Here is the other thing: Unbelievable crowd. Unbelievable students were there and you want to reward them as a coach and as a team. You want to do that. But we never stopped playing. We fought the whole time, and we got a lot of games left. This is a marathon. We’ve got games and we’ve just got to keep getting better.

We had two terrific practices to be honest with you. And the way we started the game you could see that they weren’t — but you get hit a little bit, you know, and one or two of those shots go down, you know, maybe it changes the way we’re thinking but give Kansas credit. They played. They came in with the idea. One of their players said, we’re going to keep Oscar but no one else will rebound. We knew that.

I told my team: This is what they are going to do. I need you to rebound, I need you to rebound. Go offensive rebound. They are saying it’s not happening. And then the pick-and-roll, most teams are doing it to us. They are coming at us, and you know, we’re making adjustments and doing stuff. We are not, you know, where we need to be but we are not certainly where we were. They are good. They are a good team. They are Top-10 for a reason.

Q. A couple times in that answer you just mentioned about the rebounding battle. Were you surprised you guys didn’t have more success in the first half? In the first half you didn’t have a single offensive rebound.

JOHN CALIPARI: I know. I saw it. I was there watching the game. I mean, we’re one of the top offensive rebounding teams in the country but you’ve got to go, and when it gets physical, you go. You do know that if the shot goes up and they block out facing the man, you cannot do that. I don’t believe you can. You can’t — you’ve got to turn and block him out. You can’t do that.

So, I’ll watch the tape and see if that was, you know, I don’t blame him for doing it if it’s to the going to be called. I’d do it, too.

And again, that’s not why we lost the game. They made three threes at the end and we missed a bunch of threes that we had a chance to close the gap or go up and do it and we missed them. I’m not — it happens. But you miss them and then go offensive rebound. I think we did on one and then we kicked it out and got another one and he missed that one, too.

But that’s part of the game. Try to figure out what we did up the middle third, where we were able to post Oscar and get that going, and then you know, I thought we were in pretty good sync for a while. But you still want to run and get the ball moving because it’s hard to trap him ask crowd him if we’re flying up the court and throwing it to him.

Q. You didn’t have quite as much success tonight with the different combinations you like to play over the last couple of weeks. How much of that was foul trouble? What were you looking for there?

JOHN CALIPARI: First half that, hurt us. I mean, we were — when we had the foul trouble, it hurt us. But the only thing that I said was that Chris could have gotten us some more rebounds and gone and done some things. He gotten points. He went to the rim. He got, you know, got to the basket, which is what we talked to him about. Our whole thing against them was: Beat them on the bounce and get to the basket, and we did that.

But I didn’t think they would stop us from offensive rebounding like they did. All the tape I watched, they played a high-level game that way. They were physical and banged and they got balls. But ones that we wanted to get, they jerked from us. So give them credit.

Q. You talked about Chris in that first half and maybe you should have played him a little more in the second. Does figuring out exactly how he fits, where he fits for you guys feel like the last big thing for this team?

JOHN CALIPARI: It’s getting better but here is what it was. I’m telling you why I played him less: They were leaving him and going right at — before the ball was thrown, to Oscar, and that’s why I took him out. And now we’ve got to figure out if anybody is doing that, what are we going to do. Like how are we going to do it. Do we stick him under the basket? Let his man throw and go to him and we’ll dunk it. I’ve done that before. We just have to figure out if a team is not going to play him, what can we do.

Now, when they are playing him out on the court and all that, he drove. He got balls, but when we were trying, because we said in the second half, we’re going at Oscar. Let’s get that ball to him. Missed one early but we were going to go at him.

Thanks, folks.

Jacob Toppin

On getting the team moving past Saturday and on to Tuesday night…

“We’re good. Yeah, we took a tough loss, we made a few mistakes down the stretch that cost us the game, but we’re still together. We’re not going to separate now, we’ve been through worse, you guys know it. So, we’re just going to come back tomorrow, watch film on what we could get better at, and just get ready for our next game.”

On struggling with rebounds tonight…

“I didn’t rebound the ball. I wasn’t fighting first half, second half I got I think four rebounds, but that wasn’t a fight. I’ve got to go for more rebounds.”

On adjusting to the physicality of this game…

“I mean I feel like we were physical, but we weren’t physical enough. Like I said, I didn’t rebound the ball. I think they beat us on the rebounds too, so that was the it factor. Every other game we’ve won we’ve dominated on the boards, and we didn’t do that today.”

#12, Antonio Reeves, G

On if they felt they put themselves in a spot to win...

Yeah, I definitely believed that we were going to win this game tonight. I feel like those threes they hit were simple mistakes we made on the floor, but they were able to hit them. It is tough for us but it hard to come back when they hit threes like that.”

On if tonight changes how the team feels about themselves...

No, I do not think it changes at all. It just means we need to get back to the basics and figure out what we need to do on the floor next time. It is a marathon it is not just one game, it is multiple games, so we just have to figure it out.”

On how tough it was to not get a run in the second half...

It is definitely tough, when they make threes like that it is really hard to beat a team. We just have to figure out how to guard those things next time. It is just really tough when they make a three and we make a two.”

#34, Oscar Tshiebwe, F

On his overall feelings on the game…

“It was a tough game. It was really tough. It was a physical game. They came in ready and were just fighting. So I give them credit.”

On the way Kansas fouled him…

“It happened a lot. I don’t know if it’s a foul or if its not a foul, but I just fought through that. There was nothing I can do. They were facing me and trying to box me out. If someone is facing you, and you’re trying to move and they’re boxing you out, you cant do nothing with that. That’s why it’s good for my teammates to just keep fighting through, and go fight for the ball. We got two offensive rebounds, and that is tough for us.”

On the way they played tonight versus non-conference opponents earlier in the season…

“I feel a little bit good. I think two or three weeks ago, or months, against a team like this, we probably would have loss because we were not really been defending like we are now. We are really playing good. We just have to stay locked in, make all of our threes, we have to do everything.”

On the crowd at Rupp Arena…

“I just want to say thank you to all of our fans. Today was a tough one. It was a big boy fight. We just came in and we were fighting. They came out from losing three games in a row, and just came in to win this game. For us too, we were fighting. But it was a tough one for us. So I just want to say thank you to our friends, and we’re going to keep fighting.”

And here are the postgame notes via UK Athletics.

Team Records and Series Notes

  • Kentucky ended a four-game win streak and is 14-7 overall.
  • Kansas ended a three-game losing streak and improved to 17-4.
  • Kentucky holds a 24-11 advantage in the all-time series.
  • UK leads 8-3 in games played in Lexington.
  • Next for UK: the Wildcats travel to Oxford to take on Ole Miss on Tuesday. Game time is 9 p.m. ET (8 p.m. CT in Oxford) and the game will be televised by ESPN.

Team Notes

  • The SEC/Big 12 Challenge concludes this season. UK went 5-4 in the event, including 2-3 vs. Kansas.
  • One of the nation’s top offensive rebounding teams, Kentucky was limited to four offensive rebounds and the Wildcats were outscored 11-0 on second-chance points.

Player Notes

  • Oscar Tshiebwe paced the Wildcats with 18 points and nine rebounds.
  • The big man also has been an especially adept passer recently as he continues to receive extra attention. He had four assists tonight, the fifth straight game with three or more.
  • Jacob Toppin had 14 points, his fourth straight double-figure game and 12th of the season.
  • Cason Wallace had 14 points, his 12th double-figure scoring game of the season.
  • He led the Wildcats with five assists, the seventh time this season he has paced the Cats in that category.
  • Antonio Reeves came off the bench to score 10 points, his seventh straight double-figure game and his 16th of the season.

Coach John Calipari

  • Calipari is 5-8 vs. Kansas, including 5-5 at UK.
  • Calipari has an 824-248 all-time on-court record and is 379-108 in 14 seasons at UK.
  • UK is 68-48 (58.6%) against ranked competition under Calipari.

Rupp Arena

  • Kentucky is 644-79 (89.1%) in the 47-year history of Rupp Arena.
  • Kentucky is 217-19 (91.9%) in Rupp Arena under Calipari, including 24-7 against Associated Press top-10 opponents.

In the First Half

  • Kentucky opened with a starting lineup of Cason Wallace, CJ Fredrick, Chris Livingston, Jacob Toppin and Oscar Tshiebwe for the fifth game in a row.
  • Antonio Reeves was the first substitute at the 12:49 mark.
  • Midway through the first half, Kansas was trailing 22-21, but the Jayhawks outscored UK 20-12 the rest of the way and took a 41-34 advantage into halftime.
  • Livingston and Toppin led Kentucky with eight points each.

In the Second Half

  • Kentucky began the second half with the starting lineup.
  • UK edged within 47-43 and Kansas called timeout with 16:10 on the clock.
  • UK pulled within 51-50 but a Jayhawk 3-pointer, steal and layup quickly restored a six-point lead.
  • The Wildcats crept within two points on four occasions (58-56, 60-58, 62-60, 64-62) but Kansas replied with scores each time.
  • Ahead 64-62, Kansas hit three 3-pointers to stretch the lead to 73-66 with three minutes remaining and the Jayhawks held on to win.