The Kentucky Wildcats defeated Georgetown College by a 92-69 margin to open exhibition play.
After the game, head coach John Calipari and select players met with the media to discuss the win. Here is a recap of what they had to say via UK Athletics.
JOHN CALIPARI: They didn’t back away. They came out and played harder than we played. They beat us to balls and rebounds and second shots. And I think out of the 34 points, 20 of them were on our turnovers, were offensive rebounds, which is effort stuff. They are going to win a whole lot of games. They may win the NAIA. They have their whole team coming back. So second half I was more pleased. I thought we became the aggressor. Antonio made open shots. Robert was good. I mean, all of the guys were good. We just need stuff like this so I can watch the tape and figure out where we have got to go with this.
Q So what do you see as the biggest challenges until some of the 7 footers actually get back in the lineup?
JOHN CALIPARI: We are going to have to gang rebound, play with more energy from — let me say this. Jordan Burks, can you see why everybody likes him when he plays? What did he do? He made all of those 3’s. No. What did he do? He just plays hard. He is not trying to prove anything. He is just playing. And that’s what he did. So we’ve got to get some of these bigs when we are playing bigger teams or we have got to do a better job. And one of the things we have to work on is you have to create contact before you go get balls. You can’t just run from people. They did a good job in the first half. Again, I didn’t see overall. I mean, the second half we did some good stuff. But, you know, 17 assists. And part of the reason we only had 17 the first half, we, including the throw ahead to Robert Dillingham, missed that layup and a couple of wide open shots. But, you know, in the end we did some good things in the second half. I didn’t think we were very aggressive to start the game, either.
Q Coach, you are back in the suit again. Do you plan to do it the rest of the year? You are back in the suit again.
JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, I think I will. I probably won’t wear a tie. Maybe I will some games. I doubt if I will wear a bowtie, but I may wear a tie.
Q Cal, Z, I know he wasn’t cleared today anyway, has there been any injury or medical concern with him since he started the practice?
JOHN CALIPARI: No. No. But, here again, what happened was we asked the question, scrimmaging and the exhibition, and there was some miscommunication. We were told yes and then two nights ago we are saying he can’t play in the exhibition until he is cleared, too. So that’s what the issue was. There was no — you know, nothing crazy. And he’s doing good. And if he were cleared, I am not sure how many European players have been cleared yet, not many, but if he were cleared my guess is he would probably be able to play at the next exhibition. But you have to get cleared first. I will say it again, I feel comfortable knowing what I know. I mean, I’m — you know, he played on a development team. I went as far as to call the NBA to make sure his name was pulled on time after his pre-draft stuff. And it was. Which is — that’s the depth that I went to just make sure before we do it. But, again, you know, it’s European, so there may be some things that they will do different because he’s a European, not a kid from the United States.
Q John, you’ve emphasized in the past how important it is for guys to not be afraid to take a good shot. It looked like your guys were putting it up today. Who has the green light and what determines whether they have a green light?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, if you are open, you better shoot it. You know, what I don’t want to see is drive through an open shot and turn it over. My biggest thing in the first half, we — instead of just making easy plays, we were trying to make hard plays. So we, I think, had seven or eight turnovers at halftime. Literally, a pass to the wing, we are trying to do something. Well, just look at the guy and throw it to him. Why do you have to do that? Or I will look that way and drop a ball. So it is just contagious. I want them to shoot. Justin Edwards got himself going because he got to the rebound and he got to the foul line, missed some shots, but, still, we know how good of a player he is. I know how good D.J. is. I was begging him to shoot jump shots, pull up and shoot jump shots. He is so good going to the rim. He gets to where, all right, we need a basket, I will go and get one. He has done that his whole life. I’m saying, if you go on pick and rolls, shoot a 25-footer, I’ve seen you make them, let it go. We are learning. It is a typical young team, played a team that was physical. And Jimmy Dykes watched them practice yesterday and said, “You better be careful. They are really good.” And I thought, Yeah. Okay. And then at halftime Jimmy was right, they were really good.
Q John, what have you seen from Reed so far and what do you want to see from him?
JOHN CALIPARI: He is steady, steady Eddy. He is smart. Shoots it pretty good. He is playing better defense. He is — what a teammate, gets the ball to the right guys. Again, he made a play driving it, right? He kept going and then threw a ball. What are you thinking about? I said, “just make easy plays.” When he is making easy plays, he is making hard plays look easy, is what he does. But, no, we’re really — I’m excited about him.
Q How important was Adou, especially to start the second half, to calm everybody down and get him going with his experience?
JOHN CALIPARI: As good as he was in the second half, he didn’t do that in the first half. That’s why I said, it is probably your choice. Because of you, you tell on yourself when you come out and play like he did in the second half. That’s what he is capable of. Now, maybe not for more than four minutes at a time. Okay. You know who subbed them self today? Twice subbed himself. Who would you guess? Robert Dillingham. And I didn’t start him. I told him today, “look, I am not going to start you, but you are going to be fine.” And he said, “coach, I’m good. I trust you.” He said the same thing that Shai said to me, the same thing that Quickley said to me. “I — I get it. I’m fine.” How did he play? And he subbed himself. And he didn’t start, which means why not get some more minutes? So really proud of him. He’s made unbelievable — think about Canada. Think about Canada. He gained 24 pounds and he’s doing this. He also did a pretty good job of defending today.
Q I have a question. Cal, when you say you have to try to figure some things out as you are playing without the guys, is there a risk of kind of trying to change things too much that makes it difficult when they do return or do you just kind of put in what you want to do and somebody else has to step in that hole?
JOHN CALIPARI: Whatever we are doing, we’re looking at it as though one or two of those guys are playing, sometimes putting two of them in at a time. But they are skilled. They can shoot. They are not like 7-foot-2, you know, lumbering; you know, they are athletic. They are skilled. They can pass. They can shoot. So we will play how we are playing. But now we have a 7-footer on the court. I take that back. 7’2”.
Q Hey, Cal, you mentioned quite a few times how important it is for your best teams to be able to block shots. Again, we have beat that —
JOHN CALIPARI: They did today. Georgetown did, I mean.
Q Oh. Well, I was going to say that obviously we kind of beat to death the thing about not having the three 7-footers yet. But Tre Mitchell had three blocks and Reed Sheppard had another. Do you think, you know, you will know how good —
JOHN CALIPARI: Adou’s got to do that. Justin has got to do that. We are long enough. Justin has got to get some, Adou has got to get some, Jordan has to get some. If we get four or five blocks, that’s almost what my best teams did. They probably got six, maybe one more, my best teams. This team is long enough at different positions, but we have got to go get balls that way and we have to be a better rebounding team, more physical, which is on me. That means in practice, this is what we have got to do. And if you are not doing it, I have to hold them accountable. You know, I like the fact that it was a close game. And I told them at halftime, “I’m loving this, guys, because this should slap you in the mouth and wake you up and then get you to understand, you are in Kentucky now.” Every team comes out and does this. I don’t care who we are playing, they are playing the same way. And if you are not ready to play, the other team may make more jump shots than Georgetown did and you are down 18 at half. So we have got conscientious, we have got good kids, we really do. Like I said, we — you know, Tre Mitchell did some good stuff today. But I told him, I want him to be better. I want you to be a professional player and that means you have got to play with more energy. And if that means you play less minutes, then play less minutes. Don’t stay out there. But he was — you know, I mean, he banged threes. When you have a 5-man that can step out and bang 3’s, well, I want to tell you, so can Z, so can Aaron. Those two can play that way, too.
#23, Jordan Burks, F
On the difference between the first half and the second half mentally and what Coach Calipari said in the half…
“We weren’t playing hard enough, so he snapped and we all tightened up. You see what happened when we came back in the second half, everybody balled. When you buy in, that’s what’s going to happen. You’re going to win, everybody’s going to eat. That’s all you have to do, is play hard.”
On Coach Calipari saying great things about Burks in the press conference …
“Do whatever I have to do so we win at the end, dive on the floor, steals, all the little stuff that we all do. We all do it, that’s where I’m going to fit in. You have to get in where you fit in, that’s what I’m going to be able to show, that I’m a dog. So, I just have to keep doing that.”
On it being the first game for a lot of the players and if he has any nerves …
“No, I embrace it actually. I was pumped and excited being out there. This is what we live for and what we’re trying to do for the rest of our lives, so we can’t be nervous. This is where you perform at and its show time.”
#0, Rob Dillingham, G
On how he felt like the team did in their first exhibition …
“I feel like we did alright, overall. We could’ve rebounded way better —gave up second chance points. We just weren’t fighting hard in the first half — I feel like in the second half we did a little bit better, but to win games, we’re gonna have to do way better.”
On if the halftime score surprised him and if Coach Calipari said anything about it …
“No, it’s basketball, you never know how it’s gonna go. They played good in the first half. They’re all older players, and it’s our first time out here, so I really wasn’t surprised. I just knew we were gonna have a better show in the second [half].”
On the difference in the second half versus the first …
“Really just intensity — rebounding the ball. Adou [Thiero] came out stealing the ball and getting rebounds. When he rebounds and steals the ball then we all play good. It’s based on really what Adou does, so when Adou chooses to play, we all win because Adou is a real big game changer.”
On if Adou is a glue guy …
“He’s everything. He can shoot the 3 — he’s gotten way better at shooting the 3 – rebounds, blocked shots. You know, we’re small right now. So, we need him, a little bit, to rebound and stuff. When he’s not in there, it’s harder for us [the guards] because we try to rebound, but it’s a little hard for us to rebound so he’s really everything.”
#12, Antonio Reeves, G
On his thoughts on the team …
“I like where this team is at right now. They play hard, they’re paying attention to what we’re doing on the scouting reports and where we’re headed is just getting better defensively. I feel we struggled some on the defensive end, we can definitely get better at.”
On the difference from first half to second half …
“Just coming out, you know coach talking about how hard they were fighting in the beginning of the first half, so he just wanted us to keep competing and keep our heads up as much as possible and just stay as a team.”
On the freshmen calming down in the first half …
“Yeah, you know, just discussing relax, try to execute as much as possible. You know, I told a couple of them just relax out there it’s going to be okay. So, I saw a couple of them rush some shots and just try to play a little bit, I wouldn’t say selfish, but me basketball, but you know we definitely corrected it as we went in the huddles and when we got into the locker room.”
And here are the postgame notes and milestones via UK Athletics.
Team Records and Series Notes
- UK improved to 151-12 all-time in exhibition games, including 4-0 vs. Georgetown.
- The Wildcats are 5-0 in exhibitions this season, including the GLOBL JAM championship in July.
- UK has won its last 30 exhibition games dating back to a win vs. Pikeville on Nov. 2, 2014.
- The last loss was Aug. 17, 2014, vs. the Dominican Republic in the final game of the 2014 Big Blue Bahamas exhibition tour.
- The Wildcats play their second exhibition on Nov. 2 vs. Kentucky State. Game time is 7 p.m. and it will be streamed digitally on SEC Network+.
- Kentucky limited Georgetown to 40% from the field (24 of 60), including 18.8% on 3-pointers (3 of 16).
- UK controlled the rebounding, 46-32, although second-chance points were even at 12 apiece.
- Four Wildcats scored in double figures and two more had nine points.
- Tre Mitchell led the way with 22 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots, all of which were game highs.
- He made 4 of 5 shots from 3-point range.
- Antonio Reeves tallied 18 points.
- Rob Dillingham had 16 points and a game-high five assists.
- Adou Thiero had 10 points, including the first five of the second half that created quick separation between the teams. He also had four steals.
Coach John Calipari
- UK is 48-1 in exhibition play under John Calipari.
- Calipari will enter the season with an 832-253 all-time on-court record and a 365-101 mark at Kentucky.
In the First Half
- Kentucky started D.J. Wagner, Antonio Reeves, Justin Edwards, Adou Thiero and Tre Mitchell.
- Jordan Burks and Rob Dillingham were UK’s first substitutions at the 14:39 mark.
- Kentucky took a 13-12 lead on a Mitchell 3-pointer with 12:29 and never trailed again.
- Georgetown, however, closed the half on a 7-0 run to pull within 35-34 at halftime.
- Reeves paced the Wildcats with eight points and Mitchell had five rebounds.
In the Second Half
- Kentucky opened with the starting lineup.
- Thiero began the half with a driving layup-and-one, followed by a steal and a layup, followed by a Reeves 3-pointer. One minute into the period the margin had ballooned to 43-34.
- Long balls by Mitchell and Reeves pushed the count to 54-40, prompting a Georgetown timeout at 15:38.
- Georgetown got back within eight points at 56-48 but got no closer.
- UK led by as many as 23 points, coming at the final tally of 92-69.