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John Calipari and Wildcats recap OT win over Saint Joseph’s, plus postgame notes

Tre Mitchell saved his best for last.

Tre Mitchell Dylan Ballard - A Sea Of Blue

It wasn’t easy, but the Kentucky Wildcats got to 4-1 thanks to an overtime win over Saint Joseph’s.

After ending regulation tied at 77-all, Kentucky outscored the Hawks 19-11 in the final frame to pull off the 96-88 victory at Rupp Arena.

Following the game, head coach John Calipari and select players met with the media. Here is a recap of what they said via UK Athletics.

JOHN CALIPARI: Just talked to kids about, you know, the position they are in and how you can make people feel special and create hope for people, just by being nice, ask them their name, where they are from, let them know that you care enough to ask those questions.

See if they comment about your game, watching games.

And, so, that will be Thursday. And we play Friday. So, we are going to have off tomorrow. I won’t. One of the assistants,

I guess, will do the radio show. Okay. And then Wednesday I will be traveling, come back late, and then Thursday we do what we are doing and we play Friday.

So, Saint Joe’s, I knew they could play this way. Last game they were 6 for 30 from the three last game. They made 15 3’s. And some of them, we were on them. And for us to hold on with a bunch of young guys; you know, the amazing stat, folks, the amazing stat, Reed doesn’t score a basket and he has a plus 16. How does that happen?

It is incredible. One of my guys on the bench, I went to put him in, “No, wait, what are you doing?” No. You want him taking it out?

You know, making those plays.

But they all did well. I mean, D.J. (Wagner) played better, just starting to see who he is. Justin (Edwards) played better, more confidence, more relaxed player. Antonio (Reeves) made shots. Robert Dillingham does what he does. Adou (Thiero) went and banged and rebounded against a big team. Tre (Mitchell) made those shots which are, what I call, those are ‘the moment.’ There was that play, ‘the moment.’ And one team is playing with house money and we’re playing with we’ve got to win. And they never — it never fazed them. And, like I said, I’m probably leaving somebody out. But I thought Jordan (Burks) played well, went in and mixed it up and did some good stuff. And, so...

Q When you got Tre, were you fully aware that he was capable, as you call ‘the moment,’ making those shots?

JOHN CALIPARI: That you only get to see when you are coaching them. But I knew how talented he was. He is a skilled basketball player,

shooting 3’s, passing balls. He will fight. Missing some

free-throws, which are stunning to me because he is a really good free-throw shooter. But Justin made a couple of plays. Now, he shoots that 3; you know, we got lucky, Robert fell down, I call a timeout. I mean, again, a little bit of discipline and more organization when you are playing to win. The play where Reed rebounded, bringing it up and someone’s running for a basket. Why? We are up five. We don’t need a basket. Don’t run that way, run the other way.

“I didn’t have the ball.” I know, but you ran like you were going to try to get a lay-up. We don’t need it. We want to finish the game off. But, again, we shot a high percentage. We only had nine turnovers, two of our guys had six of those nine, and we played a good team, a veteran team. And they did not go away. And they out rebounded us.

Q With young guys, defense, half-court defense, 3 point defense, how much of that is just paying attention throughout the entirety of a possession and just walking in?

JOHN CALIPARI: In most cases we were in the vicinity, we didn’t have hands up or we didn’t take the 3 away. What happens is, if I go up too close and he’s able to drive around me, it is kind of embarrassing. So I will stop a little short and give him a 3 and have my excuse why I did it. Well, I know why you did it, you didn’t want him to beat you on a dribble. And I’m saying, let him beat you on a dribble. We will recover from behind. If they’re shooting 2’s, they can’t beat us shooting 2’s. They are going to beat us shooting 3’s.

The other one was, and the main reason I put Reed in wasn’t Reed himself, it was Reed’s team defense. That’s why I put him in the last part of the game, it was his team defense. Did a way better job of cutting a man off coming off screenings. But he is talking. He understood what the game plan was.

But, yeah, there’s things we are going to have to get better at.

We are going to have to rebound the ball better. But to get out a team makes 15 3’s and you figure out how to win, you make

free-throws, you make plays, you get rebounds down the stretch, you fight to win with a bunch of young guys, it is perfect. You play a game you could have lost but you didn’t. You figured out how to win.

Q You have spoken a lot about Reed this year and he has some of the best hands that you have seen.

JOHN CALIPARI: Not just — the hands were not better than Stacy’s hands. Stacy led this women’s program in steals and she played a while ago. She had — Jeff just wanted to shoot it.

Q Fair enough. But with Reed, kind of a two-parter, on the last play where he got the game sealing steel, what did you see there? Is that something you can teach or is it instinct?

JOHN CALIPARI: I work on that with him every day. No. That’s who he is. That’s why he was in in the end. We need a rebounder. Who rebounded the ball? He did. Do you need that rebounder or does it got to be a bigger guy than him? So you want to play guys in the end so that we’re a good team at the end of the game. It appears as though he has got to be in, at least one of them. But I was so happy

D.J. busted through, Justin busted through. You know, you want guys to feel like their hard work is paying off.

Now, the thing with Justin, which I was — you know, you can’t prepare for a game the way you prepare. The day of the game, right before the game your preparation has to be unbelievable, excellent because you are playing to play great. Not just to play. So he’s learning. He had a great shoot around and he had a great warmup and it led to the game he had. Now, will he understand, you know, that’s important? Yeah.

But, you know, all of them did something different in the game.

But, again, we got beat to balls; you know, they sent five guys to the glass. So their way of playing is 3’s, lay-ups, and offensive rebounds. Pretty good. And they got a team that can do that. I will be surprised if they’re not in the hunt to win that league in the last week of the season, I will be stunned, what I saw today.

Q Cal, there is always a lot of talk about balanced offense, but what about balanced assists? You had five players with three or more tonight.

JOHN CALIPARI: They all can play. How about, we had all guys in double figures and Adou had seven and even though he didn’t get in double figures, plus minus, as Reed. But the thing I’ve told them, even the last game, we had seven guys have between 8 and 10 shots. So you can’t say, well, I don’t get my shots. No, you got them.

What are you doing with them? You are one for eight. Don’t come talking to me.

I mean, so, when you play this way, yeah, there’s more weight on a shot because you are not taking 25 shots. You are just not. And the way we play it is a balance and, really, assists. Now, when you have a team like this, and I’ve said this a couple of times, every — you have got different teams you are watching. You won’t believe this, we don’t all play the same. Well, you should play like him.

Well, if I had his guys I would play like him. How about I don’t. The way we play now, there are many teams in the country that can’t play that way and shouldn’t or they will win five games. Well, I’m just going to play the right way, though. Yeah, okay, now you are looking for work.

How do I play with this team? We have got to get one of these bigs back, hopefully two. It changes who we are. Now, you say, well, how are you going to play? You ready for this? They can play basketball. They can bounce it. You can still play five out. You could put Tre at the four or him at the five and those guys on a perimeter because of how they play and how they shoot. So, but, I know what you will have is someone near the rim that is 7-foot-2 that you are not just getting lay-ups, which we are still giving up a lot of lay-ups. What did they shoot for the game? 42 percent. 40 from the 3.

Q John, I wanted to ask, you guys were up seven with five and a half to play in regulation but you go on to overtime and you win it. So do you just view that your team got more out of this game winning in that fashion, having to make winning plays late as opposed to if you had won by 15 or 20?

JOHN CALIPARI: I would have liked to have won by 15, 20. But you take advantage of what unfolds. And that’s all I can tell you. You know, again, we missed some shots, some free-throws. They bang a couple of 3’s, all of a sudden it is anybody’s game. We were kind of lucky to get to OT. We really were.

And, so, I will watch the tape tomorrow on the plane, have an idea of what we are going to have to see on Wednesday, we will probably watch some of this, and then what we have got to work on. You know, there were things that I am doing, I’m still trying to figure out the team. When do you let Robert go, let him go do a little bit more? We did that in points in this game. I also ran one of our grinded out offenses that I have not used this year, and Robert makes a shot out of it. You grind it a little bit. We did some different things bringing both big guys out. I’m just trying to figure out, you know, how do we do this and get what we want to get from it.

Q And, John, just as a follow-up to what I just asked, you guys had the 14 point lead last week versus Kansas and obviously Saint Joe’s is not at Kansas’ level. But do you view the fact that you guys won this game —

JOHN CALIPARI: Kansas couldn’t have made 15 3’s, so you played them different. But, no, I mean, we’re a team that’s still learning, playing winning basketball. Like Justin came out and just with

20 seconds on the clock shoots a three. What? Why would you do that? You know, you are not shooting a high enough percentage to take that shot in a winning situation. You know what? He knew it. I got it. Stuff like that they have got to learn. Like Robert trying to take a baseline. I was seeing if he could get something. When he fell down, we call a timeout, kind of get lucky.

Q John, D.J. scored 10 in the second half, 7 in overtime. Throughout his high school career I thought he had earned the reputation as a closer. Is that something you saw recruiting him?

JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah. But he played as much off the ball as he did on the ball. The point guard ended up going to St. Louis. So...

But it doesn’t matter if you are on or off the ball when you play basketball the way we are playing. Literally, Reed’s a point guard, D.J.’s a point guard, Robert’s a point guard. You know, we put Antonio in pick-and-roll’s. I mean, we’ve got — and we are playing with three of them at times on the court. And then you say you have got a lot of guys with a lot of assists. Yeah, they are point guards, basketball players.

#4 Tre Mitchell, F

On what a win like this can do for a young team…

“I think it can instill confidence in our guys – just showing that we’re capable of being in these moments and we have dudes that are going to answer the call.”

On what he was feeling on the back-to-back 3s in OT…

“It’s open so I was letting it go – I know Cal would probably yell at me if I didn’t.”

On what is going through his mind during those big-time moments…

“Keep shooting – if they’re going to leave me open, I’m going to shoot it. I don’t think that it necessarily the moment for me because I try to stay present throughout the entire game so regardless of what the outcome or the score is going to be – if I get an open look, I’m going to take it.”

#12, Antonio Reeves, G

On how it feels to get the overtime win...

It feels great because it is my birthday, and we got the dub and that is all I really wanted. Everybody was happy that we won. It was a tough win against a good team, and everybody played well on their team, but we just needed to get that dub at home.”

On how the team is managing such a good assist-turnover ratio...

We just practice it every day. Everyone is making the right pass and not trying to do too much, and we just try to emphasize it as much as possible.”

On why he did not take more than 3 3-pointers since he was perfect...

I just play in the flow of the game to get open and knock it down. I did not want to take any bad shots in a close game, so I just continued to play in the flow of the game.”

#21, D.J. Wagner, G

On it being the first overtime in his college career…

“It was good, it was fun just to be able to play in that atmosphere. Just hearing the fans supporting us, just knowing that a lot of people were cheering for us, it was definitely a fun atmosphere and it was very competitive.”

On attacking the basket more…

“Really just listening to my coaches and my teammates, just telling me if I feel like I got a lane just take it. He gives us all a lot of confidence to play our game, I feel like that’s where that is from.”

On having the ball in his hands late in games…

“It feels great just knowing that coach trusts me with the ball in my hands, and my teammates trust me with the ball in my hands. It was fun for sure, and just to play in that atmosphere in a game like that it was fun.”

And here are the postgame notes via UK Athletics.

Team Records and Series Notes

  • Kentucky is 4-1 on the season, Saint Joseph’s is 3-2.
  • Kentucky leads the series, 3-0, with this being the first game played in Lexington.
  • This was UK’s final game in the Wildcat Challenge presented by Kentucky Tourism.
  • UK continues the five-game homestand Friday against Marshall. Game time is 7 p.m. and it will be televised on the SEC Network.

Team Notes

  • Kentucky is now 64-52 all-time in overtime games.
  • UK had 12 steals, leading to an 11-6 advantage in points off turnovers and 28-11 in fast-break points.
  • Despite having to play an overtime period, the Wildcats had only nine turnovers. UK has had single-digit miscues in four of five games this season and now are averaging just eight TOs per contest.
  • Kentucky also was stingy in fouling, drawing only 10 whistles. UK is averaging only 12.2 fouls per game this season after averaging 16 fouls per game last season.
  • Kentucky had three players score at least 20 points, the first time that has happened since Demarcus Cousins, John Wall and Patrick Patterson did so against Sam Houston State on Nov. 19, 2009.
  • Kentucky had five players score in double figures, the third time that has happened this season.
  • Kentucky shot 51.6% from the field (33 of 64), UK’s second consecutive game over 50%.
  • Kentucky made 12 of 25 from 3-point land, the Wildcats’ third straight game of double-figure threes.
  • The last time UK made at least 10 threes in three straight games was February 2016, when the Wildcats had a five-game streak of 10+ threes.
  • Kentucky is 651-81 (88.9%) in the 48th season in Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center.

Player Notes

  • Tre MItchell had a season-high 22 points, including two 3-pointers at the beginning of overtime that gave the Wildcats a lead they did not relinquish.
  • He also led the team in rebounds with six and blocked shots with four.
  • D.J. Wagner had a season-high 22 points, seven of which came in overtime. He also tied for game-high honors in assists with six.
  • Antonio Reeves tossed in 20 points, his third 20+ game of the season.
  • Rob Dillingham had 13 points, has scored double figures in all five games this season, and tied for game-high assist honors with six.
  • Justin Edwards had an efficient 12 points, making 4 of 6 field goals, including 2 of 3 on 3-pointers.
  • Although he did not score, Reed Sheppard had four assists, five steals – most by a Wildcat this season – and led the team with a plus/minus of +16.
  • He has had at least two steals in every game this season.

Coach John Calipari

  • Calipari has an 836-254 all-time on-court record and a 391-114 mark at Kentucky.
  • Calipari is 321-64 at UK against unranked competition.
  • Calipari is 16-5 vs. Saint Joseph’s.
  • Calipari is 224-21 in Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center.

In the First Half

  • Kentucky started D.J. Wagner, Antonio Reeves, Justin Edwards, Adou Thiero and Tre Mitchell. UK has a 3-1 record with that lineup.
  • Rob Dillingham and Reed Sheppard were UK’s first substitutions with 16:26 remaining.
  • Saint Joseph’s opened the scoring with a 3-pointer and had its largest lead at 7-2.
  • Tied at 17, UK took its first lead on a Dillingham 3-pointer.
  • Tied at 27, an 8-0 spurt gave the Wildcats their largest lead of the half, but the Hawks rallied to tie the count at 38.
  • Mitchell hit a 3-pointer with 27 seconds left to give UK a 41-38 lead at halftime.
  • Reeves and Dillingham led UK with 13 and 10 points, respectively.
  • UK has led at halftime in all five games this season.

In the Second Half

  • Kentucky began the second half with the starting lineup.
  • Saint Joseph’s got the first basket to pull within 41-40, but another UK 8-0 run opened the gap to 49-40, UK’s largest lead of the game.
  • SJU stayed close, eventually tying the game at 73 with 2:10 to go.
  • Cameron Brown swished a 3-pointer at the expiration of the shot clock, putting Saint Joseph’s ahead 76-75 with 44 seconds to go.
  • Mitchell’s follow dunk with 29 seconds left put UK up 77-76.
  • With 14 seconds left, Christ Essandoko made the first of two free throws to tie it at 77.
  • UK missed its final shot and the game went to overtime.

In Overtime

  • After each team missed, Mitchell hit 3-pointers on consecutive possessions, making it 83-79 and SJU called timeout at 3:05.
  • Wagner drove through a thicket of Hawks for a layup, making it 87-81 with 1:30 to go.
  • With 57 seconds left, two Mitchell free throws made it 89-84.
  • Edwards’ follow dunk with 38 seconds left made it 91-86.
  • Four Wagner free throws in the closing seconds kept the visitors at bay.