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Coach Cal and the Cats recap Missouri, plus postgame notes

At one point in the second half, Kentucky forced Mizzou into 13 straight missed field goals, going more than nine minutes without a basket.

John Calipari Dylan Ballard - A Sea Of Blue

The Kentucky Wildcats are now 12-2 following a 90-77 victory over the Missouri Tigers. It’s also the sixth straight win for Kentucky, who is now 2-0 in SEC play for the first time since 2021.

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

Q Cal, Tre Mitchell has obviously been pretty consistent for you guys this year, but, back to back double doubles. Do you feel like even more so his confidence is continually grows and he is getting more comfortable with you guys?

JOHN CALIPARI: Is not his confidence, it’s his motor. When his motor runs, he is a double-double. And we all — These guys rely on him. And they do Antonio too. But they rely on him. You know. He can play four and five and he can shoot the three and he can put it on the floor. What he proved today is he can rebound in traffic when there are all kinds of guys whacking at the ball and he did it and then he made free throws. He was really good today.

You know, five guys in double figures. We missed a lot of shots today. Um. Defensively again, first half, shaky. Give them credit with how they played and then second half we played better or maybe they just missed shots, I don’t know. But the numbers look like we played better in the second half defensively.

Um. Robert, you know, I told them, I said Robert, you cannot get three and four fouls. Don’t reach your hand in. The second one wasn’t a foul. Don’t reach your hand in. I asked Reed. You don’t even try. You just be active but you’re not going to reach into get three and four fouls. Because the whole team, I said, do we need him in the game at the end, and they are all like, yes. You can’t do that to us.

The only thing if I had to do it over again, I didn’t do my rotation as quickly as I have been. And then part of it is that that group was playing so well offensively that I let them go. It kind of got us out of whack in the first half and in the second half I did what we’ve always done at the 17 minute mark, a couple of guys in, you know, we went from there, but. That was a good game.

Look, people are going to play them, you cannot run your offense. It ends up being a spread the court, maybe a pick and roll and dribble hand off. Try to get in the lane and hope they collapse and you are shooting some threes and hopefully you can make some layups. Just like I said to the team after. How many plays did we run? We had a couple of double drags and they said we ran a fist down and a couple of top heads and that was it. And that’s why a guy like Robert in a game like that, where you can iso him. It’s — because they switch everything. They muck it up. Their zone is a little different. They are out of bounds on the baselines a little different. I thought we did good in there again. But we got every player on the court can pass, dribble, and shoot. So whoever you throw to, like he can pass, dribble, shoot. It’s a little different with that uniqueness that we have.

Q Cal, when Rob got that fourth foul with about eight minutes left, you like grabbed him on the sideline and felt compelled, what were you telling him in that instance?

JOHN CALIPARI: The whole thing that I said to him after the game, I said you know I love coaching you. And I love coaching you because you can really play. I love guys who can really play. If you can’t really play, I like you, but I don’t like you as much, Ok. So, he can really play. But, we had to get him to make easier plays. Because he thinks — some of your older people know the and-1 tape, now it’s different, they do it on Snapchat or whatever the stuff is they do it on. But the other thing he has to continue to work on, I had him in my office, your body language. That’s what I talked to him about. You can’t do that to your teammates. Your body language screams, just come out. You miss a shot. I had another guy missed a shot. And it was like, oh I can’t leave you in the game. You are saying to me you got to take me out because my mind isn’t into this. But the young team that we are, body language is that next thing. It was okay in the AAU games to act like, why did you take me out or, oh, you can’t do that now. And as you move in this sport. Your body language screams, you just can’t do it. And that’s why I grabbed him and talked to him after. He knows I love him. Like I love coaching him. And I’ve got to take some of the stuff that he does and just, I’m an Italian, but he is as good as they get to go get baskets and fouled.

Q Cal, back here in the center. What are you all missed with Adou being out these three games now and are there any updates on the injury? Is it just still general soreness, as you said?

JOHN CALIPARI: I don’t — I didn’t practice or play shootaround today. I will get an update and they will tell me. The thing that’s happening is it’s giving Ugo a chance, It’s giving Jordan a chance. Probably playing Tre more than he need to but all of a sudden you got guys asking about the double doubles because he is playing more minutes. But what he brings to the table. Eight rebounds and a toughness. Rebounding in traffic. Another guy that can pass, dribble, and shoot, but he is more of a perimeter guy who is eventually going to be about 6’9” at 240 or 250 and a player like inside outside, shoot, drive, dumk, make a pass. But he’s got to get healthy. The back was bothering him and this was the best course of action. So hopefully he is back soon.

Q Cal, You talked about the young guys rely on Tre and beyond the basketball stuff, it seems like he has the depth perspective when he talks about the big picture of things. How much has that helped with these guys to experience the life experience he has.

JOHN CALIPARI: So how he handles me. Like, if I say something that’s funny, he laughs. Like, he also — when I get on him, I got on him yesterday in the locker room about something and I can’t remember what it was but I kind of needled him without looking at him and he said well, the guy may be struggling because you are drawing up six plays in a timeout and we don’t know which one we are running and he said that to me which I sometimes do.

No, he’s — I love coaching him. I love it. And I love how he is as a teammate. You may say well, if he is capable of getting 20 and 15 — I said to the guys, okay. If, without D.J. we didn’t win. We played UNC Wilmington, we lost. So D.J., — you can’t just say take minutes. How about Reed, should he play less, or should he play more. Okay, if he plays more, who plays less — Antonio, our leading scorer? I went around the room. And I said and then there is Tre. He was in my office the other day complaining about not getting enough shots. And they all went, what? You think he did that? They go, no, he didn’t do that and they all know and he laughed back there. He doesn’t complain about it. He knows his role. But, the game is moving to him. When you are 6’9” and you can stretch the floor and you can shoot and you can play basketball, there is a place for you. I am happy about Antonio, what he’s doing. How about defend him, I’m putting him on the best defensive player.

Let me just tell you again, Missouri, they play a way that takes you, you better just be playing basketball. You better be playing random. You better be playing with space. Because if you don’t, you are going to struggle to score.

Q John, I had to look back. It was 2014 the SEC had three teams and you said we have to make this a cool league and players want to be here. You got your wish. I’m curious. How good has this league talked about it and how much is going to help you in March assuming it hasn’t grounded you to a point.

JOHN CALIPARI: Again, I’ve said this over and over for 30 years. Basketball coaches win games and administrations win championships because they invest in it. You think of what happened in this league. Mike Slide got this TV deal done and you had a choice of where you can put all that money. Put it into one sport or you can say basketball needed it. And many of the schools said we are invested in basketball and invested in baseball and we are doing this and we are going to upgrade football stuff.

And now all of a sudden they got unbelievable facilities, they got the top coaches in the country and they are able to go recruit. I was on with Mike Krzyzewski and he said in 2013. We would go to Augusta and he would be in a private plane and I would be in a private plane. A matter of fact Joe Krafts plane. Right, There would be 2 of us. Do you know how many planes is private there. ---, everyone in our league is in a private plane moving around. To recruit, you can’t — If you think you are going to fly commercial during the year and do this job and recruit and then stay overnight and get a 5 o’clock flight back. You better be 30 years old. And so, now the investment in the facilities, the way they travel, the way they treat their players. Everybody charters. That investment just came from the TV deal.

And then, it is like the cool place to play now. This is a hard league now. The bad news is, you got, — it’s hard to run the table or do anything like that anymore. But the other side of it is. I can remember Frank Martin apologizing to people in the room that he beat. Because I ruined your season. Because we aren’t very good and we just beat you and knocked you out of NCAA tournament. That doesn’t happen now. Do you remember when you lost a game with somebody and they say you went from 10 to 21, why? Everybody else loses — we lose, It’s like, I’m not just saying us but I’m saying in our league. It’s really hard but it’s the way it should be. Instead of, I said at that time we should be getting seven, eight, nine teams in and that’s where we are. It wasn’t because of me but I may be chasing Kentucky was part of it. But I think it is the investment that the administration has made to upgrade all these basketball programs.

Q Cal, You look at the final score and you won by 13 but — a big difference as you make 10 more free throws than Missouri. How much can you say about that, not just making that many but the fact you went 84% and your two seniors went 14 for 14.

JOHN CALIPARI: For the year, The teams are making more than they are shooting. So that is a normal, like if you look at the stats. We went into the game and people who were in the gym today, I told them, guys, we want to attack the rim. I like threes but I love dunks and layups. So attack that rim and you will get fouled. You will make it. I was upset the play D.J. drove in and the other thing is don’t get the shot blocked. If he comes to block it throw it so high on the backboard. You are not making it but we will rebound that one. And tip it. The block is going the other way but we are trying to attack the rim. I said, you don’t want to end up shooting 40 threes. Because you could go 5 for 40. You would lose the game. Yeah, but we took 40 and that’s how we want to play. I’m trying to win. And we knew in this game they force you to take threes. So you want to say we’re taking the inside out open threes uncontested, which we did and we missed a bunch of them today. Like I was surprised some of the misses we had. But, they are not machines and they are not robots. What else?

Q Cal, you kinda touched upon it earlier and at the Florida game too. When you have guys on your team’s that were studs at high school at AAU levels and they don’t have the best game, they have good games but maybe not the best. How do you turn that into creating balance as opposed to them getting too frustrated and not being able to pick themselves up.

JOHN CALIPARI: What happened — last game, Aaron was so bad in the first half and he flipped it. Did I do something or did he do something? He did it. He learned that I don’t have to play great the whole game. If I play bad I can flip it and I can get myself in the right frame of mind. Who else was awful

in the first half? Robert was so bad. He was throwing balls to them for layups. How was he in the second half? Really good. I told him. Today I thought Justin did that. He made some plays, he banked one on the corner. And then he came back in the second half and missed it and we stuck with him and I want him to try to play through it. It’s not what I’m saying. It’s what he is saying to himself. What is the inner talk. You are not making every shot, so stop. If you missed, just keep playing and get a back force and block a shot and defend. Him in transition. He is playing good but in a month from now you will all say wow, this is what they were talking about. He is working really, really hard. But the stuff doesn’t happen on our time, or his time. It doesn’t. Sometimes you have to go three months, four months, and all of a sudden you start breaking through and then you go. Most of the stuff they have to work through. If they are taking, like If I have to build their confidence, you are not going to be a player in that next league.

Because they are not there. You either help them win or you are out. It’s what it is. I’m struggling today. Great, you are not playing so I’m going to put you in the G league. You’re going to complain. Alright, now you are in the YMCA league, how about that. You have to have that inner drive and toughness. Let me just say one thing. Five-star players have been chased their whole lives. They have never chased anybody. They got chased and they can deal with it. When you come here at Kentucky. You are being chased. If you are not used to it, you will struggle. If you are a three-star or four- star and you are always chasing and all of a sudden it flips and they are chasing you, it’s a different mentality. That’s why these kids have been chased and none of it phases them. The way they are playing — playing for each other. Still had a few turnovers too many but I give credit to Missouri because of how they played. The first half I was like whoa, we – it’s going to be ugly, I’m kind of bouncing around. Is that it?

#4, Tre Mitchell, F

On increased workload with Adou out …

“You know whatever the team needs me to do. I take full advantage of my rest days. I bench up a lot, to say the least, you know I also got to give credit to Jeff David because he does an amazing job keeping me active and keeping me able to perform.”

On his first two shots and shooting well …

“Yeah, I mean at the point, you know you just got to trust the work. I’m open, let it go and then they run in. Starting that created different angles to attack because they had to play me a little more, so just kind of let the game come to me and let it go.”

On embracing and learning from Cal …

“Yeah, I mean that’s something that’s going to benefit me and my career in the long run. That’s something people are looking for in a player. Cal’s emphasized that to me from day one so when a hall of famer tells you to do something, you listen to them and obviously tonight that shows.”

# 0, Rob Dillingham, G

On if Cal communicated effectively that he should stop reaching…

“Yeah, for sure. I definitely have to stop reaching.”

On how the conversation went…

“It wasn’t a conversation, it was common sense, so obviously I got to stop fouling.”

On if he prides himself on being able to get a bucket when the team needs one…

“Not really pride myself, I just try to make the best play every time and a lot of the situations, I was coming off screens, and then it would be an iso situation, so it’s really a screen also. I just pride myself on making the right play.”

#21, DJ Wagner, G

On the defensive switch toward the end of the game…

“We just communicated more and we just kept running, we kept pushing the pace. We are a fast team. A lot of times, teams get tired, and we don’t get as tired. It’s really all about communication, that’s the most important thing, making sure we talk to each other.”

On what Tre brings to the team …

“He brings a lot, he is a big factor for this team. Like you said, he had a great game today. He’s one of the leaders on our team, one of the older guys, so you know he knows what to expect with certain games, just how to be more patient and how to be calmer, so he definitely brings a lot to the table.”

On if Kentucky was able to run Missouri off the three-point line …

“Yeah, that was just an adjustment coach said to make. They were hitting threes, just had to run them off the line try and get them to do things in different ways and not just hitting threes.”

And here are the postgame notes via UK Athletics.

Team Records and Series Notes

  • Kentucky is 12-2 on the season and has won six in a row. UK is 2-0 in the Southeastern Conference.
  • Missouri is 8-7, 0-2 in league play.
  • UK leads the series 15-3, including 9-0 in Lexington.
  • Next for Kentucky: UK travels to Texas A&M on Saturday for a 2 p.m. matchup (1 p.m. in Bryan-College Station) with the Aggies. It will be televised on ESPN.

Team Notes

  • Kentucky is 14-1 in SEC home openers under John Calipari.
  • Kentucky has had five players score in double figures in both SEC games.
  • UK scored 90 points tonight. The Wildcats entered the game third in the nation at 90.8 per game.
  • UK has scored at least 80 points in all but one game this season.
  • UK shot 50 percent from the field, 28 of 56. The Wildcats are 7-0 this season when making at least half their shots.
  • The Wildcats did a great job getting to the free throw line and taking advantage of their opportunities. The Cats made 27 of 32, season highs in both categories, for 84.4%.
  • Kentucky won the rebounding, 42-27, posting a season-high +15 in rebound margin.
  • UK is 7-0 this season when winning the rebounding.
  • Kentucky led by as many as 15 points. UK is 339-15 (95.8%) under Calipari when leading by at least 10 points during any point of the game.
  • Although UK committed more turnovers, 13 vs. 11 for Mizzou, the Wildcats did the better job of converting the miscues. UK won points off turnovers, 16-4.
  • Sparked by a season high 23 points from Rob Dillingham, UK won bench points 26-10.

Player Notes

  • Rob Dillingham poured in a season-high 23 points, featuring 6 of 7 from the field, 3 of 3 on 3-pointers, and 8 of 10 at the foul line.
  • After the game, Missouri Coach Dennis Gates said of Dillingham, “He’s probably the best isolation player in college basketball, that’s what I believe.”
  • Tre Mitchell notched 20 points and 14 rebounds, his third double-double in the last four games (second in a row) and 14th of his career.
  • It is his fourth straight game with double-digit rebounds and he has had at least four boards in every game this season.
  • It is UK’s first 20-10 game since Oscar Tshiebwe had 25 points and 18 rebounds in the NCAA Tournament vs. Kansas State.
  • D.J. Wagner had 16 points, his eighth double-figure scoring game of the season and third in a row.
  • Antonio Reeves had 14 points, including 8 of 8 at the charity stripe.
  • Reeves went 0 for 5 on 3-pointers, ending his streak of 24 consecutive games with a 3-pointer, longest since Jamal Murray’s school-record 36-game streak in the 2015-16 season.
  • Aaron Bradshaw, the current SEC Freshman of the Week, had 10 points and six rebounds. It’s his fourth double-figure game of the season and the Wildcats are 5-0 since he entered the starting lineup.

Coach John Calipari

  • Calipari has an 844-255 (76.8%) all-time on-court record, including 399-115 (77.6%) at Kentucky.
  • Calipari is 328-65 (83.5%) at UK against unranked competition.
  • Calipari is 12-5 vs. Missouri.
  • Calipari is now 395-126 (75.8%) all-time in conference games, including 187-60 (75.7%) in the SEC.

In the First Half

  • Kentucky started D.J. Wagner, Antonio Reeves, Justin Edwards, Tre Mitchell and Aaron Bradshaw for the fifth game in a row and has won all five games.
  • Ugonna Onyenso, Rob Dillingham and Reed Sheppard were UK’s first substitutions with 14:10 remaining.
  • Kentucky won the opening tip and Mitchell hit 3-pointers on UK’s first two possessions.
  • Both teams started hot until tied at 12, when Kentucky went on a 7-0 run and never trailed again.
  • Kentucky eventually led 35-21 midway through the half, but Missouri countered with a 13-2 spurt to close the gap to 37-34.
  • With 11 points from Dillingham and Wagner, plus 10 from Mitchell, UK took a 47-42 lead into halftime.
  • UK is now 11-1 this season when leading at halftime.

In the Second Half

  • Kentucky began the second half with the starting lineup.
  • UK began with an 8-4 spurt (55-46), prompting an MU timeout at 17:08.
  • From there, the margin stayed between seven and 11 points until less than two minutes remaining.
  • After a MU dunk at the 10:20 mark, the Tigers missed 13 straight field goal attempts, going more than nine minutes without a basket.