UK Comes Up One Big Play Short
Kentucky made all kinds of plays – up to and including a game-tying half-court buzzer beater.
Seton Hall just happened to make one more.
“This disappointing, heartbreaking,” John Calipari said. “But you know what? If we had won, it would have been heartbreaking for them because they should have won.”
In spite of Keldon Johnson’s heroics at the end of regulation and PJ Washington’s outstanding play down the stretch, No. 9/8 UK (7-2) fell to Seton Hall (6-3) in a Madison Square Garden thriller, 84-83. The Wildcats just couldn’t overcome a barrage of big shots by Myles Powell and an ultimately decisive 3-pointer by Myles Cale at the end of overtime.
“All in all, for our kids to fight in a ‘road’ game for us and give themselves a chance to win and go to overtime, we made strides,” Calipari said. “We’re a better team than we were two weeks ago.”
That’s not to say Kentucky doesn’t have improvements still to make. Quite the opposite in fact.
Take the game’s final play as an example, when Johnson’s desperation heave came up short after UK failed to create a good look down one with eight seconds to go. Kentucky had a play drawn up, but a missed assignment blew it up. In hindsight, Calipari would have called timeout once he saw things go awry, but he still wants to reach the point where his team can finish on its own.
Similarly, Coach Cal is challenging Washington to consistently find the gear that led him to take over the end of the game. At one point late, Washington scored 11 straight points for UK in finishing with a career-high 29 points and 13 rebounds, but Calipari wants more.
“PJ, in the end of the game, that’s who he should be the whole game,” Calipari said. “That’s who you are. Why aren’t you getting 35 and 20? … If that’s who you are and you’re making free throws and you’re doing the things that you’re doing, you’re as good as any player in the country. Be that guy every night. Hard though.”
It will be a hard road for this entire UK team. It’s one Calipari and the Cats are more than capable of traveling.
“Got a ways to go,” Calipari said. “Every year I go through this, this is painful and aging. Trying to figure out your team, trying to win games while you’re trying to figure them out, how you finish games and trying to get them to mature quickly, it’s just hard.”