Men's Basketball


DEC. 26, 2020
Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari 

(Opening Statement): “Let me just say this again, losing stinks. We had our chance. We had some breakdowns. When you are this kind of team, you cannot afford to have a mental lapse on two or three plays in a row.  I am proud of the guys. We had our chances. We missed some layups, some free throws but we fought. They were engaged. Jacob (Toppin) was terrific. Lance (Ware) was terrific. Isaiah (Jackson) showed some spurts. BJ (Brandon Boston) finally got something going. Davion (Mintz) did too. Terrance (Clarke) is still hurt. I tried to see if I could steal some minutes with him, but it was a mistake. He is playing at 80 percent – maybe. It was the same injury that Ashton (Hagans) had – this is the same thing – and Ashton played with it. But it is hard because it is painful. You got get treatment and you have to play through pain. It is just how it is. (We need) less turnovers, we charged them. We have been working on jump stops for three weeks and we go and leave our feet in the lane a couple of times. But, we had our chance to win.  I mean, that ball went in and out, I told them it is like buzzard luck for my man. I knew. I went to Olivier (Sarr) because I have a lot of faith in him. Even though he missed that shot against Notre Dame. I don’t know if you remember, but we went through this with Brandon Knight when we missed all kinds of game winners where we went at him. I had a lot of faith in him.  Eventually, by the end of the year, he made all those.  So, this is one of those kind of experiences for the team, the struggle with this. They are trying.  We are getting better. We are doing some good stuff. But losing stinks. It just stinks. We have to right the ship at some point and we have to start rolling over people. Right now, we just have to try to steal one, win one, dominate somebody and then start moving on.” 
(About Dontaie Allen) “I told Dontaie today, ‘be ready today for your chance. If I don’t think Terrence (Clarke) can go, then I am going with you. It is going to be your opportunity.’ There were two times I thought about putting him in. Once in the first half, which I wish I would have because then I would have been able to play him in the second half.  If I don’t play a guy in the first half and it goes on — then he is going to have a chance.  It just wasn’t tonight. I coach the game to win. That is all I did. Do you know what is great about tonight? I could just coach. I didn’t have to hear anything. There was no back and forth, everybody listened. I was able to coach basketball. Did you notice I didn’t have frustration?  I was having fun. I don’t have to worry about some of the guys saying, ‘why did you take me out’, like that stuff is over and done.  Guys listening to when we start coaching there is not an answer before we even say anything – all that is done. Now we have a chance to take this next step. Some of the players have to take stock in why do we continue to beat ourselves with breakdowns. So why did you do this? Where was your mind? I believe a lot of it is, ‘how am I playing and if I am not playing well, I cannot concentrate.’ That means we are still not there where we are the team we need to be. But we are getting closer. “
(About Olivier Sarr not having a field goal)  “Well, first of all, we went into the game like as many times as we can throw him the ball, we are going to. That was our game plan.  They did a good job of fighting and fronting and doing some things. He missed some shots. He missed a couple of easy ones.  When you start missing shots, it starts playing with your confidence. I mean, it is not like we aren’t trying to go to him. We are. He will be fine. This has been hard. Missing a couple of shots, I have to get on him, or get with him before he gets on the bus and just say, ‘I love you, man. You are fine.’ This wasn’t just him. Jacob (Toppin) played so well so I went with Jacob and Lance (Ware) because they were playing better. That is what you do when you are coaching.  You may say, ‘what about this guy or what about that guy?’ Hey, it probably entered my mind.  But I look at it and say, ‘Jacob is and Lance (was in the first half) playing so well, so I am going to let him go and let him play.
(Your role players, guys like Jacob [Toppin] and Lance [Ware] and Davion [Mintz] are all playing really well, but your stars – or the guys you thought were your stars – are not.)
“That’s the statement. Here’s what I would say. They also felt that way, too. Now all of a sudden, you get punched in the mouth and you start tasting blood. How do you react? Do you blame? It’s flight or fight. Look, here’s where I am. I can’t make a shot, but here’s what I’m going to do to help this team win. I’m getting fouled. I’m going to do this. You’re right – Davion has been one of the guys I’ve been really proud of. He never said one word earlier this year. Like Immanuel Quickley – he never said a word. He just took his role, tell me what you want. He is so appreciative of this opportunity to be here, of playing here, of playing for us and our staff. He’s in a different mindset, which is why you start playing the way you’re playing. I don’t play favorites. You guys know me here. If you’re going to help us win, I’m going to play you. If someone else is better than you, they get the first opportunity. If they’re not playing well, and you get an opportunity, and you don’t play well. The top seven, they get more room to miss shots and make mistakes. That’s just how it is. Since the game was invented, that has been what it is. If you’re one of those top five or six, you get more room. You’re eight, nine or 10 – you’re going to get chances, but not as much space as those others because they’ve earned it in practice, they’ve earned it on the court, and that’s what we do. But, again, stuff changes. Noticed how we changed the lineup. I like it. I like Devin [Askew]. How much better as Devin gotten? Incredible. Again, he had two or three breakdowns that became critical. But he’s just so much better as a player right now. He plays hard. He plays physical. Davion’s diving on the floor going for balls. There are no moral victories. We lost and hats off to Louisville. They played well, but we have to look. Okay, our margin is not high. We’re going to be in a bunch of close games. We’re not beating people by 30. Now it becomes how do we play to help us win as a team? Not you. Not you. How does this team play to help us win? How do we limit some of the breakdowns? Many of them were defensively. You can see today. I told the team after. You noticed I wasn’t frustrated today. I just coached basketball. I wasn’t mad or anything. I was happy, and I had fun coaching. This is what I want to be as a coach. Teach all week in practice and get in the games and have a ball seeing these guys grow together. I come back to the last thing for all of you guys. We have the chance to paint our own picture. We do. And what do we want to do? Where is the leadership on this team right now with a loss like this that we had our chances to win? Just like Notre Dame, just like North Carolina, just like Kansas. We’ve had our chances, and we dropped them all. I thought we were better at the end of the game because we put a major focus on how we were going to play down the stretch. We scripted it, and we did it over and we did it live. We scripted it, how we were going to play late. When you’re struggling, there has to be great clarity. They’re not there yet, so there has to be clarity where they can go out. What are you asking me to do? Yes, I got it, let’s go do it. That’s what we’re trying to do. Again, we’ve had to spend so much time creating new habits and a mentality of getting them to understand our culture and getting to know what’s acceptable and what’s non-negotiable. This is what it is to be at Kentucky. Now, everybody’s going to say it’s over. Okay. I don’t believe it’s over. We haven’t played a league game yet. I don’t believe it’s over. Let’s go do what we do. Let’s keep coaching them. Our true fans – the fans that are really with these kids – keep cheering them on. You think they want to play like they’re playing and losing games like this? You’re crazy. They want to win every game, and they want to win it for you. I would tell you – I’m not budging. I’m not cracking. I’m hacked off now. I’m not happy that we’re losing. You guys know me well enough. I have to worry about this team and where they are and where I can take them, more than my ego of winning the game. If we had won this game, I would’ve been so happy for them because it kind of takes the monkey off their back. Now, all of a sudden, here we go. But you know what? It wasn’t meant to be, so let’s hope it’s the next game.”
(Davion [Mintz] was the one guy who kind of had it going offensively. He hit four 3s, had 19 points. The last 50 seconds, you guys have three chances to tie it or take the lead. Askew had a 3-pointer later in the clock. The Sarr jumper, which was obviously a good shot for you guys, and the [BJ] Boston three at the end. How does Davion not get a shot in that final minute?)
“Well, what we ended up doing, we had something that we ran and we got the ball right where we wanted to and got fouled, and that’s with a minute and whatever. Then the last play was for him or Olivier [Sarr]. We were going with one of those two. And what happened was he came off, and both guys went with him, which is why he threw it to Olivier. Look. When you talk about playing against a team that knows how this kid’s playing, what do you think he said in that huddle? ‘If they try to get him a shot, take him out.’ So, that guy that you’re going to, has to be willing to make a play for a teammate. And he did. Would I have liked him to shoot it? Yeah. But that’s not what Louisville did.”
(With what’s ailing you guys, do you think you need more practice, or do you need more games? Actual games.)
“Games, games, games and games. There are two things. We need more time for all the team building stuff that we do here all the time. Everybody always says, how do you always get teams that are brand new to come together, start slow? We team build. We team build in the summer. We team build in the fall. We’re trying to make up time right now, and I think we have. Not where we need to be, but we’re making up time. The second thing is you have to play games you can win to build confidence. You have to play games you can win to build confidence. This was the stupidest schedule I’ve ever put together, and I’d like to smack myself in the mouth. Listen – we should’ve played games up front that we had a chance to win. Four, five of them, then play four or five of the others. Not eight hard games, and we still have Texas left, who’s like tenth in the country. Think about it. Now, am I doing that to me or to these kids? It was to these kids. It was just dumb. But we’re in with all these teams, and we’re good enough to beat them. We haven’t figured out how to finish off a game yet. That’s on me. I’ll keep working with them. Maybe we’ll look at that as an opportunity and go from there.”
Kentucky Student-Athletes
#10 Davion Mintz, G, Gr.
On if he has felt like he needed to step into the leadership role …
“Yeah, I wish it would have turned out our way. But I feel like right now, it’s kind of a necessity for me to be that guy to come out there and be the voice and kind of talk on both sides of the floor.”

On what he can say or do to help younger players …
“I realize this is not about me. This is a lot bigger than me. We all want to win. None of us would have imagined this. We just keep fighting, we’ve just got to keep fighting. At this point, we kind of throw away our record in our minds and we just go out there and play basketball and, like coach said, refuse to lose at this point.”

On the defense U of L played on him on the final play …
“Yeah, I think most of that is my fault. I wasn’t more assertive to go get the ball and to call one more when guys were penetrating. So I kind of take credit as to why I didn’t get the ball down the stretch. Coach, he drew up plays, he drew up things and most times it was there. Our scheme, kind of getting out late and kind of pounding it in the post and make options out of that, be able to kick it out and move it. I feel like just going in and continuing throughout the season, I’ve got to be more vocal and make sure I can get the ball in my hands, if I’m the guy that’s feeling it that night, to have it.”

On Olivier Sarr …
“He’s working really hard. Olivier is really trying. Right now, it could be a lot of pressure at the moment. But Olivier is a great player, he’s going to figure it out. We’ve just got to find a way to keep him involved in our offense. We’ve got to find a way to get him involved early, especially when there’s mismatches for him. We’ll watch the film and we’ll figure that our going forward.”

On big games from Jacob Toppin and Lance Ware …
“Yeah, it’s super huge. I’m super proud of Jacob, a guy who’s not always certain like, ‘hey, am I going to come in and get huge minutes this game?’ Coach Cal always tells him to stay ready. It didn’t surprise me at all because Jacob had the best practice on the team this week. The past two days, Jacob wasn’t the same. He didn’t even look like the same person, honestly. And Lance, he’s always been a bulldog, a warrior. Lance is probably one of our toughest players, honestly. That doesn’t surprise me either. We really need every single person on this team. I know you guys didn’t bring him up, but even Terrence Clarke, he’s battling, his body is hurting. He’s trying his hardest. At the end of the day, we’re fighting, we’re still going to keep our head down and keep running and let the outcome be what it is.”
#0 Jacob Toppin, F, So.
On his feelings about where the team is at …
“One-hundred percent (things are improving). You can tell by this game; we are moving in the right direction. We made minor mistakes down the stretch that we need to fix, but that just comes with experience when we play more games. We’ll get better at that. We’re definitely moving in the right direction. We just gotta keep pushing.”
On his improvement over the last few weeks …
“I mean, right now I’m just trying to do anything I can to help my team win whatever it is. We all have each other’s back. We’re all putting confidence in one another. So, my teammates had my back and they just told me that once I made my first shot to keep shooting, to keep attacking and to stay aggressive. So, it was my teammates who helped me through this and I’m looking to help my teammates wherever I can.”
On what the team is saying to Olivier Sarr to keep his confidence up …
“I don’t think he lost any confidence in that shot. Coach always says we have buzzard luck and I feel that’s the definition of buzzard luck. The ball was in the basket and it came out. We can’t do nothing about that. That was a great shot. He shoots those every day. He’s making 100-plus shots from that spot on the court every day, so he knows to just keep shooting and we just have to live with that.”
On today’s game being a must win and …
“I mean, let’s look at the positives. We’re moving in the right direction even though we lost, like we see improvement as a team and individually – everybody. We’ve just gotta keep pushing. Yeah, our backs are on the wall but that just makes us hungrier. We just want to get a win and once we get that first taste of victory, I think we’ll be good.”
On projected role players being the source of offense right now …
“I mean we can’t expect one person or two people to score 25 a game. We all have to contribute and we all need to have each other’s back whether one person goes off one game or another person goes off the other games. It’s not just based off of one or two people. Everybody has to contribute that way.”
On Davion Mintz’s leadership …
“He’s a great leader. I believe because he does everything the right way whether he’s making mistakes, we’re human we make mistakes, but I believe he’s a good leader. In the games he shows that he can be a leader. He’s always doing the hustle plays. He’s always scoring, and he just looks out for his teammates. I think he took upon that role very well and will continue to do that.”
On the team’s confidence …
“I don’t think we’ve lost any confidence. I’m going to have my coach’s back. We could have won many of these games that we played. This isn’t on him at all. We need to play better and we are starting to play better. So, we’re not going to blame him making a tough schedule on our losses because we could have won the games that we played. Our confidence right now is still high I think because we’re moving in the right direction. Every day in practice we’re getting better and we just gotta keep improving every day.”

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