For the fourth-consecutive game, exhibition and regular season, the Kentucky Wildcats left a lot to be desired out on the floor. They’ve been inconsistent shooting the ball, horrendous on defense, and for a group Kentucky head coach John Calipari raved about this offseason, it’s just been a massive disappointment.
We thought this group would be hungry coming into their second regular season game against a potential NCAA Tournament team in Southern Illinois. The official Kentucky basketball social media accounts preached throughout the week that they’d come out firing on all cylinders against the Salukis.
But for the first 30 minutes of the game, we found ourselves in yet another head-scratcher, leaving fans questioning just how good this team actually is.
John Calipari said in his postgame press conference that he’s frustrated that he scheduled such difficult games to start the season.
“Hard second game,” he said. “I’m still mad we scheduled it. I’m mad we scheduled the first one when we did. And after we played two exhibitions games I knew where we were.”
Calipari continued by saying he was caught off guard by his team’s performance in Indianapolis against Duke. In his mind, he didn’t prepare his team well enough against such a talented opponent.
“I never saw coming what happened up there,” Calipari said. “You know why? Because I really didn’t have a good read. That’s my job as a coach is to have a good read on where we are. I had no read at all. … Obviously I wasn’t as disciplined myself or asking enough from them.”
Fortunately, the Cats were able to turn roughly 70 minutes of extremely poor basketball to start the regular season into a winning performance down the stretch to pull off the 71-59 victory.
Kentucky guard Immanuel Quickley, who finished with a team-high 15 points, acknowledged his team’s sluggish start, but was pleased with their ability to bounce back down the stretch. He believes the Wildcats are just scratching the surface.
“Nobody was rattled, really,” he said. “That just shows the resiliency and toughness of this team. I think we can really be good.”
Quickley said the only way to bounce back from a horrendous loss is to move on and understand there’s still a long way to go in the season.
“You bounce back by moving on,” said Quickley. “I think this team is a great team, we still believe in each other, coach still believes in us. We just have to come to work each and every day.”
Freshman center EJ Montgomery said it was a mindset issue, and he believes they got it back down the stretch.
“We had to get our mindset back together, try to go out there and fight and be together as a team,” he said. “Just go out and get a win.”
For Sophomore center Nick Richards, the difference between the Duke game and their performance against Southern Illinois comes down to that brief stretch in the second half when the Cats found themselves down by seven points. Instead of sulking and chalking up the ugly performance as a loss, they fought back to take control for their first victory of the season.
“You just have to put stuff in the past,” Richards said. “Coach tells us all the time, what happens in the past stays in the past. You just have to look toward the future because that’s what really matters. We just looked on to this game and not last game, and you see what happens. We were down seven at one point, fought back to get the lead, guys stepped up their game.”