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Basketball Season Coverage

TRANSCRIPT: John Calipari speaks to the media post-Monmouth

Q. How close was today?
JOHN CALIPARI: I have to watch the tape but it was, the energy was unbelievable and we just rode the guys that had energy. I said late in the game, we had a guy get beat two or three times straight line drives late. Seven minutes to go, you’re out. Ashton went in and settled it down. Which may look like Ashton should maybe be in the game the last part of the game. Let him be in there guarding and keeping people in front and mixing it up. Tyler played well. I thought Keldon really did some really good stuff. And they’re figuring out to sub themselves. I left Reid in there too long at the beginning of the game. He should have been in four, five minutes and — the beginning of the game there’s anxiety and it’s not just playing the game, there’s all the stuff that goes with the beginning of the game. And then after that they settle down and played. A few turnovers we didn’t need to have but you know what, we passed the ball to each other, we were trying and again trying to get five, six seven guys in double figures, you know, it was good.

Q. Yesterday you emphasized defense. How well do you think your guys did it deep into the shot clock tonight?
JOHN CALIPARI: Better. Better. Look and I told them after, my whole career if my team’s not doing something, I’m, I look back at what I’m doing and what I’m teaching and saying, how do we do this. Because in most cases the teams I coach will do what I ask them to do. So am I not doing the right things, do we need to focus on other stuff. We are zeroed in right now defensively on what we have to do. Now we made some mistakes but effort and energy we scrambled, we didn’t stop as much. There were times where they left the — they held them under four points and I went to sub and the guys in the game said, what? They don’t have six yet, leave us in. And they stayed in the game. And so they’re taking pride. We also added something, three stops in a row equals a kill. Now we had two stops in a row probably eight times, seven eight times, nine. But we had five kills. That’s how you stretch games out. And you could say what you want, these guys are a little bit snake bit now because the game I watched they were up 12 the last game they played at home and they, the guy makes a three at the buzzer and beats them and so King, he’s going to get this thing right, they got a young team they’re inexperienced, but to be honest, they’re probably better than a couple teams we played already. And we didn’t do this to those teams. I told them, this is the best we played. And it’s because of what we did defensively. And as they guard, do you see them building their own confidence on offense? When you guard and you build confidence in yourself you’re going to be aggressive on offense too. Well, no, you take me out when I make a mistake. No, you got scored on four straight times, that’s why you didn’t have confidence. Don’t put that back to here. And so again, you play with that energy, you play with that, it’s easier. I told them I’m going to be tougher in the practices and lighten up in the games and accept where they are. We are who we are. I’m not going to try to force it along, we’re not skipping steps. This was a good first step for us.


T.J.’s TAKES: A step in the right direction

T.J.’s TAKES: A step in the right direction

That was more like it. Kentucky stepped it up in a big way defensively on Wednesday and put together a near 40-minute performance in the Cats’ most complete game of the season.

Here are five takeaways from UK’s 90-84 win over Monmouth.

1. The Win:

Kentucky fans have been waiting to see a blowout win like that. Some folks would have predicted a 7-0 start to the season, but no one predicted anything worse than 6-1. That’s where UK’s at after tonight’s win. No one is complaining about the record but some UK fans have expressed concerns about the way the Cats have won their games and obviously the lone loss was an eye-opener.

But there won’t be too many complaints from tonight. UK rocked Monmouth from start to finish and it was possibly the best performance of the season.  The Cats continue to shine offensively and wasn’t overly careless with the ball tonight, but obviously the biggest positive is the defensive performance.

I was starting to wonder if this team would never get there defensively, which I know was probably premature, but at least we finally saw a step in the right direction. Even if it was Monmouth that was important.

2. Defense:

The biggest difference I saw on Wednesday evening was UK looked more comfortable finding their guys in transition or covering a teammate’s mistakes. That’s primarily how UK’s been getting lost this season. Kentucky wants to play fast and if that works it means you’re going to speed up the opponent. If you’re speeding up the opponent that means the tempo is going to be quicker. All commonsense but it’s where UK was struggling and allowing opponent’s to get open looks.

That isn’t UK’s only defensive concerns, some guards are getting blown by, but all things considered tonight was better. Monmouth still doesn’t have a win on the season, so we need to remember that, but hopefully UK can continue to build on tonight’s defensive effort.

Also nice to see a team struggle from deep. 12.5 percent with two made threes isn’t good for Monmouth.

3. Shooting:

I’m starting to fall in love with this group from an offensive standpoint. They can score inside but Calipari was right about how good they are shooting. Quade Green is above 40 percent on the year and hit four threes tonight. Herro is heating up and looking dangerous from the perimeter. Keldon’s shot continues to be a pleasant surprise and the bigs still appear to be a threat from deep. I can’t imagine a lineup that at anytime doesn’t have at least three shooters on the floor, and most times there may be four guys.

That’s going to be tough to guard.

Just because UK had one good defensive performance tonight doesn’t mean they’re turned a corner, and the defense will probably never be top 10 or 20 in the country, but if you’re going to have a suspect defense it really helps to have a great offense. There aren’t too many better than UK in my opinion. And they are just getting started, bro.

Monmouth also played zone, they doubled the block, tried to make Herro catch the ball feet off the three-point line. Again, the Eagles aren’t great, but UK beat them in a variety of ways.

4. PJ Washington:

I guess it was nice to see him take care of the ball a little more tonight, but he’s really had a really tough two game stretch after an amazing three straight games.

Consistency seems like it’s going to be a problem again for Washington, but let’s hope its fixed before the schedule becomes meatier.

Offensively if he scores 19 or 25 points the Cats are going to be tough to beat. But UK won’t be reliant on his scoring. There are other guys that will step up and take care of the points. But UK can’t have this defensive effort from Washington. I think it’s almost all effort because I know he’s talented enough and we’ve seen him have nice defensive stretches (against UT last year for sure). Let’s just hope it’s being disinterested in the opponent because UK needs Washington on the floor but can’t play him when he’s standing around.

5. Moving Forward:

The Cats go to a football scheduling format starting on Saturday where UK will only play once a week. Those games will be on Saturday’s and maybe only one more true cupcake left on the schedule.

It would make UK fans feel warm and fuzzy inside if the Cats did more of the same defensively against UNC-Greensboro like we saw tonight.

But most importantly is all the practices UK will have over the next month. I’m not sure if we’ll get the infamous Camp Cal rants, but we should see a lot of improvement over December. And with only one game a week it means we should be seeing improvements week-to-week.

Nice win for UK tonight but now consistency becomes important.

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5 things to know about the Monmouth Hawks

5 things to know about the Monmouth Hawks

1. The start to the 2018-19 season for the Monmouth Hawks has not exactly gone to plan for Head Coach King Rice. After going 11-20 last season, the Hawks have lost their first seven games of this season. Not to put the cart before the horse here, but when you include the pending loss to Kentucky tonight, an 0-8 start has to be mentally dismantling for any team. It is hard to believe that Coach Rice is just two years removed from having Monmouth finish with a 27-7 record and a trip to the NIT in the 2015-16 season.

2. Part of the reason that Monmouth has struggled so much to start the season is that they just flat out cannot score the basketball at a high enough clip. The highest the Hawks have scored in a game this season is 74, and every other game has been 63 or less. Their struggles to score have them as one of the lowest scoring team in the country at this point in the year. Monmouth’s 60.6 points per contest ranks 339th out of 353 Division I teams, whereas Kentucky ranks 33rd with 84.5 points per game. We all know Kentucky has struggled on defense to begin this season, but tonight’s game could be a good chance to get back on track with both on ball defense and three-point defense.

3. If Monmouth’s team scoring didn’t tell the whole story, looking at their individual stats will do the trick. The Hawks best player is the only player they have scoring in double figures on the year. Sophomore guard Deion Hammond stands at 6’4″ and 200 pounds and is scoring 12.9 points per game, to go along with 2.3 rebounds, and 1.1 assists. He’s made 32% of his threes on the season, but is shooting just 35% from the field overall. His percentage from the field can be detrimental to the team, as he’s attempted 31 more shots than any other player. I can see Hammond using the spotlight of playing in Rupp to try to shoot the lights out tonight and take more shots than he has in a game all season. The over/under I’m setting is at least 7 three point attempts and 16 attempts overall.

4. On top of the issues with actually getting their shots to fall, Coach Rice’s squad struggles to match the size of opposing teams. The Hawks’ leading rebounder this year is their starting point guard who stands at just 6’3″. The four tallest players for Monmouth measure in at 6’11”, 6’9″, 6’8″, and 6’8″. Not a bad front line at all, except for that 6’11” Sam Ibiezugbe plays just 7 minutes per game, 6’9″ Diago Quinn plays only 8 minutes, and 6’8″ Nikkei Rutty checks in for 10 minutes. In fact, the tallest player that actually plays significant minutes is 6’8″ Mustapha Traore whose 4.6 rebounds per game are second on the team.

5. Last year’s match up with Kentucky in the Citi Classic in Madison Square Garden was the first time the Hawks and the Cats have played against each other. Kentucky won the series opener by the score of 93-76, as Hamidou Diallo showed out in front of a ton of onlooking family and friends to finish with 23 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals. The Cats also had big contributions from PJ Washington, 20 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 blocks, as well as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, 15 points, 9 assists, and 6 boards.

Go Cats. Beat Hawks.


Chris Marion/Getty Images

LeBron James hints he wants his son to play for Coach K

Chris Marion/Getty Images

It seems like only yesterday LeBron James Jr. was trying on John Calipari’s championship rings at the Joe Craft Center, but today, his father suggested he has a different coach in mind for when “Bronny” goes to college in 2023.

In a comment on ESPN’s Instagram post with Mike Krzyzewski’s comments about Duke fans needing to back off his players, LeBron wrote, “Big FACTS! Love Coach K!! The absolute BEST! Hope he’s still at the helm when my boy comes up.” 

Krzyzewski coached LeBron on Team USA, so they have a previous relationship, but comments like this further prove that Duke, not Kentucky, is the cool school now, and K, not Calipari, has the momentum. Dangit.