The Kentucky Wildcats rolled to a big victory over Georgia in the SEC tournament quarterfinals.
After the game, John Calipari was impressed with his team’s effort, especially for having the killer instinct to go after an opponent when they’re tired.
“When another team plays a couple games, you don’t know what to expect,” Calipari told the Andy Kennedy and the rest of the ESPN broadcast crew.
At the postgame press conference, Cal said he told the team to go after their legs and wear them out, and it worked.
“That was their third game in three days. I told the team, “Let’s do things to get them into their legs, go at their legs.” It’s hard to play three games in three days,” he said.
For a team so young, Cal said he was impressed they were able to come out and perform at a high level to open postseason play
“For these guys, this is all brand new. For them to perform like they did in this tournament, this first team. C’mon, we’re out there with all freshmen.”
The question of the hour had to do with Jarred Vanderbilt’s status, who again, said his star freshman would not be playing tomorrow.
“I don’t think Jarred plays tomorrow,” said Calipari. “You can’t not be 100% this late in the season and play. You can’t play at 80%, the games are too high-level. When we lost four in a row, he was playing. And then we started playing better and winning. He’s still limping. When you can jump up and grab the rim, then come talk to me.”
With Vanderbilt out, Calipari said someone needed to carry the rebounding load. Oddly enough, Kevin Knox was that guy.
“With Jarred not in, there are nine rebounds to be had. I told Kevin he needed to be the one to go get those, and he went out there and grabbed nine of them. I was proud of him.”
In Vanderbilt’s absence, Coach Cal said it allows Wenyen Gabriel, Sacha Killeya-Jones, and Nick Richards a chance to step up in the post. A few of them stepped up, one did not.
“It gives Wenyen a chance, Nick, and Sacha,” said Cal. “Sacha played really well. Nick needed to get more rebounds. You can’t be in the game and miss out on rebounds. Wenyen lost some balls, too. Grab the ball with two hands, what are you fumbling around for?”
When it comes to the team’s matchup against Alabama tomorrow, Calipari said he hasn’t watched much of them, but knows they’re on a hot streak with one of the most dynamic players in college basketball.
“I didn’t watch their game. I imagine (Collin Sexton) played really well and I know how good he is. They’ve got size, scoring ability, length, toughness. They went through what we went through, lost four or five in a row. Makes you appreciate winning more. We became a very happy team. They went from being shellshocked and rocked to a happy, aggressive team,” said Calipari.
With the Crimson Tide likely in the tournament regardless of tomorrow’s outcome, the SEC may very well have nine teams in the Big Dance.
“Alabama hit the game-winner, and now they’re a tournament team. I used to say nine teams in the NCAA Tournament, and you all said I needed to be drug tested. Now you look at it, and it’s possible.”
To prepare for the Tide, Coach Cal said he has a lot of film to watch tonight and will have to knock it out in a hurry before their early tip tomorrow afternoon.
“I’ll watch our game tape first, then our tape with Alabama, then their two games here, then a game they lost,” said Calipari. “We’ll meet with the team and talk through how to play them. Because we played everyone, I can go back and look at my notes. We’ll get up tomorrow. What time is the game? It’s at NOON?”
He was not very happy about it, almost immediately standing up and walking out, joking he was going to start preparing right away.
One down, two to go.