John Calipari has spent this season preaching a singular message: fight and finish. Against Auburn, Kentucky had neither. If you ask Immanuel Quickley, he’ll tell you his team got out-toughed by the Tigers Saturday night.
“Honestly Auburn is a really good team. They play really hard,” Quickley told reporters after the game. “Coach Pearl has done a great job this year with those guys and they hit the glass really hard. They played way tougher than we did.”
As for the flow of the game, Quickley admitted it was challenging for the team to get into any sort of rhythm – 48 total fouls in 40 minutes of action will do that. Still, that’s no excuse.
“It was hard, but you can’t blame the refs for losing. You’ve just got to take this one on the chin,” Quickley said. “We just didn’t get this one done. Hustle plays, rebounding, turnovers – we just didn’t get it done.”
Quickley’s right: rebounding did play a significant role in the Cats’ loss. Auburn out-hustled Kentucky for a 42-28 advantage, including a 17-6 difference off the offensive glass.
“Rebounding is just toughness, and they out-toughed us today. So we’ll clean it up; we’ll watch film. We’ll do more toughness drills when we get back to practice,” Quickley said. “But really rebounding just comes one-on-one, boxing out and getting the ball.”
The Cats earned just 14 boards from the team’s entire frontcourt, but Calipari has been praising his team’s backcourt for their rebounding efforts this season. Not Saturday. Ashton Hagans had zero and Johnny Juzang had two, and Quickley and Tyrese Maxey combined for nine. That wasn’t enough in their eyes.
“We’ve got to be tougher. There were some rebounds us guards should have come up with that we didn’t,” Maxey said after the game. “We’ll try to correct it.”
For the veterans on the team, including Quickley, a loss to Auburn only reignites the fire the Tigers set in last year’s Elite Eight matchup. Quickley was hesitant to say this loss stings more than any other one would, saying “any loss for me is tough. I’m a competitor and I don’t like losing.”
But he wasn’t hesitant to reflect on last year’s UK-AU series, and he couldn’t help but imagine a potential role reversal this season.
“Honestly, it was a tough game but just like last year, we beat them in the regular season, and they got us when it mattered,” Quickley said. “Hopefully we’ve just got to move on and keep moving toward March.”
You can watch Quickley and Maxey’s complete post-game comments here: