Immediately after Tuesday’s home loss to LSU, John Calipari was disappointed in the outcome. Two hours later he sent his players a different message.
“It’s tough losing, but we needed this,” he told his team in a text message.
“People were moving in the wrong direction and not listening to what we were saying. I said it’s not only our team. We went from the best defensive team in the country to giving up layups. How does this happen? To giving up baskets, to not rebounding — We’re playing a half, and in the second half not playing. How does that happen?
“Most of it’s mental and most of it becomes what I talked about eight, nine days ago: there becomes an arrogance when you’re winning. We kind of got away from what makes us good, including individual players. Hopefully that’s a great lesson going into this game. I hate losing, but if you need to get rocked, then so be it.”
Kentucky looked like one of the most dominant teams in the country in the first half at Mississippi State and in the second half at Florida. Even though they were far from perfect for significant portions of those games, Kentucky was still good enough to win. That didn’t cut it against a good LSU team.
“I saw it coming,” Calipari said at Friday’s press conference. “I think you almost have to get knocked in the mouth and take a loss.”
After taking an eight-point lead into the halftime locker room, LSU knocked Kentucky in the mouth to start the second half. Despite that setback, he believes his team can turn it around after fighting for a win in the final minutes.
“There is a lot of growth left in us and a lot of it’s a confidence that if you’re going to be one of the last teams standing, you have a confidence. I loved how we finished the game against LSU. We finished with confidence. You can’t only be confident when you’re desperate. You gotta play that way and young teams, it takes time.”
To beat the No. 1 team in America, Calipari’s players must respond to LSU’s punch with urgency and confidence for 40 minutes.