As you might imagine, John Calipari was frustrated with his team following the 81-78 loss to South Carolina. The Cats allowed the Gamecocks to score 56 points in the second half and shoot 55.6% from the floor, a far cry from their 39.7% mark in the first half. What went wrong? A lot of things, but Calipari started his postgame press conference with a rant about selfishness.
“Guys breaking off stuff, doing their own thing. We’re up 10, we call stuff and they just — you can’t play that way in a big time game. We had some guys that the game was a little bit above them. They couldn’t come up with rebounds and balls, which I thought they would. But you’ve got to give South Carolina credit. They never stopped. I thought we had them when it was 14. Let’s get it to 20. And they didn’t stop.”
At times in the second half, it seemed like Kentucky couldn’t do anything right. You can blame a lot of that on officiating, but Calipari instead pointed to defensive lapses and sloppy play.
“There were so many breakdowns,” Cal lamented. “So many turnovers. We’re a team that turns it over 11, 12 times. We had 15 and most of them were running somebody over or trying to make a play when you should be passing. We just became — the discipline issue I’ve been talking about came through today and I keep saying it, ‘You have to be a disciplined player.’ This is about a group of guys coming out together and playing together. You can’t be the guy that comes out and does your own thing. It’s not just one. And then we had a couple of guys we need to be able to step up and guys that want more minutes. When you look at it, we had three guys go 2-13 and they’re all trying to get more minutes. Well, you’re 2-13 and we’re trying to win. Those guys have to figure out, where are you going to make baskets or free throws.”
Calipari didn’t name names, but if you look at the box score, he’s probably talking about Keion Brooks (0-5), Kahlil Whitney (1-4), and Johnny Juzang (1-4), whom Kentucky was forced to play with so many players in foul trouble. There were 54 fouls called tonight, to the point every other South Carolina possession seemed to end with an and-one.
“I’ve got to give them credit,” Calipari said. “They had free-throw shooters who don’t make free throws made every free throw. Made every free throw. And we had guys that make free throws missing free throws. But they deserved to win the game. It would have been a shame if we had somehow thrown one in and won the game. I would have been happy, but it would have been a shame. Frank [Martin] did a great job in this game.”
Simply put, this team must develop a killer instinct before March. Tyrese Maxey and Immanuel Quickley hit some big shots late, but the game should have been over before then.
“There were spurts in the first half where we could have had it to 10 or 12 instead of 8 and this team doesn’t get that yet. When you get that chance to get somebody to 20, you do it. This team does not do it. We haven’t done it all year.”
“Every possession matters. And when you get a chance to put somebody down, you do.”