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Coming off Utah loss, Kentucky players are ready to respond against Ohio State

On Wednesday, the Kentucky basketball team opened its trip to Las Vegas with a 69-66 loss to Utah.

And if you ask John Calipari, it had to do with the fact that the Wildcats failed to fight for the first 30 minutes of the game, allowing the Utes to build a 17-point lead in the second half. Had they put forth effort to start the game, they wouldn’t have needed to mount a late comeback effort to have a chance in the end.

“Losing stinks and we are still trying to figure this out, but I like the fact that we had a will to win at the end,” Calipari said on his Twitter page on Thursday afternoon. “For the other 30 minutes, they were the aggressor and they were the fighters. We were not. Like I tell my team, learn from the game & then NEXT. That’s why I got up early, watched tape, went to mass, worked out, watched more tape, staff meeting in 20 minutes, & then meeting w/the team to do film & prepare for the next two days before a great practice [on Thursday] afternoon.”

At the end of the day, though, he still believes in his Wildcats.

“These guys need each other,” Calipari continued. “We need everybody with extreme energy and effort and doing what they do for this team. We have as much upside as any team. Now we’re going to have go chase it. I believe in this team. I’ll say it again: NEXT!!!”

After the game, Kentucky point guard Ashton Hagans told reporters he thought his team didn’t play with discipline on either end of the floor.

And as frustrating as it was to lose, he thinks they’ve “been here” before and know what they need to do on Saturday against the Ohio State Buckeyes.

“It was a lack of discipline, I would say, on both ends of the floor,” he said. “But we’ve been here before a few times, so it’s just another day in the office. It’s just time to bounce back next game. We have a big one on Saturday, so we’ve just got to put this one past us, go back tomorrow focused and locked in.

As for the 17 point deficit the Wildcats were forced to overcome, Hagans says the veteran leaders on the team – including himself – have to teach the younger players to possess that fight and overcome adversity. For a wide-eyed and bushy-tailed freshman, 17 points seems insurmountable, but it’s up to the veterans to show them how to battle until the final buzzer.

“Last year, we started off slow most of our games. We’ve been in this position before, we’ve been in this situation,” Hagans said. “It’s up to us, the leaders that came back [for another year at Kentucky], to talk to the younger guys and show that we’re out there with them. 17 point lead, anything can happen. We fought back, and at least we didn’t let down. It’s just time to get back to work.”

Sophomore forward EJ Montgomery says he understands how difficult of a loss it was and that the fight needs to start to begin the game, not with their backs against the wall in the second half.

“Just have to go to the drawing board, you know? We’ve got practice tomorrow,” Montgomery said. “We just need to start going from the beginning of the game, continue to fight, and bounce back. … Fighting, just continue to be the leader of this team, drag everybody with me through the fight. We’ll continue to get better every day.”

Hagans certainly agrees.

“We always have a lot of freshmen here at Kentucky, you just have to go through [the adversities] and the leaders of the team have to continue to show them how,” he said. “We all have to fight, and it starts at the beginning of the game.

Despite the disappointing defeat on Wednesday, Hagans appreciated the fan support that allowed the Wildcats to come back and tie the game late in the second half.

And with No. 5 Ohio State coming to town on Saturday afternoon, he hopes the fans come out and support them again to close out Kentucky’s trip to Las Vegas.

“That just goes to show you how much the BBN loves this team,” he said. “They helped us come back in the game. They were on their feet when we needed them, they lifted us up. I just want to say thank you to the fans. I hope they come back Saturday and do the same thing.”

Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

10 Comments for Coming off Utah loss, Kentucky players are ready to respond against Ohio State

  1. DelrayCat
    1:47 pm December 20, 2019 Permalink

    Interesting how Cal is taking so much heat in the 2 losses…saying how he’s lost it, can’t coach, should do this or that. I am guilty of it too. But the reality is we all though EJ would be PJ Washington or better this year, and he just isn’t. He has not improved much at all, and Richards is who he is. Imagine if UK had only signed 1 more player that chose another team over us…Wiseman @Memphis, [email protected], [email protected], or even Tshiewbe @ WVU. All those guys are studs and would have been the missing piece (Wiseman would have been eligible at UK). Right now no doubt in my mind we’d be sitting #1 undefeated and the Cal love would be fierce.

    • DelrayCat
      1:51 pm December 20, 2019 Permalink

      Oh yeah, or even [email protected] All are better than Sestina, and really anyone in the paint we have now. So we can all see Cal’s frustration. They tried, but couldn’t get it done with that last key needed piece. Small ball is the best answer imo. Don’t play Richards and EJ together.

    • bigtaters6957
      2:03 pm December 20, 2019 Permalink

      Add Kofi Cockburn to the list

    • classof68
      2:28 pm December 20, 2019 Permalink

      I think you hit on something. If we get this guy or that guy instead of being the bridesmaid on so many recruits, this team would be great. Unfortunately, we are the bridesmaid too many times the last 4-5 years. I don’t think Cal’s a great enough coach to make up for recruiting deficiencies. He’s a good overall coach, not a great one. If he keeps missing out on FF’s I think he will lose interest here and move on.

    • kjd
      4:36 pm December 20, 2019 Permalink

      IF the queen had…… she’d be king. What if game is beneath UK tradition.

  2. Lip Man 1
    1:52 pm December 20, 2019 Permalink

    “It was a lack of discipline, I would say, on both ends of the floor, but we’ve been here before a few times, so it’s just another day in the office.”

    Telling comment. Yep, lack of discipline…but no big deal, we’ve been here before. Let’s lose another game to an opponent that on paper has no business even being close to UK talent-wise.

    OK then.

    These guys this year just don’t seem to have the fight or the desire to go hard for the full 40 minutes. News Flash: Unlike some past UK teams these guys don’t have the ability to just “turn it on.”

    Maybe they’ve learned something, hope so, we’ll see what happens Saturday.

  3. Bluebloodtoo
    1:58 pm December 20, 2019 Permalink

    Well I don’t know about any of you, but I’m probably not going to have my best mental or emotional performance at 11pm to 1am at night.

  4. bigtaters6957
    2:23 pm December 20, 2019 Permalink

    Stash this in the, heard it before folder. Sounds like the post game comments from the Evansville game. Team came out and about laid an egg the next time out. This team just isn’t very good right now. Good news is, there aren’t any other teams that are separating themselves from the pack.

  5. tmcclan16
    5:26 pm December 20, 2019 Permalink

    They better show up or this will be a blood bath

  6. recruitshooters
    8:24 pm December 20, 2019 Permalink

    Took me 43 years but a 7-5 football team is more exciting than our recent basketball teams. This is his worst group by far, no bigs, no shooters = L’s.. Been a Cal supporter 100% but he’s not a good coach and has become a decent recruiter- we are ranked 1-2 each year because we have to have 4-5 each year to fill the roster and the 4-5 recently are not the top 1-2 recruits there top 25 closer to 25, so yes ranked high but not nationally the following year. If your going to win with freshman which you can’t bring your go to guys then you better get 2-3 of the top 5 even then I haven’t seen it, moral of my point is we will never win a NC as long as coach is here, I’ve accepted it, unfortunately we are an elite 8 team at best but have the best June, that’s not interesting at all.