1. “Fight and finish.”
“That’s all I’m focused on right now,” Cal said, when asked the No. 1 thing he would say his team needs to work on. “Fight. What does that mean? That means when you’re playing against another guy, you’re not just exchanging baskets. You’re trying to dominate him. But listen, but you’ve got to help us dominate them. So you can’t just worry about dominating him, but you’ve got to dominate him. You’ve got to fight for a rebound. You don’t run from contact. How about this? He’s trying to bump you on a drive, well fight back and play through two bumps before you shoot it. He bumps me and I shoot a runner, you didn’t fight. He fought, and you didn’t.
“I’m going to fight to out-run my guy. However hard he runs, I’m going to run harder. How about running back on defense? However hard he runs, I’m running faster because I’m going to fight. That’s all the fight that this team — we were exchanging baskets, and we have some guys that were saying, “I’ll be all right.” Really? No, you won’t. That has to change.
“Fight and finish, and that’s all I’m focused on right now, the end of the game, last four minutes, how are we going to play.
2. EJ Montgomery is healthy, confident.
Calipari opened his press conference with some words about EJ Montgomery, the game’s leading scorer.
“Well, he’s healthy,” Cal said of his big man. “He’s being more confident. He’s playing more physical. But like I told him, I said he exchanged baskets too many times today. Like we’re going to be playing teams where you have to fight to stay in front, to go grab balls with two hands.”
3. “I didn’t think Nick played particularly well.”
Richards had a double-double, but Cal didn’t love what he saw.
“I told him, ‘You got arrogant today.’ Hungry and humble. Hungry and humble. You start getting arrogant and what happens is all the — he’s invested in his positive, his own self-esteem. He invested in it and it can be taken away, not by me but by himself, and reverting back and playing in a way that you played a year ago when I couldn’t keep you in games, I couldn’t keep you in. You’re not doing that stuff and you reverted today.”
4. “Tough road ahead of us.”
Looking ahead, but not past the upcoming game against Georgia Tech, Calipari said, “Ohio State and Louisville, they are saying are the best two teams in the country, and you know why? Both teams fight. Both teams are unbelievably coached. Both teams are playing — they are screening. They are creating good shots for each other. If you walk in that game with any coolness, you’ll get beat by 30. 30.
“I’m not worried about them right now because we have Georgia Tech and Utah. Utah scored 143 points in one game. They are 6-1, 7-1. 143. We couldn’t do that if it was 5-0. We couldn’t get to 143 running our stuff. So we’ve got a tough road ahead of us.”
5. “This was good for us.”
“This was good for this team,” he said. “This was good. Now, and again, obviously we got work to do, but we’re making the strides we need to make.”