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John Calipari: “For the first time this year, Tyrese Maxey played with a toughness to win”

Kentucky freshman guard Tyrese Maxey is no stranger to big games. He got his UK career started with a 26-point performance to open the season against then-No. 1 Michigan State at Madison Square Garden, and heading into Tuesday evening, he has followed it up with nine games of 15-plus points.

Despite the dominant scoring performances, though, UK head coach John Calipari believes Maxey has left plenty to be desired from a toughness standpoint.

Following his 25-point performance where he shot 10-17 from the field overall and 3-4 from three, Calipari said that for the first time in his freshman season, Maxey played with a “toughness to win.”

“The best thing that happened is for the first time this year, Tyrese Maxey played with a toughness to win, vs. just playing basketball,” Calipari said of his star guard. “Now you have to understand I’ve been all over this and all over him and not settling. That was a good sign.”

Scoring three of Kentucky’s first four baskets and seven more throughout the game, Maxey was an offensive force on all three levels from start to finish. Whether it was a crucial three with the team down or a tough take to the rim when the team needed points, the freshman guard fought through and helped lead the team to victory.

“He played through bumps today for the first time in his college career,” Calipari said of Maxey. “That means you get hit and you keep going, vs. you get hit and throw the one-handed fade. It may go. Really if it goes you look crazy and if it doesn’t we lose. But this one, playing through the bump, you make it and it’s an and-one. And you show toughness, and it feeds on the other team. They’re like, ‘Holy cow.’ But his instinct is to get hit and throw a fade. Not play through bumps. He’s learning.”

And it wasn’t just on offense that Maxey separated himself.

According to Calipari, the 6-foot-3 guard out of Garland, TX also told on himself on the defensive end of the floor, impressive with six deflections after halftime alone.

“Another thing he did, he had six deflections in the second half with 10 minutes to go,” Calipari said. “Where’s that guy been? He told on himself. You mean you can play that way? ‘Yeah, but it’s really hard. Can I just get more shots?’ Trying to get these guys to do what the hardest thing is has been the challenge this year.”

On the glass, Maxey also snagged four rebounds, an aggressiveness on that front Calipari hasn’t seen in “games.”

“Our guards rebounded,” he said. “I thought Tyrese, again, stuck his nose in there, which he hasn’t done in games. He’ll go in and act like he’s trying to get the ball but he’s not. He’s hoping someone else will grab it. Today he went after balls.”

Maxey finished the day with 25 points on a career-high 10 field goals to go with four rebounds, two assists, and tied a career best with two steals. He made a career-high 10 field goals. It was his third game of 25 points or more this season, with his other game highs being 26 vs. Michigan State and 27 vs. Louisville.

The Wildcats will now head back home to Lexington to take on Ole Miss on Saturday afternoon.

Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

8 Comments for John Calipari: “For the first time this year, Tyrese Maxey played with a toughness to win”

  1. terwilliger
    5:57 am February 12, 2020 Permalink

    “Trying to get these guys to do what the hardest thing is has been the challenge this year.”

    It’s the challenge EVERY year. That’s why a lot of people are turned off by the one and done era. By the way, I’m not complaining after this great road win we just got. Simply pointing out that our players always get good right about the time they leave, and until then it is a real struggle to watch them sometimes. I’m a bit surprised Cal acts as though this is a new phenomenon.

    • CrystalBall
      6:18 am February 12, 2020 Permalink

      Correct. Big disadvantage to having more that one 1-and-dones in starting lineup.

    • BlueWho
      8:20 am February 12, 2020 Permalink

      Its almost as if we don’t have a 5 year transfer who gets beat off every drive to the basket and picks up fouls left and right..Maxey is the only one and done. If its still a complaint at this point then they just need an excuse to complain. Defense is usually hard no matter who they are.

    • BluemanGreen
      8:47 am February 12, 2020 Permalink

      You realize we start 3 sophomores, a junior, and 1 freshmen right dingus

    • nocode96
      9:31 am February 12, 2020 Permalink

      So what then? Do we go recruit 3 and 4 star players and hope they stay 4 years? We do that, then we settle for 2-3 years of okay basketball. There would be no turning it on late every year that puts us in the conversation every March. The only reason we are dangerous year in and year out us because Cal gets studs. Lately, Cal has been getting those 4 stars too and the same people that complain about the one and done guys are the exact same ones that complain about the 4 star guys not getting it sooner. It’s a lose/lose with some of you spoiled fans and it’s frustrating to see it in these messages every day. The studs “leave too soon” and the ones like Nick “take too long”. How do you people not see the hypocrisy and ignorance in the way you’re thinking? It’s baffling to me that there are people this dumb just walking around every day.

    • Bluehender
      9:39 am February 12, 2020 Permalink

      You’re right nocode. I hate to tell you but they’re out there…walking around. Every day..

  2. Bluehender
    7:45 am February 12, 2020 Permalink

    I thought he was terrific. Played with energy on both ends..the whole game

  3. dave1964
    8:06 am February 12, 2020 Permalink

    He is a very good player don’t think he has even hit the level of play he is capable of, was a very good win and comeback but can we please just get a few wins where there is no doubt in the games outcome I am getting to old for this.