No Excuses From John Calipari After Defensive Woes, Missed Shots Lead to UK Loss

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Reed Sheppard had 25 points, nine rebounds and six assists Saturday but did make three turnovers in 39 minutes of play. (Vicky Graff Photo)

Kentucky coach John Calipari hates losing just like most coaches do. However, he’s not sure losing to UNC-Wilmington 80-73 Saturday in Rupp Arena might not be better in the long run for UK than if the Cats had rallied and won.

“I will be honest. What I saw,  it (losing) was almost better. I know if we had leaked out a win we would have thought we would be okay,” Calipari told Tom Leach on the UK Radio Network postgame show. “This means we can beat anybody in the country or lose to anybody in the county. We got to play the right way.”

Kentucky had been playing the right way. It had been hitting 3-point shots, moving the ball quickly and not turning the ball over. That changed Saturday.

Kentucky had a season-high 14 turnovers that led to 11 UNCW points. Kentucky managed only 17 3-points shots and made just five — three of those were by freshman Reed Sheppard. Kentucky also had only 14 assists.

“I am not going to make excuses. We have to guard the ball better,” Calipari said. “You just can’t let guards when you are up and ready to separate to go down the lane and get an and-one. We work on it every day but that is not their dominant habit. They all got beat on the dribble.”

They got beat a lot off the dribble by a team that did not have a road win over a ranked team in program history. They got beat by a team that lost by 30 points to Appalachian State and lost 74-66 Thursday at East Carolina when it went 3-for-23 from 3-point range.

Against UK, UNC-Wilmington was 11 of 31 from 3. Trazarien White, a 6-7 junior, had 27 points on 9-for-16 shooting from the field and 8-for-13 at the foul line. Kentucky could not guard him. Two other UNCW players hit three 3-pointers each.

White, who had 16 of UNCW’s 21 points during a second-half stretch, said his team believed it could win and played that way.

“I think this is probably one of our better games of the year,” he said.

Probably? Obviously, he was being tactful after stunning UK.

“They play hard, very physical. They didn’t give up. We just made more shots,” White said. “I have watched Kentucky all my life. They have always been one of the top teams in the country. Just to play against Calipari is an honor. I am blessed.”

Calipari was not happy with his team’s passing, something that coaching friends had calling him to let him know how much the Wildcats were to watch play.

“I hope they watched this one but it was not fun,” Calipari said. “Offensively did it look the same to you in the first half? Why didn’t it? We wouldn’t pass. Give UNCW credit. Maybe they forced us to hold the ball or try to drive on two or three guys.

“This happened with St. Joe’s but what did we do — we made shots and that covers it up and we made shots because everybody passes. We tried to make hard plays again. How many drives for layups did we try to make and  missed it. I hate losing but sometimes you have got to get hit in the mouth. We have got to start guarding the ball better.”

Calipari said not having freshman guard D.J. Wagner because of an ankle injury suffered in the first half against Miami was no excuse for UK’s play or making 14 turnovers when that had not been an issue in previous games.

“We were trying to make the hardest play. It was not just one guy. It was a bunch of them. Our guards didn’t make shots and turned it over.

“Give them (UNCW) credit. You can look at us and say we were this or that but they made shots, attacked the rim and made baskets.”

15 Responses

  1. It’s safe to say that we probably underestimated UNCW and were too confident in ourselves. Give the Seahawks credit, they were the better team today. The biggest disappointment was the selfish play that consumed us today. What’s done is done; time to own this effort and learn from it. Bradshaw will benefit from another week of practice and be able to contribute more against Penn next Saturday. Wagner may be available then too. Then another week of practice after that should have both ready to play substantial minutes against North Carolina. Ugo may be able to play against Louisville. If he is good for 15 minutes at Florida that will bode well for SEC play. Calipari actually sounded like a coach in his postgame show. Maybe his has grown tired of being an NBA pimp and is ready to be a coach again. Time will tell. Go Cats.

    1. Barry, I have to agree with everything you said (except the jab at Cal). The first thing I thought after the game is they played selfish. They never decided to guard the three. Although Sheppard probably played better than the rest, he sure wasn’t perfect. Wagner is definitely needed. They laid an egg. Hopefully they will learn and move on. Go Cats!

  2. Not a bad loss because there is a lot they can learn from this game. This team is very good when playing fast, but they will have teams that are capable of slowing the game down and they will have to learn how to play in the half court. Need to play defense for 40 minutes, too many games where this team lets the opponent get early leads. Playing from behind is always hard. Will also have to learn who needs to have the ball when the outside shot is not falling. Wagner was sorely missed in this game. His speed and ability to penetrate can really open up the floor for shooters.

  3. This wasn’t the same team we saw the first 7 games this season for some reason. It just shows anybody can be beat any given night. There so parity in the college basketball landscape.

  4. This team lost due to serious defensive issues. Yesterday’s opponent exploited those defensive problems and handed UK a major upset loss at home.

    This is classic Calipari, and he has this team well along toward yet another 10+ loss season.

    Ten Loss Tubby had to go for this very reason, but now 10+ losses are the new reality.

    Enjoy the ride!!

    1. That’s what your hoping professor, you could be right and wrong at the same time. Oh by the way Bradshaw play that you and Barry claim will never see him on the floor.

  5. It’s hard to be optimistic after this TERRIBLE loss.
    UNCW won this game from start to finish.
    We barely escaped against St. Joe.

    I see another year of not making it past the first weekend of the NCAAT.

    Things aren’t going to change until Cal is gone.

    Those trying to say this loss isn’t a bad thing are very wrong.

    These losses becoming acceptable under our fraudulent coach is part of the problem.

      1. I’m a cat fan not a Cal fan. There’s a difference.

        There’s not a lot to post about the UK basketball program anymore outside of moral victories.

        If you want to keep drinking the Cal Kool Aid then go ahead.
        I choose not to drink that poison myself.

  6. I agree!!! Calapari actually need to be in the HR RECRUITING DEPARTME. AD has been responsible for both football and basketball coaching selections. Maybe the BBN needs a complete housecleaning. I still love the Cats, but have a hard time supporting the AD and coaches. All are over paid.

  7. Folks, it is early in the basketball season. Was it a bad loss? Yes, but there is no reason to panic. Lots of good teams lost over the weekend.

  8. 1st game I have attened this year. They looked out of sinc from the start. DJ was missed and the matador defense on drives and three’s was horrible to say the least. Took a day off the computer to remind myself how much life is more important than UK BB. I still think this will be a team that will make us cheer at the end of the year and get us to a Final Four. And if I’m wrong it just means I have more money to spend on my wife’s 60th birthday! ! !

    Go Cats. Keep up the good work! Go Blue or Stay Home. Heck we may just go to Jacksonville! ! !

  9. Definitely agree on the lack of quick passing. Too much one on one ball hogging in this game. Defense was also very sloppy, especially in the first half- far too much room given to the outside shooters.

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