Vicky Graff Photo
Gonzaga coach Mark Few was full of praise for Kentucky after Saturday’s game in Rupp Arena. It made you wonder how Kentucky lost its third straight game in Rupp Arena — something that has never happened at Rupp Arena and the first time UK basketball has lost three straight home games since the 1966-67 season. For those not counting, it was 57 years ago that UK last lost three straight home games.
And remember it was only three weeks ago that UK was No. 6 in the AP rankings but since then UK has lost at South Carolina and gone down at home to Florida, Tennessee, and now Gonzaga, a team that did not have a Quad 1 win before Saturday.
But Few almost made it sound like UK won with these comments:
— “There was a lot of stress brought their way by the crowd and the toughness and athleticism of the Kentucky players and the schemes that Cal and his staff brought at us, but those guards showed a lot of poise tonight.”
— “Kentucky, to your point, is long and athletic and they have a lot of bodies in there. I thought their wings and guards did a nice job going to the glass, too.”
— “The preparation, to me, was so much harder this year. What a job they’ve done assembling this roster. They have veterans like (Antonio) Reeves and we spent a lot of time worrying about Tre Mitchell. He’s a tough matchup with his pick-and-pop and what he can do if he gets a small guy on a mismatch. So we caught a huge break there, with him not playing. Just the skill they have and the pace we play with—we love to get out in transition. They’re an impressive team, but at halftime, we had only given up two transition points, which I thought was damn near miraculous. That’s probably the biggest thing—the skill level and a nice mix of some really talented young guys and some veterans.”
— “I see a lot of potential. I thought I saw two really, really good teams out there making plays at the highest level and I think (Kentucky) is going to be fine. They have skill and athleticism. I think they need to get healthy. If they get Tre Mitchell back, they get that skilled four back. I think those guys getting healthy, but man, if they keep shooting it the way they shoot it and flying around—I know people have discussed a lot about their defense, but they climbed up against us in the second half and it was hard. We had to work really, really hard to get buckets in the second half. We executed good and made the right plays, but we had to work.”
Had to work? Gonzaga out-rebounded UK 43-31 — Gonzaga had 18 offensive rebounds including a huge one that UK freshman Aaron Bradshaw couldn’t grab late in the game — and manhandled the Cats inside scoring 50 points in the paint.
Again, former UK All-American Jack Givens did not mince words on the UK Radio Network after the game.
Givens was obviously disappointed that UK let the Zags continue to easily get the ball inside and score no matter which 7-footer coach John Calipari played.
“I don’t care what they run, they are not going to get the ball into the paint on me. Kentucky didn’t have that (attitude),” Givens said. “I am going to make it as difficult for you as I can Kentucky and Kentucky allowed Gonzaga to do that. Those messages have to be delivered early and I give Gonzaga credit. They delivered that message early.”
“Adou Thiero was the only one who stood out to me as that guy who tried to deliver every way he possibly could among the bigs.”