WATCH: John Calipari on Kentucky's loss to Gonzaga

On3 imageby:Tyler Thompson02/10/24


In his postgame press conference following Kentucky’s 89-85 loss to Gonzaga, John Calipari covered several of the hot topics in BBN right now. He explained what his team was trying to do coming out of a timeout down two with 13.6 seconds to play and addressed why Rob Dillingham only played four minutes in the second half.

He also delivered a message to fans who are upset after the Cats’ third straight loss in Rupp Arena, a first in the building’s history, and tried to provide a little hope for the rest of the season. You can hit play to hear it all below.

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John Calipari Transcript

JOHN CALIPARI: The team that was out there was playing so well together that I left it alone. And I told he and D.J., that’s the only reason I left it alone. And if we finish the game – you would have said, but – now you look at it and say why didn’t you have him in. You’re right. We could have. But that group was playing so well that I didn’t go to the rotation.

Q Cal, the last play of the game or at least the failed lob attempt at the end there. Was that plan A? What was the plan there?

JOHN CALIPARI: The plan was Antonio if the lob wasn’t there, and obviously wasn’t, was to go to the top of the key. But that didn’t lose us the game. 18 offensive rebounds. 50 points in the paint. We thought we could guard them one-on-one. We probably needed to trap more. But then you are freeing up some other guys.

Q Cal, the last few possessions seem like 10 or 11 possessions in a row they were going low-scoring down there. What do you do going forward switching guys in and out at the five, what do you do going forward at that position?

JOHN CALIPARI: Keep working on their defense. The other thing is, okay, someone is not able to guard. The play where we switched and 22 is under the basket, we stood behind them and it was a three-point play. They scored eight times in a row and it was like lob’s which I was saying the same thing, just keep retreating. We don’t want to give that up. Let the little guy try to shoot it. We came up. We broke down some. We took a bad shot when we were up five and ready to go. The kids kept fighting. They just kept fighting. They never stopped and – so, it’s just tough. We lost three games kind of like that where we have a chance. I told him after, we lost the game in the first half. That’s when we lost the game. And we came back and fought and made it close, but the first half is what cost us. Yes?

Q Cal, on that you said it seems like it’s become a trend in the last few games with a slow start outside the Vanderbilt game. What do you tell your team to get those slow starts so you aren’t digging out of a hole?

JOHN CALIPARI: You keep on them about the intensity and start a game and the fight you have to have, especially at home. This is – it is just disappointing we got beat to so many balls. Just disappointing. I think we are better than that. And there are things we have to get our big guys to do. There are things – some execution stuff. Even the last play, Antonio was supposed to throw it to the rim. Take one bounce and throw it to the rim. He said he grabbed me. I said I knew he was going to grab you, that’s why you throw it to the rim. Had some breakdowns Offensively a little bit at the end. It’s all stuff we can clean up.

Q Coach, as you alluded to, the game was already lost in the first half except for the last five minutes where they went on a run. Why is the team so inconsistent in their fight where they may start really well and end really well but there is that stretch in the middle of the game.?

JOHN CALIPARI: I don’t know, I wish I had the answer to it. We know we are capable. We are playing teams and we’ve got a chance to win at the end of the game even if we don’t play great. And we have our chances. Most of our breakdowns come down on the defensive end. And I’m spending a lot of time on it and we are working on it. Thank goodness we have time. We’ve got a tough schedule. Our league is really good.

Q John, you guys have lost three straight at home with all fantastic crowds. How frustrating is it to not defend home court?

JOHN CALIPARI: I want to tell our fans how much I appreciate what they are doing for this team or what they are trying to do. They are here. They are loud. When we needed them they stood up. This team needs it and I would just say stick with them. I appreciate the fans and, you know, you walk into this building and it’s packed like it has been for three games. We just normally come out like on fire and we just haven’t. But again, nothing has changed in my mind with this team. We have the ability to do what we want. We are just going to have to do it together.

Q It’s a young group. It’s just what you have to expect with young teams. I know everybody talks about freshmen. But they are freshman.

JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah. You know, you are going against a veteran team that really executes what they are trying to do at the four-minute mark. We weren’t able to withstand some of the stuff they

were doing. Most of it were breakdowns. You can’t have them at that point in the game. But, young teams, I’ve been here with young teams where we had to kick it in gear and go. As much as I’m feeling it hard, tough, I can’t stand losing. How do you think they are feeling? I have to make sure I’m focused on them and keeping them in the right frame of mind.

Q Cal, pick-and-roll defenses have been sort of a struggle. All three of your big guys have been in and out.

JOHN CALIPARI: Trying anything.

Q Just in terms of their availability. How much is that potentially limited, how have they been able to get comfortable in those situations?

JOHN CALIPARI: Believe me, we are working on it. You’re talking about young players and you’re talking about kind of going off script a little bit of times. But they’ll get it. We’ve got a good team. We didn’t play great, and we had our chances. Give Gonzaga credit. They came in here to that crowd and withstood our run and made some baskets and did some stuff and stopped us.

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