John Calipari on loss to UNC Wilmington: "That's not who we are"

On3 imageby:Tyler Thompson12/02/23


Today’s game vs. UNC Wilmington did not go as planned. While the Seahawks deserve a lot of credit for the 80-73 upset, Kentucky deserves criticism as well. The Cats looked like a completely different team than the one that ran No. 8 Miami off the floor on Tuesday. There were personnel changes — DJ Wagner was held out, Aaron Bradshaw made his debut — but John Calipari knows the issues ran deeper than that. He spent the majority of his postgame press conference and conversation with Tom Leach talking through what went wrong.

“It was St. Joe’s again, where we couldn’t stay in front of the ball,” Calipari said. “The difference between this and St. Joe’s is, we made shots so we were able to keep the game [close] and that’s why I keep coming back to. There are games where you’re not going to make shots. You’ve got to rebound and defend.”

Kentucky’s rebounding and defense were bad tonight. The Seahawks won the battle of the boards 40-39 and shot 43% from the floor, making 11 three-pointers. By contrast, Kentucky made only five threes on 17 attempts. Coming into tonight, the Cats were averaging 27.9 three-point attempts per game.

Why not shoot more threes? Calipari said Kentucky’s ball movement was so bad tonight that he had to run plays just to get outside looks.

“Now you say, well, ‘Why didn’t you get off more threes?’ Because everybody who caught it held it instead of passing it just to pass it. Drive the lane, they help, and you kick it out. It’s an open three.

“We had to get threes where I had to run a play to get a three. That’s not who we are.”

Calipari did not have an update on DJ Wagner following the game, so whether he plays next Saturday vs. Penn remains to be seen. What is certain is, with Wagner or without, the Cats need to get back to the free-flowing style we’ve come to love this season.

“We’ve got to make sure we don’t revert back to holding the ball,” Calipari said. “You know, you have coaches call me and say, ‘I love watching your team.’ If they watch this game, they do not love watching this team. So what was the difference?

“I mean, we could say it was one guy, but I’m saying, like all of it. Why did we do that? Sometimes you’ve got to stick your hand in the fire and get burned. I don’t like this feeling. I was saying in huddles, ‘Are you having fun? I’m not having fun. Why won’t you pass it to each other?'”

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