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John Calipari: “It’s not an automatic because you put on a Kentucky uniform that you win.”

R.J. Barrett, and other Duke players, had no trouble getting to the rim against Kentucky’s soft defense. (Wade Upchurch Photo)


Sometimes I enjoy not being at a University of Kentucky basketball game and getting to listen to coach John Calipari’s postgame radio interview with Tom Leach rather than sitting in on his postgame press conference.

Often it seems that Calipari saves some of his best insights, comments on the game for his time with Leach.

He didn’t disappoint me Tuesday after his team lost 118-84 to Duke in the Champions Classic.

“We just got almost bullied. You are talking about a team that outworked us, played harder, played more unselfish than we played,” Calipari told Leach. “There was a lot of stuff we looked at that surprised me. We are a work in progress and this is going to take time.”

What was most telling was how upset — and surprised — Calipari was by Kentucky’s lack of team play. It was obvious he had seen no signs of selfish play until this game.

“We kind of broke off. Instead of being the team that we were, it looked as though everybody was trying to do their own thing. I don’t know where that came from,” Calipari said.

“The things I worried about defensively against Transy and IUP, showed up. That’s why instead of scoring 60, they scored 120. We had to run something to get a basket. They didn’t. They threw two passes and went right at somebody. Wasn’t a lot we had to guard other than you had to stay in front of your man.”

This next quote shows how upset he was with his team’s overall effort.

“It’s not an automatic because you put on a Kentucky uniform that you win. It’s going to be a rough little road for us, but it is what it is at this point,” Calipari said. “We had a couple of guys not making shots but they didn’t rebound and defend.”

Calipari also made it clear he doesn’t think this team is tough enough mentally yet, either.

“They needed me to be positive which is what I was. I didn’t get crazy,” the Kentucky coach said. “This is a team that just has a lot of work to do to shore this thing up and see how we are going to play.


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  1. Cal couldn’t have said anything better than he did in this article. He was spot on about the team play and all we can do learn from it and go on. Just because we had a beat down doesn’t mean this team can’t be special. But it’s going to be tough not only the schedule we got the SEC is going to be tougher also. I’m anxious to see how they will respond tomorrow night.

  2. Calipari said about some on his team, “they didn’t rebound or defend” maybe so. That said though, If you look at the stats, the rebounds were almost even in that game, 38 Duke, 37 UK. To me, the big deal was simply UK couldn’t SHOOT, DEFEND, or handle the ball, committing 15 TO’s. This UK team, I thought, was loaded with shooters and ball handlers per the post Bahamas trip talk.

    Duke looks like they have a very good team if this game was any indicator. It will be interesting to see how Duke does against top competition down the road. Just maybe, for now, the stage was just too big to early for these UK freshmen. I personally don’t think these head coaches get UK prepared at times for a big rival game in both sports, football and basketball. We are about to check another one out come Saturday in Knoxville.

  3. “…almost bullied”?
    What an understatement !!!

    1. Still Not as bad as losing to Wofford on opening night. Wait…. Isn’t that a division II school?? Yep sure of it.. omg it is.

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