By LARRY VAUGHT
One thing John Calipari does after a defeat, even one as brutal as the 118-84 loss to Duke Tuesday night, is give an honest assessment of his team’s play.
That didn’t change and the UK coach didn’t try to sugarcoat how poorly his team played.
“We only created four turnovers. Either they’re a great (ball) handling team or we’re not doing enough defensively,” Calipari said. “They were just better than us.”
Way, way better and count me as one who thinks Kentucky wasn’t doing much to create turnovers.
Duke handed Calipari the worst loss of his coaching career at UK and he let his players know midway of the second half he had seen enough.
“With 8 minutes to go, I said, “I’m not calling a timeout. And if you foul, I’m taking you out. Let this thing run (out)….We have to do some soul searching,” Calipari said after the game.
Maybe Kentucky fans heard that because many had left by then, something that almost never happens at a Kentucky basketball game. But it did Tuesday night and Calipari didn’t fault the fans.
“They do travel. And they’ll watch this tape more than I watch this tape. … They take pride in the program, and this hurts,” Calipari said. “I may burn the tape and not even watch it.”
It does do that for a fan base that was giddy with the way the Cats played during a four-game exhibition trip to the Bahamas in August. Also remember Kentucky was ranked No. 1 in various preseason polls.
“I said in one of the huddles, ‘You guys thought this was going to be easy.’ I haven’t had many of these games, but I’ve had a few, and the most you learn from it is they wanted it more than we wanted it,” Calipari said.
The coach said he told freshmen point guard Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley he would be spending more time with them immediately to get “them on the same page with the rest of us.”
The coach said he hadn’t lost “faith” in his team despite Tuesday night’s score. Senior Reid Travis feels the same way.
“I feel like as we mature we will be able to take blows like that (and come back). … I love our group of guys and everyone wants to get better,” Travis said.
Travis did say getting down so early was “kind of a blow to your chest” and one that Kentucky did not handle well. However, he says fans should not question whether UK players do care about winning.
“We really do care,” Travis said.