By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky’s overtime loss to Seton Hall at Madison Square Garden was perplexing for a lot of reasons, including why UK coach John Calipari didn’t call a timeout to set up a shot after Seton Hall hit a 3-pointer to take the lead.
The Cats had almost 10 seconds to get a shot trailing by one point — and the play Calipari designed at the end of regulation when UK had to inbound the ball under the Seton Hall basket with 1.5 seconds to play trailing by three points resulted in a miraculous half-court 3-pointer by Keldon Johnson to tie the game.
Not only did Kentucky have a timeout left, but it had two timeouts left.
“That last play, we talked about, if they make a shot, here’s what we’re doing on our end: Nick (Richards), you’re going to be in the middle. If they make a shot, this is how we’re doing it. Nick ran the sideline, but the issue was, I probably should have called a timeout,” Calipari said after the game.
Calipari cannot technically call a timeout in a live ball situation. A player has to do that.
“They’ve gotta call it anyways but again, that inexperience, not being in that situation, that’s something we haven’t worked on,” Calipari said.
But when Richards didn’t set the screen Calipari had talked about before Seton Hall hit the go-ahead shot, he could have screamed for a player to call timeout after the play broke down. Richards ran along the sideline instead of the middle of the floor even when Calipari gave him a shove toward the middle.
Kentucky ended up getting a desperation 3-point try from Johnson that didn’t draw iron.
“Those of you that know me know I don’t like calling timeouts with nine or 10 or 12 seconds to go,” Cal said. “You’re better off doing it like we did which was drive it down and Keldon (Johnson) makes a three verses a scramble defense. And that’s what we tried to do with nine seconds to go. Instead my man went down there and didn’t run a screen, but again, we’re just an inexperienced team.”
Calipari’s decision was no surprise. He’s had the same philosophy since he got to Kentucky. His belief is that he has to let players learn to make their own decisions. However, he then sometimes contradicts himself when he talks about the team’s inexperience.
Would Kentucky have won if UK had called a timeout? Who knows? But as much as Calipari dislikes calling a timeout in that situation, with freshman guards he probably would have been better served to call a timeout and my guess today is that he knows it.