City Sports Report

John Calipari on loss: “If you want to blame somebody, blame me”

Calipariloss

Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari and players Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Karl-Anthony Towns spoke with the media after their first loss of the season to Wisconsin.

COACH CALIPARI: Could not be more proud of this group of young people. What they did all year, just took us all on a ride, our staff, our school, our state. Took us on a ride. We all wanted to win those last two. These kids wanted to win it in the worst way. But you have to give Wisconsin credit. They did to us what we have done to teams. I’m going to look at the tape. There’s some things I probably should have done, a timeout here, I maybe should have changed up something. But we normally execute down the stretch, and we didn’t. They did. They made plays down there and we didn’t. Can’t take away. I know everybody is going to say, This season… This season is historic. I just can’t believe anybody is going to do what these kids just did to get to this point unblemished with the schedule they played, then how they did it.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.

Q. How will you most remember this season and what you were able to accomplish?
WILLIE CAULEY-STEIN: Just being around a bunch of unbelievable guys and the way we all came together like brothers. You know, we’ll never be on the same team like this again. You know, that’s going to set in. We got a month of school left with each other, and that’s it. So, I mean, that’s what you’ll remember.

AARON HARRISON: Just like he said. We had a lot of fun this season. One of the best times of my life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. We didn’t finish like we were supposed to. We got beat, so… They deserved the game.

Q. Talk about what you think happened when you had the lead, went five minutes without scoring.
ANDREW HARRISON: Maybe I didn’t execute. I mean, we didn’t execute as a team. Me being the point guard, I didn’t do what coach told me on a couple of occasions.

COACH CALIPARI: He did fine. You did fine.

Q. Karl, could you talk about Kaminsky and what makes him so difficult to defend.
KARL-ANTHONY TOWNS: A very crafty player, great skills. He uses his height to his advantage.

Q. Karl, down the stretch, that Notre Dame game, guys went to the bigs, got the ball, that’s how you won. Were you surprised you didn’t get the ball more down the stretch?
KARL-ANTHONY TOWNS: That’s not the case whatsoever. Coach did a great job. We all did coming up to this game. We had an absolute beautiful game plan. We just got beat. I mean, we can’t go by a coaching decision. Without Coach Calipari, we don’t even get to 38 at all, neither this 39th game. There’s no way it’s a coaching decision.

Q. Willie, could you talk about what happened rebounding-wise?
WILLIE CAULEY-STEIN: I don’t know, a lot of them I think we had and just fumbled it and gave it right back to them. Probably 10 of their points was us just throwing them the ball. I think we didn’t execute, checking out, going to get the ball. That’s about it.

Q. Such an incredible collection of talent you have. I was hoping you could sort of talk about what Coach Cal has taught you about being selfless and being willing to play fewer minutes and get lower stats for the sake of trying to win a championship.
ANDREW HARRISON: First you have to like each other as people. Like all these guys said, that’s probably the best part of being on this team, sitting around, laughing, joking with everybody. It’s not as hard to sacrifice, especially when you’re winning, had the season we did, so…

Q. You hear Coach Cal talk about his former players as ‘his guys.’ Tell me about your guy, tell us about Coach Cal.
AARON HARRISON: Well, he just made me become the best basketball player I could be at this point. He’s pushed me to limits that I was very uncomfortable. But he’s created me to be a great basketball player. Not many men can do the things he does with us. He’s just a great man to be around.

WILLIE CAULEY-STEIN: He challenged not just me, but anybody, everybody that comes in the program. He challenges you in a mental way. That’s what makes you successful. A lot of basketball is all mental. So the way he challenges you mentally, makes you do stuff that you would never thought you would do in your life, I mean, that’s powerful from him.

Q. For the Harrison twins, this was the second time you played Wisconsin. Was there anything different about them this time around that surprised you or was it mainly the same team and the outcome was a little different?
ANDREW HARRISON: I mean, both years we played them, they were a great team. They made some adjustments this year. I mean, they made it this far. They’re obviously a good team. We just didn’t make enough plays at the end. Can’t take nothing away from them, though.

AARON HARRISON: Just like he said, it’s a great basketball team really. They won today, so…

Q. Willie, it’s hard enough to win a national championship as it is. But with the pressure of being undefeated, how much do you think that began to weigh on you guys these last two games?
WILLIE CAULEY-STEIN: I don’t think it weighed in on us, the 40-0 hype. If that was the case, we would have lost a long time ago. It’s just time and circumstances. You know, like we was up in a crucial part of the game. The last five minutes is the game. We didn’t make plays in those last five minutes to hold the lead and push it. If you don’t make plays in the last five minutes, you will lose. Me being here for three years, you will lose in the last five minutes if you don’t make plays. So that’s it.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, men. We’ll continue with questions for Coach Calipari.

Q. What did happen after you were up 60-56? Why did you decide to slow the ball down a bit?
COACH CALIPARI: We didn’t slow it down. We were trying to post the ball, run the pick’n rolls, the stuff we were running. They crowded a little bit, the guys got a little bit tentative. We were trying to still play. The thing that was tough is we are a finishing team, that’s what we’ve been, and we didn’t. They did and we didn’t. That’s why they’re still playing and we’re not.

Q. You said if a team beats you and you give it your best, you can live with the result. Do you feel that way?
COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, yeah. You know, I’ve been doing this so long, I’ve had some tough losses and some unbelievable wins at the buzzers. It’s all part of this. My concern are these young people right here, making sure they keep this in the right perspective. They just had an historic year. Don’t you look at anything else. There’s not one kid in this team that would be blamed for us losing this game. If you want to blame somebody, blame me. We were down eight. The game probably should have been over. These kids just fought. All of a sudden I look up, we’re up four. I’m like, We’re going to win this thing. Then, you know, a play here, a play there, all of a sudden we don’t post it. They crowd us, we don’t post it again, we take a late shot… We’re not a team that takes shot clock violations. We got three. Again, this team, the best thing for me, every one of these players has helped themselves even though they’ve sacrificed and been selfless. Every one of them has taken their game and their own personal stock to another level, yet they were selfless, sacrificed, brothers. They did this together. You know, I told my wife before the game, We could lose. They’re good enough to beat us. I’ll live with it. I mean, I’ve done this a long time.

Q. Do you think that the burden of being undefeated, the burden of expectations that come with Kentucky, what you’ve referred to in the last three weeks or so as clutter, do you think that had any impact on your team tonight?
COACH CALIPARI: I think what impacted the game the most was Wisconsin and how they played. I mean, they out-rebounded us by 12 rebounds. That doesn’t happen. You think about this. We had six turnovers for the game. We shot 90% from the free-throw line, 60% from the three, and 48% from the field, and we lost? What does that mean they did? We struggled to guard them. They shot 47, 48 also. But it was the rebounding and the toughness and the plays around the goal. They made and-ones and we didn’t. You got to give them credit. I’ll be honest, for me, I wasn’t thinking 40-0, I was just trying to win the game, get on to another game. I would hope my team was that way, but they’re 18- and 19-year-olds. Maybe they were. You know what, if they were, okay, I’ll deal with that, too.

Q. What was the biggest factor and the difference in rebounding?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, in the first half they got 11 points off offensive rebounds where we just didn’t come up with balls. But they go after the ball. They ended up with 12, which is not a huge number. But they had a bunch in that first half. We rebounded better in the second half, which is why we ended up going up. But, again, we didn’t execute down the stretch. We didn’t make the plays. That comes back to me. I’ll take responsibility. You know, there were things we were trying to do. Maybe we shouldn’t have done. They were trying to jam it to the post. Well, they crowded. They knew what we were going to do. But I’m proud of these kids. Again, they took us on an absolute ride as a coach, our staff, this university, our state. You’re not going to take it away. They’re hurting right now, but when they look back on this time, they’ve all improved, they all learned to be a servant leader. Be about someone else more than yourself. In this day and age, they did it. They fell a little short. I would imagine people are going to look on this season and say, You know what, who cares. What they did to show all the young kids you don’t have to try to shoot 30 balls, you can do right by your team and still be the number one draft pick, still get drafted, your own awards come your way. So proud of these guys. It hurts. We would have loved to have been 40-0. Let’s see if we can take another stab at it. But 38, what these guys did in a row, incredible stuff. Thanks, folks.

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