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John Calipari Shoulders Blame for Mistakes in Loss to Michigan State

John Calipari
UK Athletics

The Kentucky Wildcats suffered their first loss of the season Tuesday night in Indianapolis.

Michigan State topped No. 4 Kentucky 86-77 in the Champions Classic at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, the fourth loss in the last five games for the Wildcats in the annual ESPN four-team event.

The loss looked all too familiar to Kentucky fans, especially in the venue and fashion it occurred. Kentucky’s 2022 NCAA Tournament ended in Indianapolis last March, in large part due to missed free throws, defensive breakdowns, and stagnant offense down the stretch. The same thing occurred Tuesday night in the loss to Michigan State.

“I saw Tommy [Izzo] in the hallway and I said, ‘You were more prepared to finish a game off than we were.’ We missed free throws where we could have separated but we rebounded better, we transitioned from where in the first half, they got seven points. We didn’t get a point in transition. In the second half, we got more than they got. We did enough to win the game but we were discombobulated at times. We were making calls and guys were — we just haven’t practiced together. Some of the late game stuff, you know, again, we’ve had three guys out that you expect to play.”

Kentucky had opportunities to close the game with a win but Michigan State executed in crucial moments.

All Kentucky needed was a defensive stop with 7.0 seconds remaining in the first overtime. But Malik Hall slipped wide open to the basket for a dunk to send the game to a second overtime period.

“We play a certain way on the baseline and Oscar hasn’t been around us in four weeks,” Calipari said. “So no one leaves their man. The only guy that helps is the inbounder’s man and we left the guy. We tried to switch. Well, no one — we don’t play that way. But again, he hadn’t played in four weeks and if he’s not here, you know, it’d have been hard for us.”

Kentucky coach John Calipari shouldered the blame for the loss, stating that his team wasn’t ready for the moment and that late-game situations fall on the head coach.

“I’ve got a lot to learn about our team and I thought these guys fought like heck. When you talk about late-game situations, that’s on me as a coach. Let’s go. Let’s figure this out. I come back and say, we just haven’t been together to do it.”

“We’re not ready for teams that are ready to finish off the end of a game, and that’s on me,” Calipari added. “Lance even said, ‘Coach, we haven’t worked on this, Maryland and touchdown and plays with 4-5 seconds to go.’ I said, ‘We haven’t had time and we haven’t had the team here.’ So now I’m doing it with five guys and four. So, some of it is on me.”

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