LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky basketball beat Auburn 92-72 at Rupp Arena on Saturday, but the Wildcats got at least a little scare before it was over. They led by just four with 12:32 to go before Isaiah Briscoe scored the next five points. They led by just six with 8:30 remaining before Malik Monk buried a three.
Afterward, coach John Calipari talked a lot about discipline – or lack thereof – and the work sixth-ranked Kentucky (15-2, 5-0 SEC) still has to do for a deep run come March.
“I still think we’re a month away to be what we need this thing to be if we’re going to be one of those teams at the end, because we’re not there right now,” Calipari said. “I had to fight them the whole game. I don’t enjoy coaching the way I coached today. I should be a cheerleader. Obviously they’re not ready for that. And what bothered me in the second half, as they made their run, is I had to make a call every time down the floor. That’s not how you want to coach.”
Here are the other highlights from Calipari’s postgame press conference, including a little back-and-forth with Bruce Pearl:
- There were 49 combined fouls in the game, and while Kentucky only had 18 of those, its guards got in foul trouble for the second time in five days. De’Aaron Fox (13 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds) fouled out with more than seven minutes to play and Isaiah Briscoe (10 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds) played with four fouls for much of the second half. “I said after the game, ‘Now you know why I do not put guys in, in the first half, with two fouls.’ You can’t end the game without guards,” Calipari said. “So if you want to foul and be undisciplined with the kind of fouls you’re making where you’re pushing up and body-checking guys, you can’t be in the game.”
- So what’s the deal with all these fouls the last two games? “I have to look at it,” Calipari said. “A guy drives it, you’ve got to give ground. We work every day on giving ground and staying wide so you can stay in front of people, so you don’t open the gate. It was just undisciplined.”
- Freshman forward Wenyen Gabriel had a career-high 16 rebounds, plus 6 points, 2 blocks and a steal. “I told him, ‘You’re a double-double if you make a free throw.’ It’s going to be a process for a bunch of these kids.’ ”
- Bam Adebayo had 15 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks. He made 4 of 5 shots and 7 of 11 free throws, continuing his progress. But what about his backup? “Well, Bam should be able to play every minute he can. That’s how good he is,” Calipari said. But “I thought Isaac (Humphries) did good in his minutes. I think your choice is between Isaac and Sacha (Killeya-Jones), and right now in practice, Isaac is doing better.” Humphries had 4 points in 5 minutes against Auburn.
- Here’s an unusual stat: Kentucky made 11 of 19 threes (57.9 percent) and only 17 of 32 free throws (53.1 percent). “It’s contagious,” Calipari said. “Anybody a golfer? OK, you stand over the ball: ‘I’m not going to slice, I’m not going to slice.’ You’re slicing. Oh, yeah, that ball is slicing. Basketball is that way. Here is the other thing: How do you shoot better from the 3-point line than you do the free-throw line?”
- With the other guards in foul trouble, Calipari was pleased with backups Dominique Hawkins (6 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist in 19 minutes) and Mychal Mulder (12 points, 2 assists, 1 rebound in 15 minutes). “Dom played well,” Calipari said. “That’s as good as Mychal has played.” Those two were a combined 5 of 7 shooting and each hit a 3-pointer. “It’s good, because we need that.”
- Calipari had some fun when he was told Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said he hoped Kentucky’s coach was “pissed off” to have lost to the Tigers last season. “Did they beat us last year?” Calipari said, grinning, before continuing facetiously: “Oh, yeah, I’m pissed off they beat us last year.” He went on to compliment Pearl, sort of. “Bruce did a helluva job to keep his team in this game – we’re a good team and they had a chance to beat us – but he lost. Now, is he pissed off?”