OXFORD, Miss. – John Calipari talked a lot about Ole Miss’ new arena, said quite a few words about squirrels, but he wasn’t super chatty about his team’s actual game Thursday night. Then again, what is there to say about an easy, breezy 99-76 win for Kentucky basketball?
Incredibly, Calipari didn’t even mention sophomore guard Isaiah Briscoe in his postgame comments. All Briscoe did was record the third triple-double in school history. Oh, and Malik Monk dropped a cool 34 points and Bam Adebayo went for a career-high 25.
“We played really well today, guys,” Calipari said. “The first half, that’s as good as we’ve played in a long while. Then they came back at us in the second half and I was a little bit upset with some of my guys because we got sloppy. What I’m trying to do with my team is discipline.”
Here are the other highlights of what Kentucky’s coach had to say after his eighth-ranked Wildcats improved to 11-2 overall, 1-0 in SEC play:
- So what about that $96.5 million Pavilion at Ole Miss? “The one thing you know about Ole Miss: When they do something, they’re going to do it right or they won’t do it,” Calipari said. After touring it for the first time, he told UK associated AD DeWayne Peevy, “Holy cow! You gotta look at this and get some ideas for our building, because we have to do a better job of taking care of our people.”
- There was one thing Calipari didn’t like. Rebels coach Andy Kennedy has his own parking space at the arena. “I don’t have a parking space. I went to DeWayne and said, ‘How the heck does he get a parking space and I don’t have a parking space?’ That’s crazy.” Especially considering Calipari has now won nine in a row against Kennedy.
- When Calipari arrived Thursday night, he found a stuffed squirrel and a thank-you note from the “Tad Pad Squirrels” for his comments in 2013 about how bad Ole Miss’ former arena was – so bad that he saw those rodents in the visiting locker room. That public embarrassment might’ve helped move the needle on getting a new arena built, and Calipari appreciated the nod to his joke.
“I’m taking that squirrel with me, by the way,” he said. “This was a dead squirrel. The other one was alive and he peed on my shoes before I left in that Tad thing, whatever it’s called over there. I may put (the stuffed one) in my office, because it will be a great (talking) point: ‘What do you have a squirrel for?’ ”
- Calipari has been demanding that his guards get the ball inside to the 6-10, 260-pound Adebayo. Mission accomplished. He took 19 shots and made 12 on the way to a career-high 25 points (plus 4 rebounds and 3 blocks). “Bam is getting better,” Calipari said. “I don’t understand the free-throw shooting (1 for 4), because he’s a better free-throw shooter than that.”
- That flaw aside, Adebayo’s steady improvement in the paint is huge for Kentucky. “If you don’t have a post presence, your team is a fraud. It is,” Calipari said. “Because there is going to be a game when you miss shots, and you’re going to lose. When you’re trying to win six in a row at the end of the year and you don’t have a post player, I’m sorry, it’s not going to happen.”