STARKVILLE, Miss. – Kentucky basketball’s 88-81 at Mississippi State on Tuesday night had some good (De’Aaron Fox and Wenyen Gabriel), bad (Malik Monk and Isaiah Briscoe) and ugly (52 combined fouls). John Calipari weighed in on all of it:
- After the Wildcats committed their most fouls (24) and turnovers (16) and allowed the Bulldogs to shoot 54.2 percent from the field, Calipari said his team is prone to “go into AAU mode” in stretches. That’s how an 18-point lead with 12:20 to go gets trimmed to three points in barely five minutes. “There’s a point in the game that they just think it’s like, ‘OK, watch this.’ You’re never going to be that team if that’s what your mindset is.”
- About those fouls. There were fifty-two total Tuesday. Three MSU players and one Wildcat fouled out. In Kentucky’s last three games (120 minutes of action), there have been a staggering 144 total fouls called. Are the Cats and the rest of the SEC really fouling that much? “I guess,” Calipari said, shrugging. “If they’re going to call 144, just make sure they’re on both of us. Don’t just make them on our team. Call them on everybody. If you’re calling hand checks, call them all. If not, let them all go. I really don’t, honestly, I don’t care what they call. Just, if you make a call, then you better make that same call for my team, and that’ll be my beef.”
- To that point, Kentucky’s opponents the last three games have been called for 79 fouls compared to 65 on the Cats. “Here’s what I would say: If you know they’re calling it this way, then adjust,” Calipari said. “Your team needs to be smart enough.”
- With both Monk and Briscoe struggling (a combined 9 of 28 shooting), UK put the ball in Fox’s hands and he delivered. “I just said, ‘You know what? Malik’s not playing as well as he’s played. He’s struggling,’ ” Calipari said. “So we just said, ‘Here you go, De’Aaron, go do your thing.’ ” Fox produced 21 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds.
- And how about Gabriel, the freshman forward who had 13 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 assists and a steal in 20 minutes? That after grabbing a career-high 16 rebounds on Saturday against Auburn. “Wenyen is starting to get it,” Calipari said. “And I though Derek (Willis) did well, too. So you have our two ‘four’ men going 10 for 11 (shooting) and getting 26 points and 13 rebounds from that position. That’s big. If he and Derek do what they did and Malik gives us (his normal output), then all of a sudden …” Yes, gulp.