Everything John Calipari said after another high-scoring SEC win for Kentucky basketball

High-scoring wins have become the norm for this Kentucky men’s basketball team.

And that theme continued Saturday afternoon.

With an 111-102 home win against Arkansas, UK has now strung together three consecutive wins in league play for the first time this season.

From a defensive perspective, it was a less-than-inspiring outing from the Cats, who surrendered at least 48 points in a half for the eighth and ninth times this season.

Arkansas graduate guard Khalif Battle scored a game-high 34 points for the Hogs and made a living at the free-throw line: His 17 made free throws were the most by an opposing player inside Rupp Arena, and the most made by an opponent against Kentucky since Auburn’s John Mengelt in March 1970.

The Razorbacks shot 53.1% from the field and 41.2% from 3-point range for the game.

But then again, it was the Kentucky offense that blew all of this away.

The Wildcats were led in scoring by fifth-year guard Antonio Reeves with 22 points, and he was joined by six of his teammates in double-digit scoring: Freshman guard D.J. Wagner went 4-for-5 from 3-point range and had 19 points, and his fellow Camden (New Jersey) high school product, freshman center Aaron Bradshaw, added 15 points in his best scoring performance since early December.

This was the first time UK had seven players score in double figures since February 2005.

UK was trailing with less than five minutes to go against an Arkansas team that lost at home to Vanderbilt in its last game, but the Cats outscored the Razorbacks by 10 points over this closing stretch: Freshman Justin Edwards carried the scoring load late with eight points in the final 4:45 of the game.

For just the second time this season — and for the first complete game — Kentucky was at full strength as fifth-year forward Tre Mitchell returned after missing four games with a left shoulder injury.

Afterward, here’s everything UK head coach John Calipari said about the win:

Question about finishing the game with five freshmen on the floor.

Alright, so I had a really good friend of mine who is — I can call him a business genius and (he) said you don’t need to explain yourself. You are … and what you’ve done … but in this case I will explain myself. OK. I told the team, I only subbed Antonio (Reeves) for one reason. He had not been subbed yet and he had 7:50 to go and give him a minute or two and I will put him back in.

Tre (Mitchell) and Adou (Thiero) were playing OK but I wanted to get Justin (Edwards) at four. So I just looked, I said Justin you go to four and all of a sudden the game changes. So now I know I’m not going to sub. And we did have five freshmen in and came back and did pretty good.

Question about if Calipari is feeling older or younger the way this season is going.

I think they’re aging rapidly, oh, you are talking about me. The only thing I can tell you folks is I can’t, when you are dealing with young people — people’s children. You can’t worry how you feel. You can’t. If I did, I’d be under the covers some. If I listen to anybody who’s never coached who wants to criticize me personally. I can’t do the job with these kids.

So losing, for me, I’ve spoiled not only everybody myself — like you are supposed to win every game. What? No one wins every game. So, losing stinks probably even more so now than it did 10 years ago. But the winning still is unbelievable. And then the biggest thing for me. What about what Justin Edwards did today? Now think about it. I looked at him and I said are you okay to go. Yeah, I’m good. He showed unbelievable confidence in himself. And it didn’t come from me. The kid lives in the gym. That pull-up, that three. I mean, that was the game. And I hadn’t played him for a lot of minutes.

Robert Dillingham, I had to take him out. He held the ball, took some crazy shots and he comes back and play the right way and finishes off the game. And I put him on number zero (Khalif Battle).

I said no, Robert is going to guard him. He put him on number zero and he kind of slowed him down and he still got some buckets but they were not the same way and he stole the ball. So that’s the kind of — Z (Zvonimir Ivisic). You guys have to understand now Z hadn’t played basketball for six months. It took him two months to get admitted. It took him another two months for them to say he should have been playing. He should have been playing from the beginning of the year. Now all of a sudden he hadn’t played in six months. Do you know who reminded me of that? Reed (Sheppard). Coach now, Z is really good. You have to understand he hadn’t played for six months. Reed reminded me. And I said, I know that, what do you think I’m not watching?

But the stuff he is doing. How about Aaron (Bradshaw) today? Like Aaron played really well. For me as a coach I get as much enjoyment out of that kind of stuff as I do anything. But losing beats you down but I can’t let it beat me down long. Ellen will tell you. When I come home and the next morning, by the afternoon I’m good. And I’ll be honest. If I would get up early and go to the office and watch the tape and get started, I’d be fine. But I like to be in misery for at least five hours. And I’m in misery. And then I get over it and you know, individual meetings or whatever. So, yes?

Question about Kentucky getting late-game defensive stops after struggling on that end Saturday, and all season long.

I told Jay Wright (CBS Sports commentator) after the game, at one point I was saying let them score so we can get it back. I wasn’t saying that. But — that’s what it looked like. It’s like let them score fast. They came in with a great game plan. I knew Muss (Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman) would have them ready. I was really worried about this game. I had them stay at the hotel last night. I haven’t done that for a year. We came here and stayed in the hotel and had a meal and you know what we did this morning? We shot around at a 1:30 game.

I don’t ever do that. Breakfast here and then let’s play this game. Why? Because I knew this was going to be this way. I knew it. They didn’t, but I knew this was going to be a really hard game. Do you know why? They got a really good coach and they got really talented players that can break you down and go get baskets. What did they do? They broke us down and went and got baskets. We just happen to score more than them today.

Question about what Kentucky’s players are focused on with March now here.

They are 19 years old, they are hungry. They are 19. You know what? They know what’s going on around them. We were a couple of bounces of the ball away from being 1, 2, 3, 4. A couple of bounces, free throw. Fumbling a ball. The shot thrown in at the last half second. But do you know what? Like I told them even this game before. This is going to be an experience that helps us grow. And it ain’t going to be easy.

I also told them the beginning of the game is going to be crazy. Don’t be phased. What was the beginning of the game? I had to go to a zone folks. I don’t ever play zone. We went to a zone just to stop them from just running through us. And then I ran a zone the last play of the half. Is everybody happy? They made a three. So.

Question about Kentucky choosing to play, or not play, zone defense.

I would never watch that game so I would never know. I would tell you that — how many teams played a lot of zone have done stuff. And especially when you are talking veteran teams. It’s different than having young teams. The good thing about us playing zone. We have no idea what we are doing. So how can they know what we are doing. We don’t even know what we are doing. We don’t even know our slides and where we are supposed to go.

And all of a sudden that will confuse them but the problem is it’s hard to rebound. I like guys being responsible. I told them after we have to come up with plan B if someone gets it going or we have to do some different stuff. So we will. Last couple.

Question about Rob Dillingham being able to overcome struggles during a game, and what it means for Kentucky as a team.

Well they will just throw him the ball and they celebrate him. And I said for the rest of their basketball lives. What they seem to have learned. D.J. (Wagner), Robert, Aaron. I can go on and on.

Guys within this team that have played a bad half. Knew that they were not going to play that way the second half. That’s one battle. The second battle becomes — you have to have so much supreme confidence that no one can take it away. Not me, not a player on the other team, not an official, no one takes it away. The only way that you get that way is to live in the gym. I told them today, I’ve had players live in the gym. I’ve not had this many that live in the gym. That absolutely — they get work in.

And they are building their own confidence. That’s what they are doing and you got to have supreme confidence that even if I miss two I’m making the next two or I’m making a game-winner. I keep talking. You own your attitude. You own your response to stuff. That is being professional. You understand those things. If you don’t, you’re an amateur. You play well and you sit on the bench and you have bad body language. That’s what a ninth grader does. That is a ninth grader. That’s an amateur. The professional goes, alright, let me watch this because when I go back in I’m ready and I’m going to make something happen. We are trying to get through all of that kind of stuff with this team but you got a bunch of 19-year-olds.

Last thing guys, I’ve got to respect them. Can you imagine the stuff they are hearing or the stuff they read or the list — could you imagine? You having all of that stuff about you? Many of the things aren’t good. And some people that are calling you are trying to alibi for you and blame everybody else except your own performance which you should own. I respect these guys. There’s never been an era like this one. Fifteen years ago it wasn’t like this. Even 10 years ago. It wasn’t like this. This is ridiculous for these kids. And then you are playing everybody’s best effort when you’re playing here. Even at home.

Good group. Like I said. I’m liking them. I felt good at halftime. We went down and missed and gave up some 3s and had to get the guy out. You can’t be in man. Not doing that. And so then from there we just, you know, just hang around. People want to beat you. Look at Z going nuts. He’s like he’s 12. A 7-foot-2 12-year-old. Thanks guys, appreciate it.

Kentucky head coach John Calipari argues with a referee after a play by Arkansas during Saturdays game at Rupp Arena.
Kentucky head coach John Calipari argues with a referee after a play by Arkansas during Saturdays game at Rupp Arena.

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