Calipari: “We became a team that physically didn’t have it, yet still became a pretty good defensive team”

Q. John, can you talk about the progress this team made from day one to right now, because clearly obviously winning the SEC Tournament, you’re playing your best basketball of the year, and as you said, probably didn’t play your best basketball today. But talk about your team and its progress?
JOHN CALIPARI: Here is what I would say, we knew — I didn’t think it would be shooting, but we knew if a couple of players didn’t give us great efforts we would struggle to win. I knew that before the game. If they struggled, we’re not going to — each level you go in this thing you’re going to have a team full of the guys performing.

They don’t have to be great, but they can’t have the five gazillion, in other words, five minutes, twelve minutes and everything is zeroes across the line. We didn’t shoot the ball well today. What I told ’em after the game is, don’t let this game get in the way of what you guys accomplished this year because it was incredible.

From where we were early in the year as an offensive team we ended up being the most efficient team in college basketball. We did not show it today, but that’s who we became. We became a team that physically didn’t have it, yet still became a pretty good defensive team.

You know, that’s — the hard thing — and a bunch of my good friends have gotten beat in this tournament and there are a bunch of 11 seeds and all this stuff going on. If you don’t understand it’s like you fall off a cliff, especially if you don’t know until you lose, until you lose. Like if there are 7 minutes left in game and you’re down 30-0, but if you think you have a fighting chance, it’s a hard deal.

I just want to focus and have these guys focus on the big picture. For our staff, we got a heck of a group coming in, maybe the best ever that I’ve had! Coming in, that group! The big picture for us is we’re fine. I am sick for my team, though. I’m sick for some individual players who didn’t perform well. I’m sick for Tyler and Jamal who had great years and, you know, Isaiah, and, you know, I feel so bad because, you know, you want — I’ll sit back. Could I have done something different? Is there something else I could have done to help them get over the hump? Is there some other way?

But, you know, I’m — the big picture of this is we’re all right. Now I’m going to have a brand new team again next year, surprise!

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