By LARRY VAUGHT
NASHVILLE — Did John Calipari hug and embrace Charles Matthews during Kentucky’s win over Georgia here Saturday because he was happy with Matthews’ play or was it more about sending a message to Isaiah Briscoe on the bench about what he had not been doing.
“I was happy for Charles. He’s been struggling, and I’m trying to get him to understand the best version of him is unbelievable defender, sprint the court, slash for baskets, offensive rebound, rebound defensively, and fly. That’s the best version of him,” Calipari said.
“But it’s hard because I want to do all this other stuff. I like shooting threes. I like doing — well, let’s settle in and be your best version for your teammates and let them do the things that they do well.
So, no, I was extremely happy for him. And also, though, when you have that next-man-up mentality, the bench is our best friend as coaches. And what I want to see is, all right, you’re not having it today? It’s okay. Either Dom or Charles will bring in or come there and give it to us. You don’t have you as a big man, we’ve got four of you. And really, we even went to Isaac today to see if any of them will get going, and then we would have rode whoever, next man up.”
Calipari says his players have to understand everything is about NCAA Tournament preparation.
“That’s why your job is to make sure you’re prepared. And in this NCAA Tournament, the more weapons you have, the more chance — foul trouble, bad play. It’s not going to trip you up. You just go to somebody else. You play somebody different. And that’s what I was happy about with this game,” Calipari said.
He noted how foul trouble kept Skal Labissiere on the bench for all but four minutes of Saturday’s win and how he has to use that to his benefit Sunday in the title game against Texas A&M.
“I only played him a few minutes, and he had some fouls and all that, but the reality of it is Skal is playing really well, and he’s been a difference maker for us,” Calipari said. “So when I meet with the team, I’m going to is say the guy that’s fresh tomorrow is going to be Skal. You didn’t play today. So we need you to have a big game because you’re going to be fresher than anybody on the court.”