By LARRY VAUGHT
Even Kentucky coach John Calipari thought the atmosphere in Rupp Arena was “great” Saturday night, something the UK coach doesn’t say often.
“This is what this place is. And when we go on the road, it’s the same kind of atmosphere. Every road game is like a war. And that’s the other thing that’s tough for these kids, you got to come every game. And then when you do come, you got to finish for 40 minutes, because the other team’s not going away. You got to finish it out,” Calipari said after his team’s 79-73 loss to Kansas.
“You get a team down 12, 13, 14, you better get it to 20. And then you better go into half and say the first five minutes we’re going to win this game. We’re not there yet. We get it to 12, 13, and the next time I look around it’s four. Then I look up we’re down four. What the heck just happened? ”
Maybe sophomore Isaiah Briscoe knows. He had 12 points, eight rebounds and six assists — along with three turnovers — against Kansas.
“You can’t teach toughness. You can’t coach heart. That is something you are born with,” Briscoe said. “I thought we lacked toughness. That is something I have to talk about with the team. I don’t have an answer right now. Like I said, you just can’t teach toughness.”
Senior guard Dominique Hawkins thought Kansas matched the toughness that UK started the game with.
“We could have probably played a ltitle tougher and got more rebounds. I know a couple rebounds definitely killed us at the end,” Hawkins said.
Kansas coach Bill Self didn’t talk about toughness. But he was thrilled to come into Rupp Arena for the second time — the first was 2005 — and win.
“I told our team this prepping for the game: ‘this is an important game but it’s not as important as our game on Wednesday, it’s not as important as our game last Tuesday.’ But it’s kind of like when you go to an AAU tournament. It’s kind of like the showcase game. There’s a showcase game and you win or lose, it’s no big deal. It doesn’t affect the bracket,'” Self said.
“That’s kind of what I thought about this game. Of course I know it means a lot to the fans of both schools, and certainly there’s a lot of tradition on the line.”