Kentucky trailed by 17 points, made only 48 percent of its free throws and committed 15 turnovers. But ask coach John Calipari why the Cats lost an 80-77 thriller to rival Louisville on Saturday and he will tell you bluntly – bad coaching.
“I told my team, ‘You gave us a chance, I cost us the game,’” Calipari said. “I’m coaching a young team. Their job is to make it close at the end, my job is to give them a plan to finish it off. They got us right where we wanted to be and I dropped the ball.”
Calipari is talking about Kentucky’s possession with only 33 seconds remaining and the Cats trailing by four points, 78-74, after having made a furious comeback from a 17-point deficit. UofL’s Russ Smith missed his second free throw attempt, Kentucky’s Julius Mays rebounded and Calipari did nothing.
“Down four with the ball, I didn’t call that timeout,” Calipari said, reliving the bitter moment. “Believe me, I’m standing there thinking, ‘Timeout’ and I didn’t call it. That effectively ended the game. So this one’s on me.”
Thirteen seconds after Mays’ rebound, Archie Goodwin drove into traffic in the lane, picked up his dribble, looked desperately for an outlet and finally threw an errant pass that was easily stolen for a breakaway slam dunk by Chane Behanan to make it 80-74 with 18 seconds left.
“Hopefully, I’ll do a better job. Hopefully, I’ll help them win more games than I cause us to lose,” Calipari continued. “But that one right there, that play is a coach’s play. That’s inexcusable what I did.”
So why didn’t Calipari call timeout?
“I don’t know. You’ve have to get in my head and ask me that because I don’t have any idea,” Calipari explained. “As soon as he threw the ball away, I looked at John Robic and said, ‘What was I thinking?’
“Louisville deserved to win,” Calipari said, “but I didn’t give our guys the chance they deserved given the way they played down the stretch.”
And if Calipari had followed his gut and called timeout?
“I would have set up a four-point play,” he said, “and the game would have gone into overtime.”
Calipari used the public forum of the post-game press conference to be the fall guy, but outside the Kentucky locker room in an expansive hallway at the KFC Yum! Center the players were having none of that.
“I'm not going to blame Coach Cal because he's not the one out there playing,” point guard Ryan Harrow said. “We are the ones out there playing and we're the ones that didn't make the shots, didn't get the defensive stops and let some guys have open shots.”
“Coach steps up and takes responsibility for everything,” guard Archie Goodwin added. “Even if he thinks it’s our fault, he’s going to do that. But I wouldn’t blame it on him, I blame it on us as a team. We missed 12 free throws. Couple of hustle plays we didn’t get. All those things contributed to us not winning the game. It’s not coach’s fault.”
Goodwin even took it a step further and shouldered the burden for the ill-timed turnover inside the final minute. The freshmen admitted he considered calling timeout when he was swarmed by Louisville defenders with no place to turn.
“I did, but it was my fault that I didn’t know if we had any timeouts or not,” Goodwin said. “That’s the only reason I didn’t call it because I didn’t want to call a timeout and us to get a technical. So I threw a turnover.”