Calipari: Expectations play part in stars’ battles

GREENSBORO, N.C.– For the second time in as many years, Kentucky is going home after the first weekend of the NCAA competition, and the Wildcats have actually now gone four years because they last played in a Sweet 16. That’s a stretch of frustration the fan base hasn’t sustained considering that prior to John Calipari’s arrival in 2009, and the Kentucky coach stated he can feel sorry for the disappointment.

“I understand what this program has to do with,” Calipari said after a 75-69 loss to third-seeded Kansas State on Sunday. “That’s what makes it what it is, which’s why I tell players, it’s not for everybody because expectations are so high.”

Kentucky was ranked as high as No. 4 this season, however late struggles and an SEC competition loss to Vanderbilt doomed the Wildcats to a 6-seed in the NCAA competition. They left Providence in the opening round however has a hard time from Antonio Reeves (1-of-15 shooting) and Jacob Toppin (2 points on 1-of-7 shooting), in addition to a quiet finish for star forward Oscar Tshiebwe, doomed the Wildcats against Kansas State.Calipari tried to deflect blame from Reeves, in specific, but he recommended the enormous expectations that followed his group throughout this season might have played a part in a few of his stars’ battles.

“My issue are these kids, and I attempted to keep [those expectations] off of them,” Calipari said. “Undoubtedly, with a couple, maybe I didn’t do as great a job as I thought I did. I desired them to just play, have fun, take pleasure in the experience.”

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1 Related The NCAA competition experience has been short for Kentucky in recent years. After making the Elite Eight in 2019, the 2020 competition was shelved due to COVID-19, and the Wildcats missed out on the 2021 tournament completely. In 2015, UK was a 2-seed however was ousted in the opening round by Saint Peter’s.

Now, Kentucky is going home early again in 2023, and even Calipari struggled to make sense of it.

“Cason [Wallace] goes 9-for-11 and gets nine rebounds,” Calipari said after the game. “We outrebounded them by 19. We only have five turnovers in the second half. And we lose? And we lose.”

It was a game in which Kansas State was 0-for-12 from 3 in the very first half and still led at the break. It was a game in which Tshiebwe was a dominant force, scoring 25 points and grabbing 18 rebounds, including 9 on the offensive glass.And yet, over the final 5:45, Tshiebwe had just two points and one rebound as Kentucky saw a 56-54 lead become a five-point loss.The end result

, Calipari stated, was Sunday’s performance looked too much like some of Kentucky’s other bungled opportunities this season.

“This is what took place in particular games,” he stated. “You do not have to make them all, you just can’t miss them all. And we have actually had games like that. … You required another person to go get baskets and have fun with that swagger you have to have in this tournament.”

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