Miami coach Jim Larranaga describes how Kentucky crushed his top-10 team

Jim Larranaga didn’t waste any time on Tuesday night.

Only a few minutes after his No. 8-ranked Miami (Fla.) team lost by a whopping 22 points to No. 12 Kentucky as part of the inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge, Larranaga was at the press conference podium inside the bowels of Rupp Arena, describing how the Wildcats rolled over his Hurricanes.

A five-point halftime lead for the Wildcats exploded in the second period, as UK outscored Miami 53-36 after the break.

Five Kentucky players scored in double figures, led by Reed Sheppard’s 21 points. Fellow super-sub Rob Dillingham scored 12 points and recorded a career-high nine assists. Larranaga had plenty of praise for both players as part of his postgame comments.

Miami, which entered Tuesday night’s contest as the best 3-point shooting team in the country (45.8%), made just 5 of its 19 3-point attempts (26.3%).

Here’s everything Larranaga said after Kentucky soundly defeated the top-10 Hurricanes in Lexington.

Miami head coach Jim Larranaga, second from right, shakes hands with UK assistant coach Chuck Martin prior to Tuesday’s game at Rupp Arena.
Miami head coach Jim Larranaga, second from right, shakes hands with UK assistant coach Chuck Martin prior to Tuesday’s game at Rupp Arena.

Opening statement:

A number of things: First of all, Kentucky was terrific tonight, very explosive. We couldn’t really defend them anyway.

Their size, athletic ability, shooting ability, they shoot 42% from 3, 59% overall and we just couldn’t guard them.

I thought the first team to 80 would win, but we didn’t score. We played totally out of character on offense and that impacted our defense, which unfortunately is a weakness of ours.

Some of it I thought had to do a little bit with foul trouble, and the frustration our guys felt because they were sitting on the bench anxious to get back in.

Norchad Omier only plays eight minutes in the first half. Bensley Joseph plays only six minutes in the first half. That’s two of our really critical guys, Bensley defensively and Norchad everything, especially rebounding.

Credit to (Kentucky), and we’re going to have to go back to Miami, get ready for our next opponent.

Question about trying to contain Kentucky’s offense.

Well, it’s the same issue we’ve had in our first five games, too. But we were able to outscore the opponent.

We’re not very tall, as you can tell. I think (Kentucky had) three to four inches at the point guard position, five to six inches at the 2 guard spot, three to four inches at the 3, two or three inches at the 4 and five inches at the 5.

We’re small, which means that we must play very good offense and score the ball regularly, and then really try to help each other defensively. We didn’t do either. We didn’t score the ball well enough and we didn’t guard them at all.

Question about difficulty of handling Rob Dillingham and Reed Sheppard when they check in off the UK bench.

You think those guys are pretty good?... Those are two NBA guys. They’re terrific college players, but they’ll play beyond for sure. They can shoot it, handle it... Share it.

I think that’s what’s impressive about Kentucky’s offense is how well they share the ball. They had 26 assists. We had eight. That’s not a good stat for us.

Question about Reed Sheppard.

He’s so good at everything. He can shoot it, he can handle it, he can pass it. He finds the open man great, and he defends.

You might look at him and think that OK, he’s not that athletic. You try to score on him, but he’s moving his feet using his hands and doing a great job at the defensive end of the floor as well. He comes up with a lot of deflections and steals.

He had four assists and one turnover, and then Dillingham had nine assists and no turnovers. That’s a pretty good night from your bench. They don’t start.

Question about Kentucky getting Miami’s Nijel Pack out of rhythm.

It wasn’t Nijel Pack, it was our team. I think with the hype of the game and the crowd, our guys wanted to play well individually: ‘I want to have a good game.’

And, as a result, you can’t win individually. Kentucky showed us that’s the facts. You have to share the ball and find the open man and get assists. That’s what they did. That’s what we didn’t do.

Question about the Rupp Arena environment.

We didn’t figure out a way to do it. I don’t know how many teams will when they come here.

But I watched the other games and there were times like in the Saint Joe’s game, Saint Joe’s was able to score with them. (They) took the game into overtime and played really, really well.

But there’ll be teams like that, especially if you’re big enough. And we couldn’t keep (Kentucky) out of the lane. I don’t know what they shot on layups and dunks, but it was far more than we’ve given up in years.

Question about how a coach can change his style of play, like John Calipari has this season.

Well, I was looking at the game notes. And this was before the game, and I read the list of NBA players that (Calipari) has coached here. You know, all these NBA All-Stars and stuff. So, I would say this, Cal could change his style every year, but it’s going to work because he’s got so many terrific players.

The players make the coach, and when you have as many good players as he has, he’s going to have a lot of success. If you don’t have very good players, you’re going to struggle.

I’m fortunate that during my years at Miami, we’ve had a lot of good players and they’ve been able to compete at a high level. (Calipari) has that kind of talent every year.

Question about how Miami plans to learn from this loss.

We’ve got to learn from it. We have to understand what we did and what we didn’t do.

But you know, one thing I told the team beforehand, I was a little surprised. The crowd was great. So hats off to them, but they booed me. They booed me before the game (laughter).

What did I do to deserve that? That’s the first time I’ve ever been booed. So tell them, you know, be polite. You know, teams are going to come in and you’re going to kick their butt, and you’re going to boo them like they’re bad people? They’re nice people. We’re nice. See you (laughter).

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