ARLINGTON, Texas — Another team coached by John Calipari was done in at that harmless strip of paint just 15 feet from the basket.
After shooting well from the free throw line much of the season, the young kids from Kentucky wilted when it mattered most Monday night. Their inability to make one of the simplest shots in basketball was a big reason why they lost 60-54 to Connecticut in the national championship game.
“Well, you could say that, but the way we started the game probably cost us the game,” said Kentucky coach John Calipari, whose team found itself in an early 30-15 hole and never led.
Still, Kentucky was 13 of 24 from the foul line, and missed its final three attempts, when the game was still hanging in the balance. The last of them, a miss by Alex Poythress, would have cut the Wildcats’ deficit to 56-53 with 3:47 remaining in the game.
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Instead, the lead swelled to six when DeAndre Daniels scored at the other end for UConn, and the Wildcats never had a chance to get within a single possession the rest of the way.
• Calipari refused to “dignify that stuff” when he was asked after the game about his rumored interest in coaching the Los Angeles Lakers.
The rumors were floated by former Kentucky star Rex Chapman on Twitter shortly before the Wildcat’s 60-54 loss to Connecticut at AT&T Stadium. He called Calipari’s departure a “done deal.”
“The Lakers have a basketball coach,” Calipari said, referring to coach Mike D’Antoni, whose team is fighting to stay out of last place in the Western Conference.
“Kentucky has a basketball coach,” Calipari added. “I have the best job in the country.”
The Lakers have also denied having any conversations with Calipari, who spent two forgettable years coaching the New Jersey Nets before he was fired 20 games into his third season.
• Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart has declared for the NBA draft. Smart told The Daily Oklahoman he has hired an agent, making official what was already a foregone conclusion. The sophomore participated in Senior Night activities in Stillwater. He averaged 18 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game this season.
• Arizona State associate head coach Eric Musselman is leaving the men’s basketball program to pursue other opportunities.
• Steve Masiello will be reinstated as head coach at Manhattan College as soon as he receives his degree from the University of Kentucky.
Masiello recently agreed to become coach at South Florida. Then it came to light Masiello didn’t get a degree from Kentucky and the job offer was rescinded.
• Michael Curry has led a team into the NBA playoffs, served as president of the National Basketball Players Association and spent 11 years playing in the league. And now, Florida Atlantic has lured him back to college. Curry was introduced as the Owls’ new coach, replacing Mike Jarvis, whose six-year tenure at the school ended at the conclusion of this season.