Men's Basketball

Dec. 21, 2013

Recap | Box Score | Notes | Photo Gallery media-icon-photogallery.gif

Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari

Q. What did you think of the way your guys played, especially in that second half?

COACH CALIPARI: We still have things we’ve got to get better at. I thought we fought, we battled. But, you can tell how young we are. When you have a scouting report that said when (number) 1 catches it, he must bounce the ball, you watch the game and say, ‘Did they even know the kid could shoot?’ And then the game gets going, and he makes a couple, and you say again — but that’s the lack of focus for young guys.

But we fought like heck. It’s a hard team to play. They’re going to shoot 30 3s. If they’re making them, you lose. Against (North) Carolina they made 14. (North) Carolina lost. And they make 14 against us, we probably lose, and we guarded it well enough and kind of got into their legs a little bit.

I was really proud of Jarrod (Polson), and you say, ‘What did Jarrod add to the game?’ All you Basketball Bennies, I love asking you questions because you look at each other and you really don’t know. What did he add to the game? Energy. Energy. Nothing else. So now you understand what energy does for our team, and if you’re sitting there and you’re not one of the guys playing, you’re saying ‘Man, I’ve got to play with energy.’

What does Dominique (Hawkins) add – again, all you Basketball Bennies – add to the game? Energy and toughness. I put him in for James (Young) and he dives on the floor and gets that ball that basically ends the game.

Alex (Poythress) played OK today. Alex the last two days has been our best player. He went after every ball, he outworked guys for rebounds, and then today he got back into just putting his body on somebody and letting the ball go over his head, and I don’t know why. So all I can tell you is what we’ve just got to stay on him and hope that what he’s doing in practice carries over.

He’s playing with energy. He’s playing and sustaining it, which he’s never done. He’s talking more. He’s playing smarter. He’s making easy plays. He could be a difference maker and needs to be a difference maker and should be a difference maker for this team.

Q. When you decided to go with Jarrod Polson down the stretch in the first half, what kind of reaction did you get from Andrew (Harrison) on the bench? Was it positive or pouting?

COACH CALIPARI: He had foul trouble. He was fine. He had foul trouble.

Q. Did it surprise you at all the way that Jarrod (Polson) and Dominique (Hawkins) did respond for you and they got that many minutes today?

COACH CALIPARI: No, they’re doing it in practice. I mean, Dominick’s exertion rate and heart rate is incredible to the point where I say, like, kid, stop. But he just keeps busting to the next level. And we get other guys that never understand you have a long way to go.

What he does is he gets everything he can out of his body. It’s incredible. Everything. How about the play late where my man went off the ball in the middle of the lane with two hands and looked down so he fumbled it, and Dominique got it and laid it in? He didn’t run back on defense. He stuck his nose in there — the other guy was 6’7″, 6’8″ and he looked down and fumbled it, he grabbed it and laid it in. It’s great for our guys to see.

I thought Julius (Randle) was outstanding today again. But we get up nine and he wants to bring it up the court and throw a scoop pass. Oh, my gosh, that is being a freshman. Andrew (Harrison) didn’t play particularly well, but he’s going to be fine.

And my thing, I sat him next to me so I could talk him through what Jarrod (Polson) was doing because he can do everything Jarrod can do to another level, but he’s not. Do you see what he’s doing? You know, I’m just going to keep working with him because at the end of the day, I want Andrew (Harrison) to be the best point guard in the country. I don’t want there to be any question. Right now, most games, he’s not the best point guard on the court. We’ve just got to get it changed. He has the talent, he has the ability, he has the mindset, I’ve just got to keep working with him.

Willie (Cauley-Stein) was terrific today. I thought Willie did good stuff.

Q. Who the best player was today for his team.

COACH CALIPARI: Let me just say, Aaron (Harrison) was — I don’t know what this thing is. I don’t think people who watch the game know which one is Aaron and which one is Andrew, I really don’t, because there are times where you’re looking at our team, who would you say is our best player?

Q. You sort of took my question there. You tried to tell us that this summer, all the time that one of the twins was better than the other; you didn’t understand it from seeing Aaron. Is some of that that some of the pressure is off of him by playing off the ball?

COACH CALIPARI: No, I think he is 12 minutes older so he’s more mature (laughter). You can laugh. We don’t have to be mean and nasty and The Grinch. You can laugh.

Q. You talked about what Dominique and Jarrod brought to the game. Are those traits that can be taught and how critical was it for that to kind of spread throughout the rest of the guys?

COACH CALIPARI: Well, in a normal situation what happens is you’re playing veterans who are teaching young kids, and then the young kids get it, and it kind of flows through the program. I’ve seen programs this year, top-10 programs, just bench people. You’re not playing. I’m not playing you this game. Just sit guys out.

What I’m trying to do is I’m trying to bring them along, but I’ll tell you, we talked about Anthony (Davis) early, he was just okay. Well, you all who watch my team in 2012, how was Marquis (Teague) early? Say it, Larry.

Q. (Anthony Davis and Marquis Teague) struggled.

COACH CALIPARI: Like really struggled, worse than Andrew. And he came around and he ended up being a national championship point guard. But it’s going to take time, and the games we played early were probably not fair, and they weren’t fair for Marquis. They really weren’t.

Q. When you came to this state, Kentucky hadn’t won a championship since ’98, Louisville hadn’t won one since ’86. Now the state has produced back-to-back national champs. It looks as though you’ve raised the level of play at both schools.

COACH CALIPARI: No, I don’t coach at that school. Rick Pitino won a national title here. He took Providence to a Final Four. I think he’s qualified enough to do that. He’s a Hall-of-Fame coach. What he was doing at Louisville inspired us and me here. We’d better work. We’d better get after this.

The thing that’s happened here, kids are leaving early. I was with Mike Krzyzewski last night at a game. It’s just changed college basketball and how you coach and how you teach. It’s made it that much harder. No, I don’t think so, but it’s great for our state. I mean, you think about it; the two programs that — when do we play them? Glad I’ve got a couple days off.

Q. Having not played Marcus Lee as of late but you played him today, what was your thinking about when he got in there early?

COACH CALIPARI: Only this game. I mean, now Belmont had a big kid that if they put in I was going to put in Dakari, but Dakari didn’t really have anybody to guard there, so it wouldn’t have been fair to put him in the game unless I played zone. Now, if I played zone, what would they have done? They’d have shot 25 more threes.

Let me say this, too: And I’ve said this publicly, and Rick (Byrd) and I spoke, and I’ve known him for a number of years now, I can tell you he’s not a good coach, he is a great coach, could coach wherever he’d want to coach. To build a program, to take it from where it was to the next step to the next step and then go in and beat North Carolina, NCAA Tournament games and win, mold a team, getting kids to come together and play how they have to win, I just have the utmost respect for him, and he knows that, and I’ve told him that many times.

I knew this would be a hard game. Somebody said, well — the kid that was hurt is now healthy and he was ready to play, and he played well, and their team is good. This is like Boise. You play Belmont and Boise, those two teams are going to win 25 games, both of them.

Q. Have you ever had a Camp Cal session more important than the one you’re about to undertake?

COACH CALIPARI: Well, you all say that. Whatever happens in that game, I can remember we played Tennessee one versus two, and there must have been 30,000 people outside the arena watching it on the big screen because they couldn’t get tickets to get in the arena. It came down, and the game was so high powered, I can’t begin to tell you how fast and how aggressive, and we had a lead, they made a shot, we missed a shot, they made a shot, late at the buzzer, we missed a shot, they won. From that point my team went like that and their team went like that, and I mean tanked.

Why are you laughing? I’m not saying that about anybody, I’m just saying it was the truth.

So my point being we have to get better. Andrew has to get better. He’s got to have a better understanding of what we want and then do it. If he doesn’t, I’m not communicating well enough.

James Young has to play. He did not today.

Julius, we’re getting better at how we’re playing him. Did you notice we changed a little bit of how we did transition? We’re trying to do different things because we have to play different with this team. It’s a big game because it’s the next one, and they’re in our state. It’s a big game that way. But the reality of it is if we win and don’t get better and throw one at half court and it banks in and all of a sudden we start losing, it didn’t do — we have to get better as a team.

The challenge — let me tell you the one thing with them, they play extremely hard, way harder than we’ve played, like way harder. And again, they’re a Final Four, national championship team this year — those guys are back. They know how hard to play; they’re not rattled late, all the things that this team is still learning about. Three games, we lose. Three minutes to go, it’s a one-point game, and we don’t win any of them, and not only don’t we win any of them, almost lose double digits in each of them. Could have easily in each of them. One-point game with three minutes to go.

So we have a lot of learning to do, and that’s the next one.

Q. Outside of scoop passes in transition, what did you like about what Julius did today?

COACH CALIPARI: No, Julius was a beast running. He got up and down the floor. We put him in different positions. I love that he made a jump shot. We’re trying to tell him, shoot the ball; you’re a good shooter. He missed some free throws today. He’s a great free throw shooter. I don’t understand what’s going on with his free throw shooting. Probably thinking too much.

But you know, he ran, he was strong around the goal. As they tried to rip it, he’s getting better. But you know, again, this team is just — we are what we are right now, and you saw it. We had to go to Jarrod and Dominique to get the energy we needed in the game. You know it and I know it. That’s what we did.

And what I want is a high-energy game, and you stick those guys in and they raise it even more, and they sustain it until we can get guys back in. That’s what I want, not like I’ve got to get you out because you’re not giving us anything, you’re not adding, you’re sucking, you’re sucking the energy out of us. We need you to add energy. No, I want it to be great energy. You’re tired, come out for a minute and then raise it again, and then the game is played the way we want to play.

We’re trying to get our team to play fast. I’ve never heard of a coach, just play fast, get it in and go, and we’re not at times. At other times we are and we look pretty good.

Again, guys, have a great holiday. Hope you get to spend it with your family. My whole family is in. I’m not doing radio today, I’m going to go race back. My son tore his ACL yesterday in a high school game and I had to go to the hospital last night. Tough deal. He’s worked so hard and done great stuff, and he’s out six months, so I’m dealing with that right now, my own son, and kind of similar to I remember sitting down with Nerlens (Noel) and having him cry and then telling him why he was okay.

I had the same scene last night. I literally did not want to tell him what I knew, and the doc said he probably knows, you need to tell him, because I didn’t want to deal with it. And then I told him, and same response what you would expect from a 17-year-old.

But he’s going to be fine, and this is all part of life. This is all part of growing. This is adversity that’s thrown at every kid in every family, so I’m going to spend a little time with him to try to keep him thinking the right way.

Thanks, folks.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports

Kentucky Student-Athletes

#3, Jarrod Polson, G

On what it felt like to have the crowd behind him …

“The crowd always likes when I do well. Having that behind me was a really good feeling. I think it got our team going a little bit too.”

On Julius’ play today …

“He was a beast today. He really helped us out a lot. He really got us through the first half with rebounds and put-backs and things like that.”

On his role with the team …

“Mainly, in practice I play the backup point guard. Being able to play today with the team and getting a lot of minutes like I did was really fun for me. I try and bring energy. That’s the biggest thing I try to do.”

On what he specifically adds to the team …

“Energy. I’ll probably say that a lot. I think we were down 10 or 11 when I got in. The crowd was dead and (Belmont) was hitting shots. I tried to push the ball. That’s what Coach Cal wanted me to do. I felt like I did pretty good with that.”

#30, Julius Randle, F

On Jarrod Polson and Dominique Hawkins providing energy …

 “Jarrod is just a veteran and he’s been around here for so long. Only thing Dominique knows how to do is play hard. The rest takes care of itself for him and that’s all coach wants us to do. They just came in and brought energy to the team and things got going.”

On Jarrod Polson’s performance …

“At the end of the day, Jarrod has been here for four years. He knows what Coach (Calipari) wants. He was able to come in and bring a big boost and Andrew did the same thing too.”

On Andrew Harrison

“Andrew’s a great player so I’m not worried about him. I love to have him on the floor, but the point guard position is a hard position to play and it’s going to be hard anywhere you go. Coach is just doing what he needs to do to bring the best out of Andrew. He’ll be fine.”

On motivating his teammates …

“That’s a big thing. Coach wants us to bring energy to the team so if we see a guy with his head down, any of us, we’re checking ourselves. We’re not doing that because bad calls are going to happen, we’re going to make bad plays and we’re going to make mistakes, but you can’t let that affect team and bring the energy down. You have to continue to have great body language and play hard.

#15, Willie Cauley-Stein F

Willie on the team’s play coming off the loss against Carolina…

“Definitely, we had a sense of urgency and hopefully  (we will) keep that. Every game like that, everybody was hyped at the beginning. It was probably a little bit to do with that everyone is going home after (the game) but that is how it has to be every time.”

Willie on Belmont’s defensive play against him and Julius…

“We thought they were going to play a lot of 3-2 (zone) and so we were like if they play a 3-2 we should kill it in the paint. They ended up playing man, which was really surprising. From a man’s stand point that was just unexpected because we thought they were going to play a 3-2.”

Willie on the play of Jarrod Polson and what he brought to the floor…

“Just a lot of energy, (Jarrod) and Dominique (Hawkins) and Marcus Lee, they just bring a lot of energy and just gives a new look for us. Everyone needs to play like that and our defense will be really good.”

Belmont Head Coach Rick Byrd

Opening statement …

“Well my first thought is literally this is more people that have been to our games in the past. It says a lot about what Kentucky basketball means. I’m sure proud of our team and you would be too if you would have seen our last two games and how poorly we played. We didn’t get what we were used to seeing on the road at South Dakota State and Denver. You look forward to playing at Kentucky for the right reasons. This game became about lets get back to what we do, do it right, do it well a lot more often than we did on the road. I think we accomplished that. The big difference in the game was Julius Randle. If they didn’t have him, I know we could guard him better. He made eight shots and scored 29 points. I don’t know if I can find many games were a guy gets three and a half times the amount of points of shots that he took. We couldn’t stop him from making it except by fouling him. He’s so strong, our guys fouled him and he doesn’t even notice. I felt like we did all we could, we just have no bulk inside to match (Julius Randle) inside. You need bulk and ability to move laterally against a guy who can play against a guy like him. Length and size help, also. We are 0-for-3 in that category. Credit Kentucky for gathering together and doing what they’re supposed to do. I know they have done that a couple of times this year and Cleveland State strung it out even longer that we were able too. They did what teams do that are supposed to win. Kentucky people don’t want to hear it. Duke does it a lot. The great programs find a way at the end. I was proud of our team. This was a tremendous experience for our young men to get to play in Rupp Arena.”

On if his team had to make a lot of 3s to stay in the game …

“With this lineup in particular, we pretty much have to make 3s in any game. We made 15 in that win over (North) Carolina and 11-for-30 is not a terrible return. Eleven-for-33 would be one point per possession, which would be pretty good. J.J. (Mann) did not have a good night. We shot it pretty well tonight, obviously Drew Windler did. We tried to get their big guys to come out and cover. Drew Windler in particular was our best bet. Drew answered the bell the way he started out and it made them adjust how they had to play defense against us.”

On Kentucky showing a lot of depth …

“I was surprised. They hadn’t played a lot of other guys. There was a guy or two that we didn’t have on the scouting report. I know for us when we have a guy who doesn’t get a lot of time and he comes in and plays well and gets things done, it lifts the team up. There are more guys not playing than are playing and all of those unknown guys, when their buddies get in, can make a difference. For that matter, to the regulars, it’s a big deal. They know how hard the guys practice and don’t get to play much. When they come in and contribute it’s a big left for your basketball team.”

On what it felt like to be up 10 early on in the game …

“We say this all the time regardless of which way it’s going, but it’s a 40 minute game. You can’t get too excited about what the score is. If it would have been 25-15 them, I bet we would have caught up to them a little bit. I don’t think we are as good as they are for 40 minutes, but when we play well, we are competitive. The game just has its way of getting where it’s supposed to be. On this floor, Kentucky is 13 points better than us, I would say. I was glad we were up, but we don’t really talk much about that. We just play. We just go on to the next possession. We try and talk every timeout about what they’re hurting us with and what kind of adjustments we need to make, what adjustments we’re going to make on offense, where the game is and then there are issues with late-game situations and how we are going to handle them. You are worried about the nuts and bolts of the basketball game.”

Related Stories

View all