Men's Basketball

Jan. 22, 2014

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Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari

Q. You mentioned earlier in the week that A&M is a team that just kind of hangs around. How were you able to pull away in the second half?

COACH CALIPARI: They hung around. They hung around. It was 9, 8, 10, then we got it to 16. But it was 8 points and it could have gone to 6. They missed some free throws like we did. But I told Billy (Kennedy) before, I watched the tape, he’s doing a terrific job with his team. He’s giving them a chance to win every game they play.

They didn’t shoot it — they didn’t play as well as they’ve been playing. You know, we did some good things, but we still, you know, one-on-one breakaway, James (Young) fumbles, throws it. What are we doing? I mean, it’s — you know, I’m still having to coach too much. Having to get on guys too much. I’m so proud of Alex (Poythress) how he played.

I thought Andrew (Harrison) for the majority of the game didn’t shoot the ball well, but played well. But Julius (Randle), you know, he passed. He had one turnover, and he passed. Just keep doing it. You know, he had 13 points and maybe, okay, you could have had three or four more, but you would have had five more turnovers and the game would have been different. He passed today.

Like I said, I’m really, really proud of Alex and what he’s been able to do in practice, and now you’re all starting to see it.

Q. Speaking of Alex, how much did he impact the game defensively, offensively?

COACH CALIPARI: Both. He made plays like how did he make that play and that’s how we got a little gap. We got to 11 because of him. Then we made a play or two, and all of a sudden it was 16-17, but a lot of it was just him.

Q. I can’t imagine you wanted to shoot 15 3s in the first half?

COACH CALIPARI: No, I was not happy.

Q. And two, what’s wrong with Willie?

COACH CALIPARI: I don’t know what’s wrong with Willie, but he’ll be fine. I just — look, when you’re a coach and you coach the game to win. Then you work on egos and all the other stuff after. Dakari (Johnson) was playing better than him, so I started Dakari. Dakari continued to play better than him. At the end of the game, I said, look, we’re going at you. You got to get going here, kid. He turned and fumbled. I mean, it didn’t get any better.

You know, he wants to do well. He was doing really well, and he backed up a little bit. It’s like a slippery slope. When you back up, you don’t keep bringing it. All of a sudden you go that other way. This sport is mental as much as anything else.

It’s like Alex right now. Mentally, Alex thinks he’s going to kill you, so he will. Last year that’s not how Alex was thinking. So he wasn’t in the shape to do it. I’m glad I got Marcus Lee in. I wanted to get Derek (Willis) in a little bit and I didn’t because he’s starting to play better. I’ve just got to find minutes for him.

Q. With Dakari, is that an example of the guy sort of taking advantage of that opportunity and seeing those extra minutes?

COACH CALIPARI: It’s like I keep telling these guys, you’ve got to work and keep building up your own self-esteem and confidence because when your opportunity comes you’ve got to be ready and you don’t know when it’s going to come. You can’t be on a five-day diet and say, okay, it didn’t work. I’m done. You’ve got to keep going. That’s what I’m telling Derek right now.

Derek, you’ve really done well. You don’t know. It’s kind of like chipping away at a rock. You keep hitting and hitting and hitting and hitting and then all of a sudden it’s been weeks and it’s been months and there’s one hit and it splits and you split the rock and you made it. You’re over the hump.

But you didn’t know. You could have stopped two weeks before, so that’s what this game is. It’s a grind. You’ve got to love the grind. You’ve got to stay in the grind. You can’t be any step back, any arrogance. You can’t be smirking. You’ve got to know, coach me. Tell me what you want. How do I get to one more step? It’s never good enough. You’re always hungry. You’re always humble, but you’re always hungry to get better. The minute you’re satisfied, you start going the wrong way.

Q. Maybe a little thing, maybe not, but early in the game for the first time I can remember it was Aaron (Harrison) and Julius both asked to come out three minutes into the game. Is that what you wanted? Is that a step forward?

COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, that’s good, and they still played 30-some minutes. Both of them played 30-some minutes. Look, the difference right now is the upside of this team is enormous. What I’m saying to you is we’re not close to what we need to be. We’re not.

We’re playing better. We’re playing with more energy, more fight, we’re being a more organized team. We’re stopping on defense less and less. But we still stop and give them layups and the back door. Well, it’s only one play. Great, now it’s a five-point game. Now they think they can beat you. So they don’t realize that. Then we’re playing offensively. There are times we break off stuff.

Well, in a really good game the other team is going to score because they’ve got good players. You can’t compound it by giving them easy baskets, taking tough shots and not executing on the other end. You can’t win a real good game. So we’ve got a ways to go. But like I said, we’ve rebounded the ball today; we did some good stuff defensively, a few turnovers at the end of the game, so we’re 12, 13 turnovers, maybe one or two more than I would have liked. I thought Andrew played a pretty heady game. Did some good stuff, didn’t shoot it well, but played pretty good.

Q. How different are you and what are those differences when Julius gets rid of the ball quickly?

COACH CALIPARI: Well, you’re noticing that the whole team, the MO is the minute he gets it, everybody runs to the lane. So now when he passes it, you can either shoot it or post it to him when he kicks it out and slides to the low post or drive it in or swing the ball and we can play. He wants to do well. There is no question. I mean, he rebounded the crap out of the ball today, and so did Andrew. Eight rebounds.

How about Dakari though? He’s doing some good stuff. He’s going after balls and got to make free throws. You’ve got to make free throws. You don’t have to make them all; you just can’t miss them all. You don’t have to make them all; you just can’t miss them all. So he’s really doing some good stuff.

Q. What has Jarrod (Polson) given you that maybe took some of those minutes that Dominique (Hawkins) was getting before?

COACH CALIPARI: He’s a little more confident than Dominique right now. Part of that is Dominique, that first drive he had, I wish he would have shot that ball. Whether it went in or not wasn’t the issue. But he tried to pass it, which leads me to believe he was a little tentative. Then the shot he took it had no chance of going in. It wasn’t like, wow, he almost made that.

That’s when I said, okay, Jarrod’s a little more confident right now. Jarrod should be a little more confident. He’s older. But I still haven’t lost any confidence in Marcus Lee and Derek and Dominique and Jarrod. Jon Hood has been great. But it’s just these other guys are better. Like Dakari, if you’re better than a starter, I’ll start you.

Q. What was the difference between Andrew in the first half and Andrew in the second half?

COACH CALIPARI: Well, he played a great first half. He was good in the second half, but he wasn’t as good as he was in the first half. I thought he did some good stuff. The thing I’m looking for is more energy, more juice. I don’t want anybody to watch him play and say where’s his energy? It should never happen, never, not once. So that is all we’re working on. But it’s not just him. It’s all these guys. More spirit defensively.

We’re okay defensively. I mean, you look at our numbers across the nation where we are and it’s high. But I’m telling you, the upside of where we could be, where we need to be, we’re not there. We’re just not.

Q. You say you want to get Derek in the game. I’m just wondering when the ideal time for that is? It’s not that often you’re up by 18 late in the game?

COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, and I forgot at that point to be honest with you. It went to a minute and I said it’s too late now, I’m not going to stick him in. But there will be times he’s going to have opportunities. He’s just got to be ready.

Again, you’ve got to own your performance even if you’re not playing a lot. You’ve got to walk in and say not, well, if you played me more, or if I played like he played. He takes me out and doesn’t take — no, no. You own your performance.

That’s where those guys where Dakari is slowly growing up and he’s owning his own performance now. Arkansas he wasn’t very good. He owned it. He came back and practiced his butt off and was really good, and it carried over. Alex, I keep saying, Alex, what you’re seeing is what I’m seeing in practice, which is like, holy cow. I mean, he’s just dominating, making his free throws, making jump shots. You know, there was one play where he tried to throw a lob to somebody. I wish he would have taken it because it was just him and a guy. If he’s got three guys back there, that’s not his game. But if it’s him and one guy, he can do something with the ball.

But we’ve got all these guys. They’re good kids. Getting better, I’m challenging them. I’m on them. Trying to drag them faster. Trying to stay focused on — instead of results, it’s all where we’re trying to take this. Instead of the results, let’s work on just the process, and that’s what we’re doing.

We’re practicing hard. For two days, we went hard. We give them tomorrow off, and we’re going to go twice as hard before we play Georgia. Thanks.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports

Kentucky Student-Athletes

#44, Dakari Johnson, F/C

On playing more minutes…

“I’ve just been trying to come off the bench and add a little spark to the game, bring energy. That’s all I’m trying to do.”

On his performance…

“I think I played really well. Right now, I’m playing a lot more than I used to so I have to get my conditioning up. Sometimes, I get a little winded, so I’ll get some extra conditioning in.”

On rebounding…

“We lost the rebound battle against Tennessee so we just wanted to come back and win at rebounding.”

On Alex Poythress’ performance…

“He’s been going hard in practice and it’s carrying over in the games now. You get what you put in at practice.”

#30, Julius Randle, F

On the play of Alex Poythress lately…

“It’s amazing. All of his hard work, extra work and how he has been practicing is paying off. I couldn’t be more happy for him.”

On getting off to a better start this game…

“It was very refreshing. We have been getting down in games 12-2, 14-5, and stuff like that. We talked about it and we wanted to get off to a fast start and just have energy from the jump. I think we were a lot better today.”

On the contribution from Dakari Johnson…

“He is really valuable. Just to have another big that can really help us. Dakari (Johnson) has been doing a great job the last couple of games. He has really stepped up. He is playing hard, so it has been a great thing for us.”

#22, Alex Poythress, F

On what the team needs to do to prepare for Georgia …

“Keep working hard, come in ready to practice, and work on the little things we are struggling with.”

On how it felt to motivate the team with his dunk …

“It felt good. It felt like we were slowing down a bit. We needed something to get us going a bit.”

On what Coach Calipari means by players ‘owning their own performance’ …
“It means if you put in the extra work—good things will happen to good people. You get what you give. If you don’t work hard, bad things will happen. If you do work hard, good things will happen.”

Texas A&M Head Coach Billy Kennedy

Opening statement …

“I really thought Kentucky’s physicalness, their length and just how physical they are gave us a lot of problems scoring. It seemed like when they got to the rim, they got to the free throw line and finished; when we got to the rim they were blocking shots and changing our shots. Their freshmen and sophomores were a lot more physical and longer, better than our freshmen and sophomores.”

On how much Alex Poythress impacted the breakout …

“He was dominant, you know, physically. I’m not surprised, he’s a really good player and he’s one of their more upperclass guys, you know, so he played like it. I thought he and (Julius) Randle were just physical, much more so than we were.”

On Kentucky’s depth wearing them down …

“Yeah, we’re not a very deep team. But I thought their depth wore us down and really more so just – they’re just bigger and stronger at every position. I thought that wore us down more than anything. Alex Caruso battled. We struggled getting it to the rim, we struggled keeping them off, it seemed like a few times they were just playing ping pong off the backboard during that one stretch. We thought the pace of the game was where we wanted it to be, especially the first half and the beginning of the second half we had opportunities but missed some free throws, you know, Kentucky took advantage of it.”

On what he saw in Alex Poythress

“I just saw him a bunch coming up when I was at Murray State and really like his talent and his character. These kids – Kentucky’s kids are young, I don’t think people take that into – they’re talented, extremely talented. But they’re young, they’re learning how to play hard, their bodies, they’re gifted bodies but they’re maturing like a 19, 20-year old gifted body would mature and I just think it takes time. John (Calipari) has got a good team, he’s doing a great job being patient with them. They got a young squad and I thought they had some guys make more physical, more mature plays than we did.”

On the early foul trouble with Jamal Jones …

“That hurt us, you know, a little bit but more so than that, Kentucky’s – he made the first 3 and then I think they knew he was capable scoring and they challenged, they did a great job of defending him and challenged things. They blocked shots that other teams he has played against weren’t able to block. They challenged shots that we hadn’t played anybody else that could challenge the way they did and that’s a tribute to them.”

On if there was a turning point in the second half …

“It was a 10-point game, you know, then it got up to 13 or 14, from there, we were worn down. They just physically wore us down, you know, with their depth and just with their athleticism and size.”

On how much he wanted them to shoot 3s …

“A lot. You know, we wanted them – and they came out and made a few 3s early. You have got to be able to try to protect the paint. The Harrison twins, I’ve watched them for years in Texas get to the free throw line and (James) Young. I mean, everybody they have on the floor can drive the ball and put pressure at the basket. So we wanted to pack the paint and keep it tight and hope they miss shots. I thought that worked for a while but they just wore us down by continually driving the ball and getting to the free throw line. They shot 27 free throws, you know, they did a good job of attacking the basket, when the missed somebody tipped it in. You get 12 offensive rebounds, they score on them, I don’t know how many points off of it. But they physically wore us down.”

Texas A&M Student-Athlete

#21, Alex Caruso, G

On what UK did differently in the second half …

“Foul trouble obviously hurt us a lot. We didn’t have a lot of key guys out there when we needed them. We can’t use that as an excuse, but I think their size and their athleticism wore us down and we can’t allow that to happen. That’s when they got a lot of run outs with two on ones and three on twos, easy layups and our legs got a little tired.”

On focusing on rebounding and how he thought they did …

“In the first half, I thought we did OK. We battled down there, we boxed out, got a couple of generous calls, and then they kind of wore us down as the game went on. I didn’t think we had enough bodies to throw at them. We also didn’t have enough bodies to throw at them and (they were) getting 50-50 balls.”

On halftime adjustments …

“We just wanted to be within striking distance at halftime. We are a scrappy team. That’s what we do until we finish the long plays and the long defensive stops that we need. I think we said to take everything one play at a time, and if we made a mistake, to take it one play at a time. We wanted to keep it to where we could make a run down at the end.”

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