Dec. 20, 2014
Kentucky Postgame Quotes
John Calipari: My only comment is these guys are so excited about going home for Christmas and spending four days with their families. It showed on that basketball court. They were excited about playing, and I think just as excited, they are running out of here right now.
Q. Devin, could you talk about the way you were part of the 16-0 run, you were watching and then came in and got the next eight points to make it 24-0?
Devin Booker: I think most importantly they started out with energy. Everyone is excited, we’re all excited to go home, and we knew we had to go through this first game and it wasn’t going to be easy, but we just brought energy to the floor, and that’s what put it over the top.
Q. Devin, how does it play on your mind when you see the score is 24-0 or 41-7?
Devin Booker: We have to deep playing against our self. Coach always stresses to us that we’re not playing against the other team, we’re against ourselves. Just keep playing, and you can’t look at the score, just keep going.
Q. Tyler, two days ago your coach talked about teams licking their chops to play you guys. Can you imagine that anybody is licking their chops now?
Tyler Ulis: I’m pretty sure people are still out there trying to get a game with us, to beat us, just because we’re sitting at No. 1 team right now. But as a team we’re not really worried about that. Just like Devin said, we just got to keep playing against ourselves, which coach stresses, and just try to go out there and try to win and compete.
Q. Tyler, how did this match-up for your expectations for your homecoming?
Tyler Ulis: It was fun coming out here, getting a big win like that, coming out with energy, like you said. Andrew and Aaron started off the run so well, and then we came in and just pushed it from there, so it’s great to win like that at home.
Q. Tyler had six assists, Andrew had eight. What is it like to have two point guards like that going at them and different looks defensively and offensively?
Tyler Ulis: It’s hard for them because we’re coming in five in, five out, and we’re just trying to wear the other team down. They came out with energy, which made it even better. When we came out on the floor they were really tired and gassed, and it just helps us even more.
Q. Just curious, when it’s seven points at halftime, how long do you say, hey, we don’t want to give them double figures? It was 22 minutes or so.
Tyler Ulis: Yeah, we just came out trying to do the same thing in the second half. They got a couple baskets early, but as a team we’re just trying to push ourselves, play against ourselves, like Coach says, again, and just play hard.
Q. Devin, is your shot different now than it was earlier when you were struggling with it, and if so, why?
Devin Booker: I wouldn’t say it’s different at all. I keep all my mechanics the same, always. I always have my whole life. I feel like shooters go through slumps sometimes and you have to shoot your way out of it. When you have a team behind you that tells you to keep shooting it and a coach that tells you to keep shooting it, it makes it easy for me.
Q. Tyler, you know Devin pretty well. When his shot wasn’t falling what did you expect to happen and what did you see out of him? Did you see him going to the gym late at night?
Tyler Ulis: Devin is really confident in his jump shot. We go back and forth about who shoots better. He was in a slump, but he kept playing, kept shooting. Every time he was in a slump, he just told me I’m going to keep shooting the ball, keep shooting, and it’s getting better.
Q. Devin, what kind of looks were you getting today?
Devin Booker: A lot of good looks. I think Aaron started the game out with two big threes because they started out in a zone-and-one to cram the middle, but once he did that they had to open it up and give our bigs man-to-man looks so we threw them it into our big, and my man would help and it just gave me a wide-open shot. Dakari made passes and made it a lot easier on me.
Q. Have you ever been in a game like that where you just sort of removed all hope from the other team so quickly?
Devin Booker: Not at this level. In high school, of course, playing against competition like that, but today I feel like as a team it was a great performance. We came out with energy, and we just kept it up throughout the entire game.
Q. Coach, you’re heading into the Louisville game undefeated. You held one of the best scoring teams in college basketball to seven points at the half. At what point in your mind do you start thinking you could be in the middle of something historic this season?
John Calipari: I’m day-to-day. I’m in a grind and I’m staying in the moment. The one thing I’m doing is really enjoying these guys. We can all talk about defense and blocking shots and playing hard, but you’ve got 10 guys, 11 guys sharing minutes. You have two point guards that are two of the best point guards in the country, both of them, and sharing minutes. You have big guys, Karl Anthony-Towns and Dakari Johnson, sharing minutes. You have Willie (Cauley-Stein), one of the best big guys in the country, sharing minutes with Marcus Lee. You’ve got Aaron Harrison, who’s really good, and then you’ve got Devin sharing minutes. That’s the story, and I would say to all of you, if it were your son and he had pro potential and he was on that board to be drafted, would you be okay with him playing 20 minutes? I mean, we’ve got a great group of parents that accept and trust that we have their sons’ back, and we’ve got a great group of kids. I mean, that’s the story. We’re playing — today we played 11, but no one played more than 23 minutes. Andrew and Aaron played 23 minutes. No one else did. That was it. Everybody else played 18-to-20 minutes.
Q. After the Kansas game the first thing you said was we’re not that good. What about are you guys this good?
John Calipari: Well, this game, the way we started, we haven’t always done that, and that’s why these two kept saying about energy. I thought Andrew Harrison was unbelievable. I mean, he did stuff, flying up and down the court. He had eight assists. He could have had two others that were kind of dropped, and he could have had a 10-assist game in 23 minutes. What? Missed a couple shots, and I keep telling him, quit playing to get fouled. Score. You can get 10, 12 points in the time you’re playing and get assists, and then it’s — Tyler is different. He’s just a different kind of point guard. But see, I’ve been in there where there are times where smaller point guards, you just can’t leave them in the game if you’re trying to win at the highest level. Late in the game, they’ve got a 6’3″ point guard that can just score over him, he couldn’t be in at that point. But I’ll tell you this, he makes a difference in the game just pressuring the ball, sprinting it up the court. I had to get on him. I said, score the ball in the second half. Shoot the ball and score, because he’s getting away from that, and that makes him even better as a player.
Q. What did you tell —
John Calipari: Again, I just said, that’s our good game right there. That’s as good as we go, and I told Steve (Alford) that, and to be honest with you, I think we’re both worried about coaching our own teams. I didn’t look at the score like in the first half, I did not know what the score was. I knew it was pretty good, but I did not look — to be honest, I couldn’t find it in the arena. I didn’t know where it was. The second half I glanced up there one time because they said it’s over there in the end zone. That’s up there. Which is fine, and that’s the best way to coach if you don’t have to look at that scoreboard, you’re just looking at your team.
Believe me, Karl Anthony-Towns, he’s got to be better, and he’s better. Ten rebounds, but he’s still a scorer, but you can’t run plays to score for him because they double-team, then you’re a passer. So that means you’ve got to fight down the court and create positions so we can throw to you early so they can’t double-team. There’s things, Dakari, the same thing. Marcus Lee has got to be more focused. I thought Trey Lyles was great today, too. He played a great ballgame. And Trey is playing guards. Here’s a 6’10” center in high school playing guards, and then Willie is 7-foot and all of a sudden you are a 6’3″ guard, and you’re like, why are you on me? And he can guard him. See, I think Marcus Lee could do it, he’s just got as confident or focused as Willie right now.
Q. You said a few games back that this team could, if it wants to be, a defensive team for the ages. At halftime you guys were on pace for NCAA records for points allowed and field-goal percentage. Have they truly bought into that idea, and do you think this is an all-time defensive team?
John Calipari: I don’t know. We’re going to let this thing play out. I can tell you, again, we gave up 20 offensive rebounds. We are the worst defensive rebounding tall team in the history of basketball. We give up too many offensive rebounds, and it’s going to cost you. This team missed a lot of shots, a lot of open shots, and after they settled down, they made those shots in the second half. As we go forward, we’ve got one thing, how do we continue, let’s make this world class. How do we become that world-class team, and it’s real simple. One, you have few errors and you have no unforced errors. That’s what a world-class team is about. The second thing a world-class team is about, they absolutely enjoy, even the tough times. They enjoy playing. You know, we’re trying to build something here to say, you’re going out, playing against yourself, and you hear these kids talking about it. World-class teams play against themselves, they don’t play against the opponent. So if we’re to be that, but please don’t compare us to teams in college that have three Hall of Famers on their teams, like real Hall of Fame, like Hall of Fame, Hall of Fame, three and four, and don’t compare us to them. What we are, playing the way we’re playing is a high-energy team for 40 minutes, but it’s not helter skelter. See, in my opinion, 40 minutes of helter skelter doesn’t teach the kids how to play to prepare them for that next, where they’re trying to go. How do you play pick-and-roll? How do you play your man? How do you stop straight-line drives? How do you dig off the weak side? We’re not just going to scramble and trap-and-run and all of a sudden we’re playing a game, but — so we are playing aggressive and we’re playing fast, but we’re trying to make sure — loved it. We set up some stuff for Dakari and Willie to shoot jumpers. Walking out, I said, let them shoot that elbow shot, Dakari, because he can make it. Here’s a kid who’s in the gym every night working on that. Why shouldn’t I let him do that? Why shouldn’t people know that he can do it? These kids are spending extra time at night on their own with the coaches. They deserve all these good things, but more important, you think of the kind of kids they are that they’re sharing these minutes. It’s hard now. And then they’re being compared — well, he’s not that good. How about this statement: Are you ready, this statement? He’s not going to get the numbers to be the best player in the country. Was that your hope or your opinion? See, people can watch these guys in 20 minutes and know how really good they are. They don’t need 40 minutes, and these kids are great. We’re a really good team with a bunch of guys, 10 guys that all can score double figures.
Q. With playing 11 guys like that, going into the season, it had to be a big concern of yours, just how the players and like their families would handle it. When did you become convinced that wouldn’t be a problem?
John Calipari: Well, we went to Bahamas and it worked, and that’s why we went to the Bahamas, and we played professional teams, older teams, professional. We didn’t play the normal team that you’re going to beat by 100. We wanted to know against good teams would it work, and everybody ate, if you know what I’m saying. Everybody felt full. And then I knew. Jay Bilas gave a great talk about the clutter that the media will try to break you down, they’re going to evaluate one against another. They’ll really promote one guy to try to separate the team and make the other guy out to be a schmo. I’ve got no schmos on this team. And he went through what would happen. We call it clutter, you know, the clutter of what’s going on around. They also have to hear clutter that’s close to them, and they’ve got to withstand it all, and they are. I think the story is how good are these kids, and how strong are these families and how trusting they are. Willie said it after the Kansas game. He came in and said, we trust the coaches, and we trust each other. That’s what this is. It’s a group of kids that trust. Now, it doesn’t mean we’re not going to get dinged. It doesn’t mean there’s not something — I’m not married to platoons, folks. I’m not. I’m doing it because it’s the best thing for the players. I’ve never done this in my life. I’ve never coached this way. I’ll tell you the truth, I kind of like it. I don’t have to worry about subbing. Think about taking that off a coach’s plate. I don’t have to worry about subbing. You’re going in in two minutes. Like Marcus Lee, you don’t get a rebound, you don’t block out, things that we worked on, you’re out. That’s an easy one. But I don’t have to worry about who’s tired, who’s not. But will I ever do this again? I doubt it. I’ll go right back to the seven, six, eight guys I’ll have. Next year that’s what we’ll have, and we’ll play that. But I’m enjoying this. There’s nothing that anybody is going to say or do to get me to not — I wake up every morning. If we don’t practice I’m antsy, and I’m sending them emails, and they’re like, oh, please, Coach, stop.
Q. It seems like the bigger the stage, the better your guys have been. How much have they embraced these big settings?
John Calipari: Well, the veterans, you know how well Andrew played, how well Aaron played in the NCAA Tournament. You think about the veterans and how they play, if they’re kind of dragging all these young kids. But my young kids are really — Tyler, Devin, Trey and Karl are really — I’ll take mine, you take yours. I like mine. They’re really good. But they also have these veterans that are there for them.
But each of them are feeding each other. Each group is feeding the other. Like they said, when that first group starts like that and they can go in and just run it right down too, we’re really good. Listen, we were down 11-0 to Columbia, like no, it was going to go 15-0. It was 11-0 to Columbia. We were down five to Buffalo at halftime. We were down to Boston U at half. They’re not machines and they’re not computers. They don’t play great every time out.
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UCLA Postgame Quotes
STEVE ALFORD: Well, obviously a very difficult first half. Haven’t been involved in many halves like that, and I’m sure our guys haven’t, either. That was the tough part. I thought we settled down much more in the second half, had a little bit of a tendency to do that in the Gonzaga game, as well. But when you’re playing a team like this, you just can’t get yourselves in a hole like we got ourselves in a hole in the first 20 minutes. That’s a tough one. There are no excuses. We just didn’t get the job done on either side of the ball in that first 20 minutes, and that made it really, really difficult for us.
Q. Bryce, Coach Alford mentioned starting the Gonzaga game. What explains that tendencies to start games like that?
BRYCE ALFORD: I can’t really tell you honestly. We’ve just got to focus more and be ready to play right out of the gate. We can’t come out scared, we can’t come out tentative or passive. We’ve got to come out and know the capabilities we have as a team and trust each other and trust our abilities and just be aggressive right out of the gate.
Q. Could you maybe talk about how much credit does Kentucky maybe deserve for the way the game started, 24-0?
BRYCE ALFORD: Yeah, obviously they’re one of the best teams in the country if not the best team in the country right now. You’ve got to give credit to them. They made it extremely hard on us and they took our confidence out of us right at the beginning of the game, and they put it to us from then on. Definitely a lot of credit to them.
Q. Steve, when they jump off to that 16-0 start and you call a time-out what do you say to the guys in the huddle?
STEVE ALFORD: You know, it’s not because they don’t care and they’re not trying. The guys are trying hard, and they’re giving great effort. It’s just when nothing goes right, it gets very frustrating and kind of steamrolls. I think that’s what happened at the start of the game. The ball didn’t move. We took shots off 0, 1, 2 passes, and you’re playing a defensive team like this, this team is long — I’ve been here 24 years, and I thought Bo Ryan’s team, my fourth year at Manchester, when we were both 31-0, I thought that was an awfully good team that we played in the championship game from a Division III standpoint. I don’t know in my 20 years of coaching at the Division I level that I’ve coached against a better team than what this team looks like. They have everything. They can shoot the basketball much better against us tonight than they have in the long time, but they’re long, they’re athletic, they present so many problems for you because they’re so deep, and your first question to Bryce, how does it happen when you list Carolina and Gonzaga and Kentucky? When we played them, I think Carolina was sixth, Kentucky is one, Gonzaga is nine. This is a team that is full of inexperience. It’s not an excuse. We had three guys go hardship. This team we just played had three guys that could have entered the draft and came back. There’s a reason why they’re where they’re at, and our guys are fighting. As long as they keep fighting and we learn, we’re probably not ready — now, I’m not giving any excuses for 41-7. That should not take place. That’s bad, and our guys know that, and they feel bad about it. The next 20 we settled down. We had similar games against Carolina and Gonzaga, but they’re not ready for that. We’ve got one returning starter, Norman Powell. He was the only guy in the starting lineup for us last year. In my mind those are the reasons for those three games. Now, in a month from now will we be able to play a team that’s nationally ranked and do the things? I hope so. That’s what we have to be able to do.
But the expectation obviously is big, regardless, but we do have to be a little bit — I’ve told the media at the beginning of the year, you’ve got to be patient. I’ve said it, there are going to be games where you go, whoa, how did these guys do that, and then there are going to be games just like today where you go, whoa, how did that happen? But I’m not going to quit on these guys. Am I frustrated and down? Sure, but we’ll get back. After the break, we’ll get back and we’ll keep fighting, and this group will keep getting better. But they’re a little bit inexperienced now to play a team — at least I told these guys, in my 24 years of coaching, this is the best team I’ve coached against. This team is really, really good. It doesn’t excuse a 41-7 half, but we’ll get better and we’ll learn from it.
Q. Bryce, when you go to the locker room with seven points, what do you say to each other and how do you come up with a plan coming into the second half?
BRYCE ALFORD: That’s the hard part. None of us have ever been in that situation. None of us have ever had a seven-point half before, been down that much at half or really at any point. Yeah, it’s tough, and as leaders with Norm and myself and even Kevon, we’ve got to try to just keep our spirits up and just have everybody believe, not only in themselves but each other and just try to keep the spirits up and get us ready to go out and have a better second half.
Q. Kevon, I don’t think you’ve seen a team — you definitely haven’t seen a team this tall, probably won’t see a team this tall again. What’s it like to play against a team that has three guys that are 6’11” or taller?
KEVON LOONEY: It was pretty difficult, hard to get scoring angles on your layups and try to finish over the top, the real long, great shot blockers. But it was a lot of fun and a great experience playing out there. Hopefully we see them again, because that was embarrassing and we want another stab at it. But it was a lot of fun, and that was really good. It makes it really difficult.
Q. Kevon, what goes through your mind when it gets to 24-0? Are you even conscious of the score at that point or do you just write it off as a bad day?
KEVON LOONEY: Very, very conscious of it. You’ve got to score a basket. That’s terrible. You never should play a game where you score seven points in a half. Coach drills us better than that in practice and we’re a much better offensive team than that. Going through my head, we’ve got to score. We’ve got to make the game closer, and we couldn’t do it.
Q. What was it that was different about the way Kentucky plays defense than other teams you’ve faced? Obviously size is a part of it, but what stood out to you?
KEVON LOONEY: I would say mainly just the size. We couldn’t get to the basket how we wanted. When we did get there it wasn’t easy to finish. When we was driving we wanted to kick it out and we didn’t get movement in the first half, so their shot blocking really made a difference.
Q. Steve, when he says we hope to see them again and like another stab at it —
STEVE ALFORD: Not right now. (Laughter). I appreciate Kevon’s enthusiasm, but not right now. But Kevon, I’ve been around a long time as a player and as a coach, and I played for the best in Coach Knight. When you talk about a Dream Team, a team that — other than Ulis, who then Ulis comes in and gives you a whole different element because the starting five that they have, they can basically switch five ways, and Coach Knight, I think that was always his dream, that he could get five guys 6’7″ and 6’8″ and just switch everything. That’s hard to score on. That’s why if you look at their numbers — they’ve played 12 games now. Look at their numbers. They’re holding teams — we scored 42, we came into this game, they were holding teams to 48. We’re not the only team that they’ve really pounded that way from that standpoint. They’re really good defensively. They can switch on you, they guard the pick-and-rolls well, and then when you beat them — and I thought we did, we got some angles, we beat them, but then you’ve got two guys 6’10”, 6’11”, 7-foot, one of them jumps, if he misses it, the other one gets it. You don’t see that kind of size, and I think that affects you, and that’s hard to prepare for.
Going into a week here and trying to prep for this, you can’t simulate what you see. I joked with Cal before the game because Coach Schilling came up to me before the game and said, hey, I know when you prepare for teams and then you see them in person, the majority of the teams have over-hyped sizes and the sizes aren’t correct. He came up to me, and he goes, that’s not true with this team. It’s legit. What they are size-wise is legit, and when you have that kind of size, you can do so many different things defensively. Give Cal credit, give his staff credit. They’ve really got this team playing hard at the defensive end. They continue to play at that level defensively, I’m a firm believer they’ve got a chance to run this thing out. They’re that good, they’re that talented.
Q. You talked about the lack of experience on your team. How do you use this game as a teaching tool?
STEVE ALFORD: Well, you communicate with them just like we did at halftime, just like we did at postgame. You come back — I don’t know how much video you want to show them of this game because it’s a sensitive deal, because we’ve got to have confidence moving forward. But there’s teaching moments. For instance, in the first half, the ball didn’t move. We’re a team where the ball has got to move. In the second half the ball moved, and we got better shots, and we made shots. Even if we would have missed those shots in the second half, we got better shots in the second half. So we can teach that way.
Defensively we’ve got to look at how we’re guarding, how we were set up. For instance, Booker, we didn’t want to — we didn’t really want to come off Booker and we give him all kinds of open looks, so we have a lot of breakdowns, and right now our defense is too much predicated on what’s happening offensively. If we’re good offensively then we do some better things defensively, and that’s what a young, inexperienced team does. We’ve got to learn from that. We’ve got to get tougher and nastier and better defensively, which I think that’ll help our offense. These three ranked opponents, they bring those things out in you. That’s why they’re ranked. That’s why they’re really good. They’re going to exploit that and bring it out, and those things have been exposed. It hadn’t been so exposed in the other games. We’ve been able to do pretty well in those, but when you play teams like that, that’s going to get exposed to you.
Q. When you watch the tape on them, do they look different when the jersey is Kansas or UCLA or even when they played Texas?
STEVE ALFORD: You know, that’s hard. Obviously they probably played really well against Kansas and they played really well against us. Cal told me it was the best they’ve played all year. He might have been just being nice. But those are two games that I would say they played at a really high level. But you’re 12-0. What’s the win margin? 28 coming into tonight? That didn’t go down. You’ve got a win margin of 30-plus and you’ve played 12 games and you’ve played the likes of Kansas and UCLA and played Providence and played Texas, and they played a pretty-good schedule, and they’re 12-0 with a plus-30 win margin and they’re holding teams to about 45 points. So even if you say, hey, Columbia played them a little bit tougher or Boston — you’ve got a target on your back the size of the state of Kentucky the way it is. For them to perform at the level — you’re coming into break, those are always tough games to begin with. I thought they were tremendous. Cal has got them playing at a very high level, believing in what they want to do. Like I said, I don’t know of too many teams in my career that I’ve coached against that’s been any better.
Q. Barring additional injury for them, what is it going to take? What kind of team is it going to take to beat them?
STEVE ALFORD: You know, they’re a hard team to man, and we tried zoning, and that didn’t work. So we went man, and they’re a very difficult team to man because they’ve got very good inside out, and if the Harrisons, if they’ll shoot and play that way and that — I thought they were really under control and did a lot of good things tonight as far as shot selection, and if they make shots like that, they even become harder to play against because they’re just so hard to guard. I would think if a team can come in with a lot of length and throw a zone out there that’s got length and really gets them out of the paint to where they have to shoot jump shot after jump shot, okay, and that might sound like a good game plan, but they rebound — for every two shots they take, they rebound one of them. It’s just a hard team to play against. I think their key is defensively. I really think this is a team that if you guard them well and they score 50 points and shoot 20 percent from the field, they still beat you because they hold you to 35. I just think that’s their makeup. This team is focused, it’s driven. There’s not a weakness on the team. It is, it wasn’t a fun team for me to watch today, but I’ll enjoy watching it the rest of the season, because it’s good basketball that’s really well coached with really good players.
Q. You know what it’s like to make it to a title game undefeated. What does it take or what will it take for this Kentucky team mentally to be able to —
STEVE ALFORD: You know, I did it at the Division III level. Bo and I both had undefeated teams going into that, but that was fun. You’re going to be down six or seven with a minute to go and try to figure a way that pull that out. Who knows what’s going to happen in league play. But they’re such a dominant team, I think it really is a mindset. If they have no injuries, further injuries, it’s really a mindset within the players. They know what they have to do. It’s just staying driven where you’ve got to play pretty much all of us are going to be playing two games a week now, so you’re away from the three games in three days, or we went through seven games in 14 days. You’re away from that now. Now it’s two games a week. Really taking care of their bodies off the court, not listening to all the — it’s going to be hard because they’re going to get praised a lot, and they deserve that praise. But if what they truly want and what they’re truly trying to get to, you’ve got to kind of block all that out and listen to your coaching staff and know that there’s still room to get better, and that’s the scary part about them. I think they can probably still get better as they continue to get more and more experience and they go along this thing. As it grows, I think a lot of times you think that there becomes more pressure. I think as it grows, they’re going to get hungrier with it. Just looking at their demeanor, this thing reaches 18, 19, 20 in a row, you may not get them because I think they’ll get really hungry and think that they can do it now.
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