Men's Basketball

Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari

COACH CALIPARI: How about we give these two a hand.

(Applause.) My wife was mad because her name — “Where’s my name,” she said? So this was from both Ellen and I. So we really congratulate both of you. Questions about what we just did?

Q. You talked about floor general with Tyler [Ulis], 10 assists in the first half, 15, three turnovers for the game. Exactly sort of what you’ve been seeing in practice and how much does he make you guys go right now with so many young guys?

COACH CALIPARI: The good stuff that came out, I thought the guys are going to get minutes, the assist to turnover ratio was good. I thought we had some good shot making.

But we still — the other side of that was, we didn’t fight. We only had two blocks at half and I told them, I said you got to block shots. Marcus Lee, you’ve got to block shots. You got to do more.

It seems to me, this needs to be a team that plays fast. Then the question is — we absolutely were exhausted the last seven minutes of this thing. We had nothing in the tank. So for the last eight minutes it was almost like they were hoping that the clock wouldn’t stop.

We played 10 guys, so they kind of got wore down. But Skal [Labissiere]’s got to fight. You saw when he caught it in the middle of the lane and that jump hook. Well, then, we got to figure out how he catches it right there. So he can catch it in the middle and just, he’s hard to guard.

Q. More of a big picture question. You guys are ranked number one again in the pre-season. How do you manage expectations like that for players who never played a college game before?

COACH CALIPARI: Well, you play like you did today and then they know, “Oh my gosh, we’re not that good right now.” I mean, you have guys that made 47 out of 50 free throws, and then go today and go 1-8 when there’s people in the seats and the popcorn’s popping. We probably shot 30 percent from the foul line. How do you do that and win?

So, we — believe me, these guys know where we are. They know the hype of this program sometimes. They know. They all know we have to fight. We just talked about it. Raise your hand if you know we’re not — they got to fight each other. Fight means before you catch the ball, you’re getting ready to play.

Before you have to guard a guy, the opponent, you’re playing him before he catches it.

A shot goes up on a rebound, you’re moving before the ball hits the rim.

If there’s a 50/50 ball, you’re getting that ball. You’re diving on the floor. You’re making an extra effort, you’re fighting.

We don’t do — you fight for position. The ball was thrown back over your shoulder, you fight and hold your man, so we can throw you the ball in the post.

We’re not doing any of that right now. We’re not rotating. When a guy goes to block the weak side guy, we’re not getting down yet. So there’s a lot to work on.

Q. You talked a lot about seeing the guys once the lights were on. Does that go for Alex [Poythress] as well who is trying to clear those mental hurdles to get back?

COACH CALIPARI: He’s still not there yet. But I just want him to focus on rebounding. He made some shots. I’m telling you, if that takes away from his rebounding — get that back first — then I would rather him not make any shots.

Get that rebounding back. That’s going to bring your confidence in yourself physically. Go rebound every single ball, be a beast. Make an outlet. Fly down the court and get that first.

I liked the way he shot the ball and made free throws today, but that’s not — rebound that ball and get back. That’s the basis when you have that injury. Let’s just do one thing right now and get confident before we move and try to do others. But he got tired too. I thought he played well until he got tired.

Q. As a follow-up to that on Alex, was it significant just to see him sort of run and jump? It looked like he was at least fairly confident in his body tonight. And then totally a separate question, have you been seeing the first half Mychal Mulder in practice or the second half 0-6 Mychal Mulder?

COACH CALIPARI: Both. But, no, I’m pleased with where Alex is, and what I want him to do is — you almost have to have a plan of attack. My plan of attack is I’ve got to get mentally right with my body and it’s normal. I’m telling you, the best way to do that is rebound that ball. Defend. Move those feet. It takes no skill. It’s just a mindset that this is what I’m going to do. And then the other stuff comes easy.

I think that’s part of the reason he played well offensively tonight, because he didn’t have to worry, he wasn’t worried about it. But he’s going to be a big key to what we do.

Q. Can you talk about the way you thought Charles Matthews played tonight?

COACH CALIPARI: I thought he did some good things. But he did other things — he looked like a freshman. But I thought he did some good stuff today.

I thought he defended pretty good.

I thought he got his hands on some balls. I love the way he drove the ball.

Again, he missed his free throws. Isaiah [Briscoe] missed his free throws, Skal missed his free throws. You notice, they’re all freshmen. They did hit the rim, but short of that it wasn’t — didn’t look pretty.

Q. Unlike a lot of big men, when the ball goes inside through them, it becomes a black hole. Looked like Skal plays inside outside pretty good.

COACH CALIPARI: At this point, I would rather he be the black hole. I just want him to get comfortable scoring. That’s why in the second half, the scoring went where it was because we were throwing it to him every time if we could. Just — I wanted him to get comfortable, which took away probably 10 or 15 points we would have scored in that second half, if those guards, you just let them go.

But I told him at halftime, we have got to figure out how we get him to the low post area where he can get that jump hook and some of the stuff he does well.

Q. What did you think about Derek Willis?

COACH CALIPARI: I thought he did good. I told him after. If you look at our team, and if Derek Willis will shoot open shots and one dribble pull ups, and eliminate everything else, just don’t do it. Just do those two things. He could help us. Not only could he help us, he could get in the rotation.

You saw him block that shot. He’s long enough to do all this. I was proud of him tonight.

Q. What’s Dominique Hawkins’ situation? It looked like he still has his hand wrapped?

COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, I think he’s still a few weeks away.

Q. If Tyler plays the way you think he can, can he break John Wall’s assist record this year? I mean he had 10 in the first half?

COACH CALIPARI: I don’t know. I don’t know what John Wall’s assist record is. I would like — again, guys, we’re still trying to figure out exactly how we’re going to play. Who we’re going to play, and how we’re going to play. One of the things I told them in there, guys, we need to get better or I end up playing five or six guys. We got to, together, get better or you play five or six and you make sure that team is a good enough team to go. I would like to play more people. I thought Isaac did a few good things tonight. I thought he was big and physical on Skal. Made it hard on him.

Q. Did you like how that three guard lineup played together in the second half?

COACH CALIPARI: They did okay. But part of it you have to understand, I was telling them throw, figure out how we get Skal in on this. We need to get him the ball inside. And that kind of took away from the free flow, here we come, but you saw some of it. Those three, I thought Isaiah did good stuff today. Used his body, got to the basket. He missed one layup. Missed free throws. But I thought he did some good stuff today.

There was good stuff I saw, but at this point as a coach you’re looking at this not, all right, this was okay, what do we have to do to try to win. What do we have to look like. And let me just say, it’s not that, what I saw.

Q. Where do you think you are right now defensively?

COACH CALIPARI: Well, I asked them at halftime, either we’re one of best offensive teams in the history of our game, because both teams shot 60 percent, or we stink defensively. It’s one of the two.

I said I’m not sure what you guys think, but again, when you split the unit — this isn’t last year where you have two platoons, when you split guys up, it’s hard in this kind of setting. I’m anxious to play a couple exhibition games, even if they’re not league games, but they’re still teams that are going to have organization and have played for two months versus our three weeks.

You got to fight, you got to defend, you got to do it together. So we’re going to see.

Q. Is that white team we saw at one point the three guards plus Poythress and Skal’s is there a good shot that that’s you’re starting five?

COACH CALIPARI: I don’t know yet. I don’t know. Could be. I thought Charles did some stuff. I thought Derek did some stuff. You look at this and you got to — the whole thing is how are we playing and what are those guys doing.

We’re a ways from that too.

 UK Student-Athletes

# 1 Skal Labissiere, F

On what his first time playing a scrimmage in Rupp …
“It was a great experience to see the fans out there. It gave me some butterflies at first, so I had to get used to it a little bit, but I enjoyed it.”
On his free throw shooting …
“I make them at practice. I don’t know what was wrong tonight. I just have to shoot more.”
On Coach Calipari telling him he needs to fight more …
“I hear that every single day, ‘you have to fight, Skal.’ It’s something that I have to learn how to do. It’s a different level here and I am still trying to get used to it. I’m getting used to learning how to play through contact and catching every ball, so I’m still trying to get used to that.”
On playing with Tyler Ulis …
“It is very fun. He’s a great leader out there.  He is always looking for me and telling me to run and get easy buckets. I enjoy playing with him and I think he is the best point guard in the country. I love playing with Tyler.”
On being eager to play against others…
“Very excited about that. It feels like we have been playing against each other for a long time. Last year they got to play against other people in the summer, so we are excited to get out there and play.”
On the speed of the game …
“Being able to do it for a long period of time is the next step. I’m still trying to get used to the speed of the game, but I’ll get it.”
On playing in front of the Big Blue Nation …
“It was really fun. We have the best fans in the country in college basketball so it’s a great experience. I am really looking forward to playing in real games.”

#3, Tyler Ulis, G

On whether or not he has a personal assists goal for the season …
“Not really. I’m just out there trying to feed the open players and make things happen.”
On how he felt about tonight  …
“It felt good to get out there, control the team, see what we could do and learn more about our team.”
On how much he and Skal have worked together on offensive sets…
“We’ve been working together all year practicing and in open gyms early in the season. I feel like he’s coming along. He’s got a long way to go but he’s going to be great for us.”
On what stands out about Skal and his eligibility …
“He’s a very skilled player on the block and he can shoot the mid-range side very well. Once we get him to fight he’s going to be a monster on that post.”
On figuring out the chemistry among the team …
“It comes with time and just practicing with them throughout the year. I understand how Skal likes to play, I understand where Isaac can score and how Marcus likes to play. So it’s just going to come along and we’re going to gain more chemistry throughout the season.”
On what he saw tonight in front of a crowd versus what he’s seen at practice …
“I feel like we did alright. A couple guys came out a little bit shaky but once we got it going, everybody came together and we played pretty well. Offensively and defensively, we should get a lot better but I think we’re playing pretty good.”

#4, Charles Matthews, G

On overall thoughts on tonight’s scrimmage…
“It was fun. It was another experience in front of the fans and we’re just continuing to grow as a team and getting better. I have great teammates around me and I feel we played well tonight.”
On his individual performance tonight…
“I think I played pretty well. I was having fun out there. I was relaxed, so I was just trying to let the game come to me.  At the same time, it’s still a learning phase and learning process and we are going to continue to grow as a team.”
On Coach Calipari’s message after the game…
“Just to continue to fight and just to continue to get better. We just have to continue to compete. That was basically it.”
On what he is continuing to work on in his game…
“Just continuing to work on my jump shot and my ball handling. I’m really just trying to become an all-around better player. I’m trying to increase my knowledge of the game as well.”

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