University of Kentucky Basketball Media Conference
Tuesday, February 14 2017
JOHN CALIPARI: That’s what we have been working on. We were playing that way early, we got away from it, so it makes us look like a different team.
Q. Could you talk about Malik’s overall stat line and especially the 8 rebounds?
JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, he did good. He did good. I didn’t look at the whole stat line. I know — or where is it here? I can’t see. He did good. He did good. He played better, he played within himself. He had a couple shots, the first shot he had was a better shot than the second and we’re working through it. This is still a work in progress. I’m going to say it again, it took us three weeks to get to where we were. If you look at our stats the last five games, we were atrocious. I think now it gave me an idea of what I needed to do with them and, basically, I told them, I’m going to be brutal in practice and I’m backing up off the game. I want Tony talking defense and I want Kenny talking offense. If they have anything they want to do in practice, for the defense, Tony and the offense, Kenny, we’re doing it. And if a guy’s not playing confident, Kenny’s keeping an eye on it and taking him out.
Q. What’s the change when he gets rebounds like that?
JOHN CALIPARI: He went after it, he was committed to it.
Q. Is it a sign of progress that there were a couple times Tennessee started to chip away at that lead and you guys had answers for it both times?
JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, I like what — the start of the game, Derek Willis was ridiculous and he spaced the court. Now, you may say, you guys took 25 threes, it’s how they play. It’s how South Carolina plays. Those teams, when you drive, collapse. And you’re going to have to make some jumpers. Now, they can be 2s, 15-footer, elbow jumpers, Isaac made a short one, or maybe threes, if you’re feeling it. And so we, I thought we did a good job. The threes we took were the threes we should have taken. And we passed up shots to give a guy a shot. And it’s great to see. 17 assists and only 7 turns and one of them was Dom at the end of the game.
Q. Is this as close to a complete game as you’ve had in a long time, do you think?
JOHN CALIPARI: It was good. A team we, that beat us and beat us good, we could say it was a 2-point game. It wasn’t a 2-point game, it was a 10 point game that we tried to fight to get back in. They did whatever they wanted last time. I think you see us different defensively. I think you see us different in transition defense. I think you see the difference offensively. Some of the rebooting you’re seeing. And that’s part of the what we did. The other side of it is, a friend of mine calls and says it looks like you’re more intense than your team. That you want it worse than they want it. Well, I said that I’m not doing that. No. No. I’ll coach them in practice and in the game, their energy and their effort and enthusiasm, that’s on them.
Now, as I back up, I said, now you got to be responsible for your play. So if you play poorly, I can’t take responsibility anymore. Someone got to come out there and say, this is on me, I didn’t play well. And I said, I’ve taught you that by me doing it. Now, I’m backing up, you do it. If you didn’t play, you come out there and you tell them, I was awful today, I hurt us.
So, today was — it’s kind of growing up. It’s being a man. It’s all the stuff that we got to teach. But this is only the beginning of what we started what was it? 10 days ago? I worked yesterday and I will work again up 18, how do we play? Can I tell you, they didn’t know. I said, well, what would you do here? And so what we did was we went three segments. Three. Up 18, four minutes on the clock, how are we going to play? This is what your mindset is. This is how you get to 25.
So we’re going to keep working and we got to get better at our zone defense and offense, because I think teams coming up are going to play us some zone. They’re going to pack it in. But when you shoot the way we shot from the three, it’s hard to say, okay, we’ll pack it in on them.
Q. You harped on the importance of confidence. Who played confidently and who didn’t?
JOHN CALIPARI: I thought Derek played really confident today.
I thought De’Aaron Fox was unbelievable.
Isaiah, six assists and no turns and–or six assists, one turn.
De’Aaron Fox, six assists, no turnovers.
So you had a lot of guys. I thought Bam was playing, he got tired. When he gets tired he stands behind people. We just got to see it and get him out and then get him back in.
I thought Dom played confident basketball. We had a couple guys that need to keep stepping up and I told them, you got to do it in the practice first and then you got to carry it over. And I said I’m going to be on guys, if I think you’re playing timid in practice, I’m going to bury you. If you can’t take me, how in the world are you going to go in these games and take the other team? I’m rooting for you. But I’m going to call you out. And so we’re just, this is a work in progress. It really is. On all fronts.
Q. With regard to how they collapse defensively, Rick Barnes said one of their main keys was keep your fours from getting off and yet they did. Was this a testament to the extra pass or how, why were they so effective?
JOHN CALIPARI: I think it was the extra pass. And then we started the game, it’s not just ball movement, it’s player movement, too. You can’t just move the ball and stand there, because then it becomes a zone. We started the game and we had worked on it and one of the guys didn’t do it, you’re out. Then all of a sudden you saw pass, cut, cut, cut, pass cut, and all of a sudden it was like the dam burst. It’s boom, here we come.
So, it is a work in progress. Our fours can play perimeter basketball. I thought our defense was as good as it’s been since the beginning of the year. I thought we crowded the lane a little bit, I thought we helped, we rotated. I was really happy about the rebounds. Bam got 12. That’s who he should be though. It’s who he should be. He should get, 12, 15 a game. Most of them on the defensive end. On the offensive end, they’re putting two guys on him, so he doesn’t rebound.
But on the defensive end, you got inside position and they’re going to miss 30 shots. Go get 10 of them. Go get 12 of them. He got seven of them today, which is pretty good.
Q. All the teams you have are extremely young, but I’m wondering are the levels of maturity different? And how vastly different from year to year?
JOHN CALIPARI: It’s also the level of the feel of basketball. That becomes different, too. But, yeah, the maturity level’s different on each kid. They’re all different. What I keep coming back to is, we got to focus on them and get them to focus on each other. It’s a different way. The program, the program, the program, you’re about the program. This is the program. And then you’re out.
Well, this is about these kids. But to win, they got to make it about each other. So, everything we do is, how are we doing coaching that young man whose maturity may be different than this guy. That’s what we do. It’s how we do this here. I’m not saying it’s the only way, the right way, it’s what we do. And they’re coming together. They’re understanding that they got to be about each other if we’re to win and then they’re to succeed. They got to be about each other. This is a good group of kids. They just — I’m just telling you when I started doing 18 down scrimmaging and looking I’m thinking, oh, my gosh. We started talking defensively what we had to do, it’s just, they don’t know. Any time I think these young kids know, I know I’m wrong. They don’t know.
Q. Dominique has spent his career behind a lot of high profile guards, he’s getting a lot more minutes this year. What does he give you and did you envision this role for him?
JOHN CALIPARI: I did. And I’ll tell you why. Because he is a fierce competitor, he’s tough as nails, he will come up with — any 50/50 ball, he’s getting — and offensively he’s gotten better each year. So, yes, he’s like old reliable. You know you can go to him, he can play point guard, he can play off guard, if you want him to guard a big man he’ll go rebound. Yeah, we kind of did. Now, Mychal we’re still trying to figure out. Now I started Mychal playing some four today. I hate to tell you, he did pretty good. He did pretty good at four. Like he fought the post, he went in and rebounded. So we’re trying to figure that situation out. But I’m proud of Dom. Really, how about ball pressure? If we’re not pressuring, you put him in. He’s going to be energy. He’s going to be on the ball.
Q. If you could talk about Malik’s defensive growth in terms of him spacing the guy that’s watching, I mean how much has that matured?
JOHN CALIPARI: He still has a long way to go, but he’s getting better. And we have to continue to do it through scrimmaging and maybe some four-on-four stuff. And get these guys to understand how you truly are helping each other. When you’re away from the ball, it’s not time to take just stop playing, which is what we were doing. And it then you looked at our team and you kept saying, how are they getting so many lay-ups against our team? Well, the guys off the ball were not worried about it. My man’s over here. So, we’re trying to continue to work, it’s a work in progress.
#25, Dominique Hawkins, Senior, Guard
On what he feels he brings to the team …
“Definitely on the defensive end. My pressure on the ball and getting defensive rebounds and getting steals. On the offensive end driving and getting other people involved. Getting to my floater or hitting the open shot.”
On maintaining his game with inconsistent minutes …
“I would just say that my time is coming. Everybody in my family always says be patient. When you’re a patient person, good things will come for you. And I know every time that when I get in I’m going to play my hardest so I want to stay out on the court.”
On what motivates him to play his hardest …
“Not being on the bench. I don’t want to be on the bench at all. Never was used to it until I came to college, so I just never want to be on the bench at all.”
On having to always play with younger “draft types” …
“It actually helps me out a lot because I’m going up against the best. I definitely want to play with the best players because that’s the only way to make it to the national championship. If you have the best team then you’re going to make it far into the NCAA tournament, and that’s what I want to do.”
On the thought he could be playing somewhere else …
“A lot of people tell me that before, but Kentucky was always my go to school and I’m so glad I came here. In the four years I’ve been here it’s been a blessing for me so I wouldn’t want to be at any other school than here.”
#5, Malik Monk, Guard
On the difference that let him have eight rebounds tonight…
“Me just being around the paint area. I was just roaming around there. My brother told me if I roam around some, a couple, are just going to bounce to me. A couple did, but I had to go get a couple. I was just roaming around.”
On how the Wildcats did not let up tonight…
“That’s what we have been trying to do the whole season. We’ve had spurts, like every game we have spurts of us doing that but I mean we’ve been trying to do this the whole season. We’ve been running a lot too. I think that’s the main reason we did it. We ran a lot if we didn’t do anything right like get under the ball when the ball drew up, stuff like that, we just ran. We ran for the little mistakes but I think we didn’t want to run no more so that’s why we did it.”
On learning to bury people as a team…
“Yeah, we haven’t been together. We never played with each other that much so we have to learn how to do everything together.”
On hitting five threes in a span of three minutes …
“We had a lot of energy. The defense started everything I think. I think they shot like 30 percent, something like that. So the defense started everything. The defense, like I said, the defense was just there. It was active energy, a lot of energy and that just carried over to the offensive end.”
#35, Derek Willis, Senior, Forward
On the way the game started …
“It really goes back to what we’ve been doing in practice. Moving the ball, cutting, and being more active on offense has taken a toll. It opened up the game for us. We’re not forcing anything, and it’s just been good for everybody. I mean there were plenty of times where people were wide open and they just passed the ball to somebody who had a better shot, but he passed it to someone that drove and we got a bucket. It’s just how you play basketball. That’s been good for us. Defensively, we’re all on the same page. We will have lapses; in every game I feel like but we’ve definitely minimalized them.”
On if this is the best they’ve been in a long time …
“I think this is a good step in the right direction. It’s definitely better than how we’ve been playing. I think everybody could agree with that, so I don’t know. This was just a good game for us.”
On what the young guys learned about how to get a lead and keep it …
“Just don’t do stupid stuff. I mean, we’d get up by like 15 or 16 and then we’d have like 3 or 4 turnovers and then they’ll cut the lead to about 8 or 9 right there. Then if we don’t score, they go down and we don’t get a stop it’s a two-bucket ball game. We just have to grind it out. That’s what we’ve been doing in practice.”
Tennessee Head Coach Rick Barnes
“We were really just gosh awful and I think from Kentucky’s vantage point I think they probably got everything they wanted to get done. We felt it was really important in our gameplan not to let Willis or Gabriel get going and they did what we thought early. They came out, I think Gabriel shot it two of the first three possessions and then Willis came in and got it going and gave us some separation and our gameplan was not to let that happen. We were willing to let the other players pretty much do what they had done. Adebayo, Fox, Monk do what they do. We just didn’t want that fourth guy to really step in there. I think John (Calipari) with his team has worked hard to get that guy going. They got it going tonight. I think from your vantage they got done what they wanted to get done with him. I thought they really tried to work Adebayo back in there and give them all the credit. I’m just sorry we didn’t give them a better game because I think they’re better then we played tonight. There’s not many positives that I can take from tonight. I thought Jordan Bone for us really tried to do some things but we had too many guys do what we expect from them.”
On how much better Kentucky is when they are hitting threes…
“Well, again, our key was to not let their fourth shoot the ball and make good shots. I don’t think you’re going to stop Monk from getting his on a night in and night out basis because he’s going to shoot the ball and he’s going to make some tough shots. One thing we did, we go back to our game at Knoxville, he and Gabriel were nonfactors and we talked about it all week. That’s what we can’t allow happen and we let it happen. Give them credit. I think John always has a great pulse on his team and you can tell that he’s tried to get those going because it does make them a different team because now you’ve got stretch these guys a little bit but they made shots and got going. I thought we gave them some room to breathe. We had some ridiculous turnovers and they converted those. We were just awful. We didn’t deserve a win tonight because we didn’t do the things we talked about from a mental standpoint and a physical standpoint.”
On the ‘red flag’ of his guys not being ready…
“There’s no doubt. It’s a mental preparation tool and we had one major thing that we talked about. We did not want their four to bring them another offensive option. We said we can’t let that happen. That was the difference in the game, him knocking down those threes. Then on the offensive end we turned it over in some ways that we normally don’t. It goes back, I just, when you break down the way we did on the offensive end it tells you that you’re a step behind both physically and mentally.”
On the ball movement of Kentucky compared to the game in Knoxville…
“Well again, I thought both teams played pretty well. We definitely played a whole lot better there then we did tonight. I don’t think they have a problem moving the ball. I think where you look at John’s teams, again, I can’t coach his team, his teams get better. I think that he wants them to be better defensive. I don’t think there is any question about that. There is no doubt offensively, they want the four to be a big part. When you can get a fourth guy scoring the ball and you’ve got a guy like Adebayo, we’ve got to give him some attention inside. We wanted to double him early because he hurt us so poorly there. With that said, we weren’t willing to come off Willis to do that and our guys knew that. When we double we had rotations out of it. It makes a big difference when they’ve got four guys on the floor, what did he end up with, 16 points or something like that? Again, you back to our game in Knoxville, Monk got his average, I think Fox pretty much had his numbers, Adebayo had a great game. Their four, did not. That was the difference in the two games. We got down and didn’t handle it very well. Didn’t get the stops, didn’t finish on defense. We had a couple of defensive plays where they got us scrambled but we still got into position. That’s where I thought Fox did a great job, when the ball ended up in his hand in the late clock he got the ball where he wanted it.
On Robert Hubbs III not getting going…
“He’s got to have a much better…They went right him to start the second half. We came out, I think, we turned it over, if I remember right, two out of the first three times we had the ball, then they just went to work on him down low. It’s one thing, down there, but he didn’t make the effort that he has to. He let Briscoe just score on him two easy time down there. I think he caught in the circle, the charge circle,or he ended up in there. Robert is better than that. That’s why we took him out and sat him because we came out of the locker room knowing that we could of gotten back in the game. There’s no doubt we could have, but we didn’t. Because you’re not going to get back in the game when you’re down if you don’t get some stops and you can’t give up that many easy ones like we did.
Freshman Guard Jordan Bone
On using this loss as a wake up call …
“We just got to watch film on this game and see what we did and get ready to play for the next game.”
On staying together as a team …
“I feel like we’re still together as a team nothing’s really changed. We’ve had the same mindset just get better every single day in practice and get ready to attack the next team we play.”