JOHN CALIPARI: We have got to figure out how we start games. It’s getting ridiculous. It’s five halves in a row where we just start the game and we’re getting smashed.
We lose a guy on a pin-down to open a game for a three. We have a simple interchange and our big guy, we’re telling him: That guy drives. Do not let him shoot.
Let him shoot and he makes another three.
They had 14 points in the first half in transition and we weren’t getting any. They were running back. They weren’t really trying to offensive rebound. They shot it and ran back to make sure we didn’t get baskets, and guess what, we didn’t.
They played zone for 40 minutes and it’s really difficult, folks, when you have young guys that are still learning the feel, when to look to the post, when to — we were thrown around the perimeter and I was trying everything to just get something to work.
Immanuel (Quickley) made shots. I thought Ashton (Hagans) really defended again and did some stuff. We’ve still got to figure out offensively some things we’ve got to get them to do. And then Reid (Travis) and P.J. (Washington) had 20 rebounds between them.
But it’s a good win. Today, Alabama lost at home. Florida lost at home. Mississippi State lost at home. Someone else lost at home. Arkansas lost at home. We didn’t lose at home. It looked ugly early, but now we move on to Georgia.
Q. P.J. and Reid only combined for 8 points, but you said there were 20 rebounds. Were they doing things since they weren’t making —
JOHN CALIPARI: We weren’t looking to them. I couldn’t get the guards — look, when you’re playing against a zone and the ball moves, the first look you have is to the post and if he’s open, you throw it. We were looking back at the guard that threw us the ball. That’s one.
Second thing, if you’re playing against the zone with all you Basketball Bennies in this room, if you put the ball above your head, what will the zone do? Uh-oh. Just backs away. Because you can’t — unless you shoot a two-handed shot that way.
So the minute you go like this (raising hands), they back. And I kept telling the guys in every huddle, break — you have to break it down and make him think you’re driving or shooting or they are going to back away, which is why P.J. and those guys didn’t get the ball.
The other guy again made a big difference in the game is Nick (Richards). Big difference in the game. Blocking shots. I mean, again, if he’s that guy and he keeps playing that way, we’re going to be all right. We need him to play a little more than he played, probably another five, seven, eight minutes but he played good again today.
Q. First of all, how is Ashton’s back? And second of all, you talk about other guys in the past, trading threes for twos and things like that, and you can’t make up for it on the other end. With all the steals he gets, does he sort of negate that at times?
JOHN CALIPARI: He’s a better shooter than people think he is, but he’s — and I’m telling him in huddles, “Shoot it, man. I’m giving you the green light. Let it go.” But he’s just so used to running downhill.
You see him at the foul line, if you could go make 10 out of 11 from the foul line, you can shoot. I mean, you can shoot. The way they are playing him, it’s basically a foul shot, one step back. It’s the same shot. They are leaving you alone, so let it go.
Q. You had an exchange with Nick Richards when he went down hard, and he — you looked like you were trying to sub in Reid and he waved him off. What was that exchange like and what were you feeling during that exchange?
JOHN CALIPARI: He was getting tired but I wanted to see him tough through that, which he did. We’re just — we have to be more desperate to start games. We have to be more desperate for 40 minutes.
We have to understand that every team that plays us is excited and in the beginning of the game, they are coming. Over the length of the game, like in the second half, we held these guys to 20-whatever, 24 percent in the second half from the floor.
And again, if you can understand the beginning of the games, they’re playing Kentucky. They are in Rupp Arena. They are going to do things. They are going to play sharp. But as the game goes on, if you will stay desperate, you will have your chances.
I thought, again, you know, you could say, he doesn’t shoot the ball well but he was 7-for-9 and you say, yeah, but he had a runner and the rest were layups. So take layups. That’s fine with me. Immanuel Quickley, like I said, those were big shots for us. Big shots.
Q. Down early, and you guys fought back right there in the first half. How have they learned to trust themselves in those situations, those adverse situations?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, you know, I want them just like the Alabama game to understand, we were down nine and I kept saying: Play to win. Forget it. Let’s put it back on them. Get this thing close and let’s go.
In this game, you know, we didn’t want to give them easy baskets, so we weren’t trying to deny balls. And I was saying it in every huddle. If they all are playing and doing what we’re trying to ask them to do together, they can trust; we still break off. The last charge by Keldon (Johnson) was not what we were doing. He was supposed to curl and that ball was going to P.J.
Part of is because P.J. and Reid didn’t get a whole lot of shots, so let’s get them some shots. Well, he chose to grab it, drive the baseline and run the guy over; “I was open.”
That’s not what we’re doing. That’s where we still have some of that right now. Leaving timeouts, don’t put the ball above your head. You’re choosing to do what you want to do instead of what this team needs you to do.
We’re still fighting some of that. But again, I mean, we’ve got good kids. It’s not like they are doing it on purpose. They just have habits and when it gets a little hairy, those habits pop out.
Q. What exactly happened to Ashton there with his back?
JOHN CALIPARI: Fell on a kid’s foot.
Q. You know how he is?
JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, I think he’s fine. He went back in the game. He’s a tough kid. I gave him a minute. I said, “You’ve got one minute and you’re going back.”
He said, “All right.”
Q. You held Vanderbilt to 17 points in the second half. What did you like most about your teams defense?
JOHN CALIPARI: We sustained effort. We helped each other. We were communicating pretty good. We got into their legs a little bit by the pressing.
But again, like I watched the tapes. Mississippi, who has beaten everybody, they had a chance, as you know, to beat Mississippi. As a matter of fact, probably should have.
They played Georgia everyone and saw the score but with five minutes to go, it was a two-bucket game. Matter of fact, there were points of the game they were up five or seven points. So they are capable, and you know it, and they can really score the ball.
I thought they were going to play zone. I saw their Kansas State game, and they played zone against Kansas State and gave them everything they could handle. And I told them, and we worked on zone for two days. Obviously we didn’t work very good but we did work on it because I kind of thought that’s what they do.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
UK PLAYER QUOTES
#2, Ashton Hagans, G, Fr.
On how his back is feeling…
“It’s feeling better, I just came down awkwardly. I just need to ice it when I get done with these interviews, but I’m feeling better.”
On why this team is always getting off to a slow start…
“That’s a good question, we really just have to come together as a group in practice. Listen to what the coaches have to say, but other than that, as the season goes along, we will click.”
On what the coaches may be preaching that isn’t getting to the players…
“Just playing our role and starting off by playing good defense. When we score baskets, we sometimes celebrate too much by not getting into the press or listening to PJ Washington off a made basket. Like I said, as the season goes along we will be much better.”
On why they weren’t able to get it to the post very much…
“I feel like they were overplaying the post. I guess Keldon (Johnson) and Tyler (Herro) couldn’t really see if it was open or not and just ended up taking it to the basket.”
#3, Keldon Johnson, G, Fr.
On if it’s eye opening how much more tough they have to play in the Southeastern Conference…
“It’s definitely different. The game really counts. It’s SEC play so you know you’re definitely going to get every team’s best shot. They are going to come with everything they got and you’re going to get everybody’s best game. You’ve just got to be ready and match their intensity and come out and play.”
On what it’s like playing in a low scoring, defensive-battle game…
“I think we learned a lot about ourselves today. We just have to sit down and grind. It’s not easy the pace that we really like to play at, but we got down and we did what we had to do to come out with the win.”
On what problems Vanderbilt’s zone had on the game…
“It was definitely different, we haven’t really had a team play zone. We adjusted to it and we just kept fighting and kept fighting and just came out with the win.”
#5, Immanuel Quickley, G, Fr.
On the slow start…
“I really don’t know why. I think the starters did a good job in the second half and getting a good lead early. I think everyone is so jacked to play Kentucky, so that comes to play as well. They want to beat us so bad, but it’s hard to sustain shooting from 45 feet for 40 minutes. I think that’s a little bit of it too. I think the problem is a little bit about us not reacting to them coming out that well. We gave up some shots we shouldn’t have early in the beginning of the game. Also rotating off some guys we shouldn’t have rotated off. But, in the second half we changed that.
On the toughness in SEC play…
“The returning players and the coaching staff have told us that the SEC is a grind. Any team can come out and play, so you can’t take your foot of the gas. And, you can’t come into a game and take it lightly. I think as the season has gone on we have learned to trust each other more offensively and defensively. Learning to help each other has helped us to be able to win.”
On the type of team they want to be…
“I think coach wants us to be a team that can fly it up offensively and defensively. Overall, a team that can be in transition a lot. But, if we have to be a team that needs to grind it out, I think we can do that as well. Being the team coach wants us to be starts on defense, flying around helps us get into the transition. Steals and runouts contributes as well. We don’t want to have to come back like that, we want to come out strong. But, for myself, I try to bring energy off the bench, offense, just making shots, and then doing what you need to do to make shots.”
UK ATHLETICS COMMUNICATIONS AND PUBLIC RELATIONS
UK vs. VANDERBILT
JAN. 12, 2019
RUPP ARENA – LEXINGTON, KY.
Vanderbilt Head Coach Bryce Drew
“Our team made big strides from our first two conference games. We moved the ball much better and I thought we played together much better, it’s a tough environment on the road and I was really proud. First half we controlled pace and had a lead going in and we knew those first four minutes of the second half were going to be crucial. Unfortunately, they went on that 7-0 run to start and we just couldn’t catch up after that.”
On the early minutes of the second half…
“I’d have to go back and look at the film, but I think we had a turnover somewhere in there and two of the times we gambled in the back court, which is obviously something you don’t want to do in transition. I thought our half-court defense was pretty good, but those transition baskets, I think seven were transition, really gave them some momentum and took away the pace from us. Thought we were in control of the pace of the game, but that kind of had a little shift in the second half.”
On the Commodore’s streaky nature of finding open shots…
“As a coach, your goal is to get good open shots for your best shooters and today I thought Simisola (Shittu) did a great job of finding guys and Aaron (Nesmith), Matt (Moyer), Joe (Toye), they had some really, really good looks. We’re probably not going to win games until they can at least get up in the mid-30 percentile, and you know we shoot in the fourteenth percentile on wide open looks, and it’s going to be hard to beat anybody.”
On what they did well in terms of physicality…
“You know, coming into the game, that was one of our top things. We knew rebounding was going to be a concern. First half I thought we did really well getting that margin a lot tighter and second half obviously they got away with the 12 offensive rebounds. They have a lot of big bodies and we’re not as deep and so when you have big bodies hitting you for 20 minutes, eventually the last 10 minutes you’re rotating big bodies and it wears on you. I thought some of their big bodies… just constant contact wore on us, but it was good for our young guys and it was good for them to experience this and it will help us as we face bigger guys the rest of the year.”
On free throws …
“That’s another concern. You can believe me when I say we’ve addressed it in practice and we’ve substituted a lot of practice time on going through, for the last six weeks actually, because we lost a game early in the year to free throws. As a coach, you just continue to practice it, try to practice it different ways. Again, that’s another line that it’s been an achilles heel for us. It’s cost us some games and we’ve got to shoot better from the line.”
On his coaching approach …
“To the outside world you go 0-3 and obviously as a coach you’re miserable when you’re 0-3. But on the inside, we’ve had probably five of the best days that we’ve had all year with our guys as far as togetherness and transparency and taking steps forward. We’re the 350th youngest team in the country and we’re going to take some steps back before we take steps forward. These last five days we’ve made a lot of progress. I wish the schedule was a little different. Some of the games we had early, I wish were later in the year, certain ones that were at home, but we’re going to get better and continue to get better.”
On the last eight minutes in the game …
“During the stretch I think we had two turnovers and then a bad shot by our perimeter players, so those are three key plays that we pretty much, we were right there. It was a five-point, seven-point game. We had some looks, and then those turnovers and a bad decision at the rim led out to quick points on the other end. That pretty much gave them the separation. When you get to that point, maturity, identity, keeping the same ball movement we had in the first half, are going to be key for us.”
On why they were unable to come back …
“Missing shots. Young or old. You go seven of 25 and your best three shooters go three of 18. The last game they were two of 18. We’re not going to win those games! So, we’ve got to get our three best guys making shots.”
On if he wants this loss to sting …
“I want it to sting. Whenever you lose, it’s got to hurt. We’ve really prepared hard and we’re going to continue to prepare really hard. When you put that much in it, it’s got to hurt. We’re going to learn from this game. We’re young, so we’re going to go back and go over this game. We’re going to learn from it before we move on to the next one.”
On finding someone to fill the whole for Darius Garland …
“This team was built for Darius Garland. Our whole style, and all of last off-season, all of summer, all of fall, all of the start of the season we were 4-0. Now we’ve had to shift and everyone’s role on the team has had to shift a different way. We’re still finding it. The great thing is that tonight we took a huge step up, and hopefully this team continues to take steps moving forward.”
On if he consulted anybody regarding losing Darius Garland …
“I have a lot of coaching friends who are coaching now or did coach and pretty much the consistent answer was that it takes a little while. They feel bad for me. But then, obviously, you move on and talk about other things. But, I’m really proud of our young guys. Saben (Lee), I thought he’s getting better each game at the point. Max (Evans), again, hasn’t played the point in two years. He’s starting to get better at it. I like these guys. At the end of the year, I think we’ll see different play from them as the year progresses.”
Vanderbilt Player Quotes
#24, Aaron Nesmith, F, Fr.
On the second-half shooting struggle …
“We got the open looks we wanted. We practice shooting everyday as a team. I know we can shoot better; I can shoot better. Winning players make winning plays so as the season goes on we will make those shots. I’m not worried about that.”
#11, Simisola Shittu, F/C, Fr.
On conference play compared to regular season…
“Its more physical and every possession counts. You have to play hard defense and then tough offense for the whole 40 minutes. We’re getting better and better at that every game as you can see, and as the season goes along we’re going to start winning some games and start to capitalize in those moments.”
On the locker room mood after the game…
“It’s obviously quiet after a loss, but we’re all staying positive because we’re making strides as a team every game, and we just got to go back to practice and work on things that we didn’t do this game and hopefully get a win on Wednesday.”
On if the team feels the sting of loses or if they move on…
“A little bit of both. “It shows us how hard you have to play for the full 40 minutes and you have to execute, but also we have to move on because conference play is quick and the next game is in the next couple days, so we can’t dwell on a loss.”