Men's Basketball

FEB. 4, 2019
Head Coach John Calipari
On this week’s games against South Carolina and Mississippi State …
“Yeah, Frank (Martin) has South Carolina playing so well right now. They do what they do defensively. They’re disruptive. They play physical. They rebound with five guys. But, he’s also got them playing fast. So now you’ve got a team that can stop you from scoring and disrupt your offense, yet they’re making 3s. Their freshman is playing well. Their seniors, their upperclassmen are playing well. They’re playing as well as anybody in our league. Then (Mississippi State) going to Mississippi to win is a big deal. To do that, he’s (Ben Howland) got them on the right track. So, we have hard games.”
On teams trying to play UK’s freshmen physical and how UK’s young players have responded …
“They’ve done pretty well. They’ve done pretty well, but this disruptive play is different in that they try and keep you from catching balls. They try to push your offense way high. They collapse on drives to make you make decisions on the run. For inexperienced young people, it’s a hard game to play. We’ve struggled with South Carolina every year that I’ve been here.”
On when he first sensed defensively that the team was buying in …
“Well, good defense always starts on the ball and if you have someone who can guard the ball you have a chance. If you don’t have someone who can guard the ball, you have no chance. And so it starts right there. Then the second part of it would be experience so that they’re more engaged. It can only happen through games, the process, every day in practice doing the same things over and over and over, getting them to become their habits versus them having to think through some of the stuff defensively. I thought EJ (Montgomery) was unbelievable. Not only did he rebound and block shots, but if you watched him weak side, he did some unbelievable stuff, and that shows me that we’re getting better. Keldon (Johnson) is behind off the ball. Ashton’s (Hagans) behind off the ball. Someone called me today and talked to me about Tyler (Herro) and how he’s defending. It’s been good. It’s been good.”
On what is holding Keldon Johnson back defensively …
“Probably just feeling pressed about individual performance and then you just focus on your guy and your area and what’s happening with you. It just takes time for them to understand and trust that when you lose yourself in the team, it makes you even better. When you lose yourself and you become a willing passer, are you ready – you score more. I don’t know why, if it’s karma or whatever the heck it is, but when you’re worried about yourself, life is lonely. In the game of basketball, when you’re totally worried about yourself, it’s hard for anybody to help you get better, to make easy plays for you. And you make the game difficult for other people. Now, that being said, he’s made unbelievable strides and he’s getting better game-to-game and he’s got a great attitude about it and he knows where he’s got to get better. So, that’s why I feel good about what we’ve been able to do defensively.”
On the league …
“There’s two things that have happened: The TV network (SEC Network) changed everything for our league, and not just in men’s basketball – in every sport. For the non-rev sports, it created revenue that they needed to compete on the national stage. For men and women’s basketball, alright, it gave us what we need to compete with the best and not just Kentucky or Tennessee or Florida. Everybody. Then the third that it did is the ability to go get coaches who go get the players to make this league – like right now, I think we’ve got eight teams in the top 40 (NET rankings). Eight teams in the top 40. Again, we’ve had some teams that have had players hurt and they’re still competing. This thing right now, last year was really good and I’m looking at this year saying, ‘Wow.’ Tennessee is just so good. They don’t beat themselves. They play efficient on both sides. They’re physical. They’re experienced. They’ve got older players. But, you look at LSU. You look at South Carolina. We have six teams that are 4-4. Six. When you talk about Mississippi (State), Ole Miss, you talk about Alabama, Auburn, you talk about Florida, you talk about Arkansas, they’re like, who’s going to break through? Maybe two or three of them break through and all of the sudden they’re right there. It’s been amazing to watch this over the last five, six years. Obviously, this is my 10th which makes it my 70th year here. We do it in dog years here. It’s been fun to watch.”


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