Men's Basketball

Kentucky Basketball Previews South Carolina

UK ATHLETICS COMMUNICATIONS AND PUBLIC RELATIONS
MEN’S BASKETBALL
SOUTH CAROLINA at UK PREGAME MEDIA
FEB. 4, 2019
JOE CRAFT CENTER – LEXINGTON, KY.
 
Assistant Coach Joel Justus
 
On South Carolina’s play …
“I think it’s a learning opportunity every time you play somebody regardless of how they play. What we’re talking about with our guys and every time we take the floor it’s an opportunity to prepare yourself for March. You’re going to see somebody along the way that plays slow. You’re going to see somebody that plays zone. You’re going to see someone that plays physical. So, I think whenever you’re playing a team like South Carolina you have to be prepared for the physicality, and they’re playing fast on offense. They make you work before you get the ball on offense. It’s something I think we’re prepared for. We’ve played teams that play physical. We’ve played teams that try to take you out of offense. I think by the time tomorrow evening rolls around, we’ll be prepared.”
 
On South Carolina making you work before getting the ball …
“I think they try to take away catches. They extend your catches out on the floor. Basically, trying to take you out of offense and out of plays. So, it’s a style that sometimes players are more excited to play in the game because it’s a little bit of a hooper’s game. You’re not going to have to run a lot of plays. It’s going to be, are you prepared to go and make plays? I think as a coaching staff, and I think what Cal is going to try to do is put our guys I positions to where they feel comfortable to go and just make plays.”
 
On when he saw the light switch flip on for PJ Washington …
“I think PJ’s mindset has been different as the whole season kind of started in June. When we were practicing for the Bahamas, when we had summer practices, PJ was the guy that often times was one of the first guys out to practice. Just like games, I think you see guys become that catalyst that Cal has been longing for. I think with PJ you saw it in practice with his mindset. I think you’ve seen it when we do conditioning and he’s routinely the guy that’s finishing first or second or near the top of every competitive drill that we’re doing. I don’t know that there’s been a time where you say the light came on or an ah-ha moment. The credit goes to PJ on being a steady guy every single day in practice. He’s been tremendous in huddles both at timeouts and what we’ve seen on the floor. You’ve got to have that when you’ve got so many young guys and you have only a couple guys that have game experience, road experience, conference play experience. You’re happy for him that he feels comfortable enough to really step up and be that guy.”
 
On the Washington’s progression …
“I think it’s the same thing that we talk about with all of our guys. It’s a process. It’s something that you have to be ready for every day. I think that’s one of the biggest points that we talk about, even in recruiting, this is a place where you’re going to get better every single day because you have to come to work every day or someone is coming for you. I think that PJ has definitely been that guy this year that has done more of the swinging and connecting than the guy that’s taking some of the punches. That’s what you’ve got to have with experienced guys. He’s a guy that’s been the hammer more than the nail. I think when you have young guys, they’ve got to hopefully evolve into that person over time. There’s not going to be a switch that kind of flips on. It’s got to come with time. It’s going to come with experience.”
 
On if double teaming is new to players at this level …
“Any of the skills that you need in big-time college basketball our guys have to learn and get better at over time. It’s something that we will drill and show them on film, but they ultimately get more and more comfortable as it happens in the game. They have success. It’s a little bit of what we kept saying” You can practice it and you can drill it all you want but until you do it in the game that’s where you really gain your main confidences. Having the faith to go out and do it and see it work then be comfortable enough to do it again.”
 
On Chris Silva as a challenge …
“He presents a major challenge for us. He’s very physical, gets fouled a ton, has s great, I think, sense of, No. 1, creating and drawing fouls. He’s a little bit like an Ashton Hagans in that he just kind of pops up, blocks a shot, gets a steal, you knock him over and it’s a charge. He’s just a pest really on defense, very similar to what people are describing Ashton as being. He’s a little bit of, like I said, a pest in the low post.”
 
On making plays that seem insignificant in the moment but ultimately affect the game …
“Well, I think guys are more aware that every play matters. What you’re alluding to in high school is that, ‘Oh that’s just one play. That’s one play, that’s not that big of a deal.’ Now that we’ve played 20-something games counting exhibitions and the Blue-White, we’ve been pointing out those little plays since November. So I think they understand how big of a play a free-throw line block out on both sides of the ball is. When you don’t block out like we did four or five times against Auburn, maybe we got away with it because we won, but we had plays in that game that we didn’t block out on free throws and Auburn got the offensive rebound. They maybe didn’t make us pay but now you look at EJ’s (Montgomery) effort play that he makes and gets it (the rebound) and we ultimately get a tip-in. Immanuel’s (Quickley) big two-handed rebound. He had two of them but the one he got credit for and then got fouled and goes down and makes the front end of a one-and-one. Now you’re talking plays. You can start adding all those up and see that they make a major difference especially in what we would call winning time.”
 
On the team’s lack of panic in a huddle when down … 
“I think that it is a group of young people coming together and having faith in each other. As someone who works with them, you can’t be more proud of these guys and how they are taking the initiative to be more vocal in huddles, both on the floor, off the floor. That is what ultimately you want as a coach and as a coaching staff. I know Coach Calipari has said that too. At some point, this has to be a player driven-team. I think you are starting to see that. It is a group of guys that are empowered in practice. Off the floor, during the game, you have had multiple times now were different guys have stepped up, challenged each other. Other guys have embraced the player-driven coaching as you might say. That is ultimately what you want as a coach and that is when teams are at their best, when they are player driven. You have to be proud of that and you have to feel good about it. As you go into February, that this team is empowered, that individuals feel confident, that they can lead because when you step up and lead, you have to know that you are doing everything the right way as well. I think by and large, that is what our guys are doing.” 
 
On discussing seeding for March … 
I don’t know that we have ever talked about it in my five years here. I think that Calipari talks about becoming our best version today and about 25 minutes when we take the floor, we have to prepare. Our biggest opponent is us. That is who we are fighting against right now, every single day. We can’t accept who we are. We have to keep pushing, both individually and collectively. We have to remain hungry. We have to remain humble. That is the biggest challenge that we have when you have young guys. Now, people are talking about them individually, us as a group, that there for a while people were kind of kicking us and talking about other folks and other teams, and rightfully so. There were other good teams out there. I think what we are trying to do is just become better today and then ultimately see where we are tomorrow night at 7 o’clock.” 
 
On how much better the team is when making plays instead of running plays …
“I think that we are more comfortable. That is all that you can ask for as a coach is that you put guys in position where they are more comfortable to make plays. Ultimately the guys have to go and make plays. I don’t know how often teams do that with us because we have pretty good players. Sometimes people want us to have to run plays and play offense, which is why I think sometimes our guys eyes light up when we get to play up and down in a high-paced, up-tempo game. What you can’t then do is not guard on the defensive end because it is getting up and down. You then then have guard and you have to have a focus on it and you can then be ready to play offense each time.” 
 
On South Carolina playing well in conference play after a tough nonconference start …
“I think they are a good team. I think they had a couple of bad bounces early. I think they have had a couple of good bounces here in conference play. They are very good. They have some good, young players that are getting experience and older. I think they have big guys that are tough, that are physical, that make you have to play their style of play. Inside, once again, I think some of it is that they have made plays in key points of winning time, both at home and on the road. I think like anything else, teams change. They get better or they get worse. I think you see a team like South Carolina that is getting better as the season goes on.” 
 
UK ATHLETICS COMMUNICATIONS AND PUBLIC RELATIONS
MEN’S BASKETBALL

UK vs. SOUTH CAROLINA PREGAME MEDIA
FEB. 4, 2019
JOE CRAFT CENTER – LEXINGTON, KY.
Kentucky Players

#22, Reid Travis, Gr., F
On the difference before and after the team’s big run at Florida …
“I think we just really locked in a little more. I felt like we were playing good ‘D’ throughout the game, but I feel like when we really went on that run was when we decided, ‘OK, we’re going to get stops, we’re going to string them together.’ We started switching some pick and rolls. I thought that really helped us. We just played with a lot more energy, started to close off possessions a lot better than we had. So it was good, it was good to see us battle out of that hole.”

On if there was a particular moment when things clicked for PJ Washington …
“I can’t say there was a moment that I saw, but he’s definitely been great for us over the last couple of games, you can just tell. Coach has talked about his energy and just the passion that he has had for the game. It’s just been great. It’s just propelling other guys. If he’s playing at that high of a level, everyone’s got to lift their game and play with the same energy. It’s been great for us to have him play that well.”

On how much more this team has become player-driven …
“A lot. You can just tell. When we get in huddles, the players are mostly talking now just because we’ve got some games under our belt. We know what’s expected, we know what we’ve got to do to finish games and win games. Now, we’re just holding each other accountable. I think that’s the biggest growth we’ve had this season. Guys are starting to hold each other more accountable, starting to get on each other, but also celebrate together, so it’s been good. If we’re player-driven, we can be a great team.”

On when the team became more player-driven …
“I’d say right around when this streak started happening. We got a few conference games under our belt and as we started to string those wins together, start understanding the importance of going hard in practice, the details we’ve got to do. It’s more than just the game and things we’re doing on the court. As far as the background stuff as far as practice and workouts, you can definitely tell there’s a shift.”

On giving up minutes to EJ Montgomery, then seeing him perform well …
“I was happy. At the end of the day, we’re going to need everybody. So, if you need to sacrifice minutes in certain games to get other guys going, I’m all about that and all about the team having success. At the end of the day, if the team has success, then we’re all going to have success. There’s no issue with that for me. We’re all working hard every day knowing that we’re all going to get our opportunities when they come. It could be this game or the next, whatever. Just staying ready. So, that game, he got more opportunities. Everybody, I think that’s the unique part of our team, everyone is happy for each other’s successes.”

On the team having various scoring options …
“I think that’s the special part about this team. Depending on the matchups and what we want to exploit, certain guys can have big nights and put up big numbers. I think that’s the great thing about this team is everyone is encouraging that. If you’ve got it going, we’re going to continue to feed you, continue to ride you. I think that’s a great part of the maturity of this team is that everyone is humble enough to understand when it’s their game, it’s their game. When it’s not, you can still affect the game in many other ways and still make plays.”

On if he saw any Super Bowl commercials …
“I saw a UK Football commercial that was pretty cool. I was trying to type a paper at the same time, so I was kind of working on that during commercials.”

On where his eye contact came from …
“When I was younger, my dad made a big deal about that. Shake someone’s hand firmly, make eye contact, just shows a sign of respect. That’s just something I’ve stuck to. I see a lot of people, it’s a tough thing to come by. I try to stand out, show people respect.”

On what he knows about South Carolina …
“We know they’re a good team, good defensive team that wants to be physical. They want to rebound the ball, they have bigs they want to go high-low with and do things like that. So, it’s going to be a good battle for us. It’s going to be unique in the sense that they’re going to be a different team than we’ve faced all year. We’re excited to come have another good day of practice.”
 
#25, PJ Washington, So. F
On whether he feels like he’s on a roll …
“I just try to come out and be aggressive. That’s the biggest thing these last four games I’ve been doing and it starts in practice. I’m just trying to come out and bring a lot of energy and keep the guys going. I feel like I’ve been doing a good job of that.”
 
On what he said when he rallied the team at Florida …
“I just said we gotta play together. That’s what got us here and that’s what’s going to get us past the hump. We just gotta come out these last seven minutes, I think it was, and just play together and play hard. If we play defense, they can’t beat us. That’s the biggest thing.”

On whether there was something that told them they weren’t together …
“Yeah, I felt like we were starting to just play selfish again. I didn’t really like that. I just told the guys we need each other and after that we started moving the ball, making shots and getting stops on the defensive end.”
 
On his experience making it easier for him to speak up …
“It would have been a lot more difficult. I didn’t know what to expect at that point. Now I definitely do. I know what every team’s going to throw at us. I know pretty much every team really well. I feel like I’m in a good spot to lead these guys.”
 
On being more comfortable in that role …
“A lot more comfortable. It just comes with work and just the work you put in, you gotta be confident in it. I’m really confident in the work I put in and I’m just happy that I got a group of guys that are working as hard as me.”
 
On South Carolina’s Chris Silva …
“He’s a really athletic big man. He can rebound really well. He can finish at the rim among the best in the conference. He’s a really great guy and a really great player. You just gotta go out and just try your best against them.”
 
On Joel Justus comparing Silva to Ashton Hagans …
“He blocks everything and he rebounds everything. He’s a great shot blocker and you just gotta go up and go into his chest and try to get him in some foul trouble. I don’t know what our game plan is yet, but we’re going to figure something out.”
 
On not panicking when they are down big …
“We knew teams could beat us, so we just tried to come out and keep playing. That’s the biggest thing. Once we get down, we feel like we just gotta come together and get a few stops. Once that happens, we feel like we’re back into the game. It just builds momentum and when we feel like we have momentum going into the end of the game we’re going to come out with a victory.”
 
On anticipating double teams …
“I like it better when teams double me, because it’s easier for me to get other people involved. It’s easier to pass out for 3s. It’s easier for me to get Reid (Travis) the ball down low. It’s a lot easier, I guess.”
 
On making passes out of double teams for 3s …
“I just wait for their defender to turn his head. As soon as he turns his head, I throw the ball to him. If he looks at me, I’m throwing it right past his head. That’s all that is.”
 
On the possibility of beating South Carolina so he would have wins over every SEC team …
“It’d be pretty nice. I guess last year, we were up 16 I think at South Carolina and ended up losing. That one didn’t really end too well. I just want to come out and redeem ourselves from last year and just try to get a W.”
 
 

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