2018-19 Men’s Basketball Postgame Quotes
No. 5 Kentucky vs. Mississippi State – February 9, 2019
Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari
Q: Did this game give your team a test of under adversity?
JC: “First of all, they [Mississippi State] are a top-20 team, a NCAA team and team that will advance because of how they play. They are physically tough, and they have great guard play. The first half won us the game. If we hadn’t played that way … we came over at 7:30 a.m. and had a shoot around. I never do that. I knew how hard this game was going to be. We may have run out if gas because I did that. We had two other games at noon, and we lost both. That’s why I did it. But, I like the fact that we hung on. They didn’t stop. They were making plays, shots, drives and not playing scared at all.”
Q: Does a two seed in March seem about right, where your team is at right now?
JC: “I don’t know. I’m not worried about anything except my coaches, my team, helping these guys get better and holding them accountable. I held them accountable after the game. I went right around the room, I said, ‘If you want me to tell you everything is all good, it isn’t.’ I went down to each guy. Not yelling, screaming or cussing, I wasn’t. I told them ‘You’re here because you want me to keep it real.’ This is real. We won a game, and it’s unbelievable how you finished.”
“We’re getting better at finishing games off. We really are, with how to play down the stretch, to get fouled, make a shot and what we need to do defensively. But, there’s spells in the game where our decision making appears to be ‘I’m going to do this play’ versus ‘What are we trying to do.’ We ran a play a couple different times where a couple guys just broke them off and did their own thing. We’re not that kind of team, but big three by Tyler Herro – How about that shot, that three? That was a dagger.”
Q: How was your team, defensively, with Quinndary Weatherspoon?
JC: “Part of it was in the second half, he was beating us on the bounce. So our guys weren’t confident enough to go up and play him. Then he got three’s, and we were going under pick-and-rolls, which you can’t do at him. We keep asking why we were doing it. Well, the kid got going, and we weren’t confident defensively enough to say, ‘I’m going to push up and play this guy.”
Q: Did the lack of defense surprise you since your team has been so good on that side?
JC: “No. With this team, it’s a noon game. We’re so young. Believe me, at halftime, I said that [Mississippi State] would have two runs in them. They’re going to come after us twice. We’ve got to withstand those two runs. We withstood the first one, at the start of the half, when they were scoring every basket. We scored two. The other one, we held on to the rope, our hands are bleeding right now. We just held on.”
Q: What did you like most about the offensive execution?
JC: “We were getting in the lane. They were finding each other. We had great spacing, and I just think Mississippi State turned it up a notch. We knew they’d be desperate, because they had LSU beat, dead to rights. LSU, how they won … I had to watch the game twice to say how’d they lose this. I knew they would be desperate in this game. They have a right to be. You guys know this is a top 20 team. I was thinking about this while I was changing – how about this tournament we’ve got in Nashville? We may not even show. Why even go and just get beat up? It doesn’t matter who we play, everybody is going to be good. It’s going to be war, war, war. Then, we’ve got to go to the NCAA Tournament. All the teams playing after the first round are in. They’re that good. Ben [Howland] has done a great job with this team, and I’m glad we’re done with them. I hope we don’t have to see them in the tournament.”
Guard Ashton Hagans
Q: What did Mississippi State do in the second half to make the score closer?
AH: “We messed up on the defensive end when we switched. They took that chance to go at it. Number 2 [Lamar Peters] and number 11 [Quinndary Weatherspoon] both took down some big-time shots. That’s really all I saw in the second half.”
Q: What did Coach Calipari say to the team to get you guys back in the game to go on a 12-3 run?
AH: “He just told us to stay focused and to keep doing what we had been doing. We needed to push the ball up the court and get it to something. They kept trying to blow up the dribble hand offs, so we just had to run a screen out on top. Other than that, he was just telling us to get back to what we were doing and try to get a stop on the defensive end.”
Q: How physical was the game?
AH: “It was physical, but we knew that was going to happen. They lost at home a couple days ago so we knew coming in that it was going to be a dog fight. We just had to be ready. We had physical practice the past couple days to get prepared for this game and try to come out with a win.”
Guard Keldon Johnson
Q: Can you talk about the defense strategy on Quinndary Weatherspoon in the second half?
KJ: “We know he’s a good player coming into the game. I knew I had to be on my P’s and Q’s guarding him. I did a really good job in the first half. In the second half, he hit some really tough shots. He was scoring the ball, and we just had to stay locked down. We knew he was a good player, and we knew that he could hit shots.”
Q: What did Coach Calipari say to the team to get you guys back in the game to go on a 12-3 run?
KJ: “When [Mississippi State] made that run, we knew that they were going to make a run. We talked about it during halftime that we knew they were going to have a run. Down [at] home, they’re going to be shooting and playing with confidence. We just knew that once they made that run, we had to come together even more, stay focused, stay together and react to it.”
Q: Mississippi State scored 42 points in the second half. Did you think it was just them making plays, or did you think there were some break downs on you guys’ end?
KJ: “I saw a little bit of both. They hit some tough shots, but I think that we could have picked it up a little bit more on our defensive end. We’ll make that adjustment and get right to it. We’ll put it forth in the next game.”
Head Coach Ben Howland
BH:” That’s a disappointing loss where we cut it to one with eight minutes and some change left in the game. Credit Kentucky. They’re a very good team and very tough. I thought that late in the game [Tyler] Herro made the one shot at the buzzer in front of their bench was a huge shot because it was a four-point game. We had a chance to get a stop on that. That was a really good defensive possession for us. [PJ] Washington was very hard for us to handle. He hit the two three’s early when we were supposed to be running him off the three-point line because he’s been shooting 47 percent from three in the last five games. He was, again, 3-for-3 today, so his percentage is probably over 50 percent now in the last six games from three.”
“I really liked our fight, our effort and the way we fought back in the second half. I thought we really played hard defensively holding them to 31 points in the second half, but we made some adjustments in our ball-screen defense. I thought Robert Woodard [II] really was a huge, again, factor for us in terms of just effort, intensity, toughness. That was big for us today.”
“I thought that Lamar [Peters] played a really good game overall today and played a lot of minutes. To only get [Quinndary Weatherspoon] one shot in the first half hurt us. He came out the second half and was much more aggressive looking for his jump shot which is what he has to do. He’s been working really hard on his jump shot, and he shot it well today from three. So, we got to get him to continue to do that.”
Q: Your team played well against LSU and Kentucky, are you frustrated or encouraged by the way you’re playing?
BH: “I’m proud of our guys the way they compete and how hard they played today in the second half in particular. I thought we showed a lot of fight to come back after the big deficit of 15 at the half, to cut it to one in 12 minutes. I mean Kentucky is really good. Wherever they go when they’re on the road, it’s a packed house. It’s loud, and it’s crazy. They’re very experienced and credit them. But, I thought we played well enough to win. I think I said this in the paper that I didn’t do a good enough managing our bench in the previous game. You look at, like, Robert Woodard [II] again today – just got to get him more and more minutes because he competes. He’s tough. He produces, he’s tough and he defends … He does all the things we’re asking him to do.”
Q: What’re your thoughts on the physicality of the game?
BH: “That’s how it’s going to be when two very good teams go up against each other. I think we can accomplish some goals that we set out to start the season, but we need to come back now and regroup for another very physical and tough opponent on Tuesday [with] Alabama. It’s an 8 p.m. game, and I’m hoping that we will have a god home court, which is always difficult in Starkville on a weeknight. But, we really need that against our rivals from Tuscaloosa.”
Q: What do you think it will take to win these close games?
BH: “For us today, it’s not digging a hole in the first half. If you go into halftime with 20 minutes left in the game, down fifteen against a really good team – maybe the hottest team in the country is Kentucky right now – that puts a very low [win] probability. I thought we gave ourselves a great chance there when we were down one with eight minutes to go. I’m proud of our guys. I’m proud of their effort and their defense. We are better offensively when we are playing good defense and creating some offense out of our defensive play as most teams are.”
Q: What was working so well for you guys in the second half run?
BH: “It was just defense creating some offense. Then, we did a good of Lamar [Peters] finding people. He hit a couple of threes. I thought Q [Quinndary Weatherspoon] did a really good job hitting some threes. We were 0-of-4 from three in the first half, and I think we are a good shooting team. In the second half, we ended up shooting 7-of-12. That was a big difference maker, too. We got some openings because we had some run outs. Lamar [Peters] had a nice steal or a long rebound where Tyson [Carter] dunked the ball. I think that’s when we cut it to one or two.”
Q: What have you seen out of Robert Woodard II these past few games since SEC play started?
BH: “I think it’s him getting more opportunity, number one. Number two, confidence and just experience. He’s playing very confidently with a lot of composure out there. I like how the guy competes. He’s a very good player and will be a tremendous player moving forward.”
Guard Nick Weatherspoon
Q: What were they doing in the first half to get on top of you guys like that?
NW: “They got the ball inside a lot. The ball screen hurt us – the four man Washington, I don’t think we defended him well him knocking down threes. That opened up a lot of things when he started making shots. I felt we weren’t doing things defensively in the first half.”
Q: Were you all right with decision making down the stretch, not just by you but the team? What you guys have to do to close a few of these against good teams?
NW: “A team like Kentucky is so good that you can’t make too bad of shots. You have to get those shots and especially the offensive rebound. If we get the offensive rebound, box out, I feel like we win that game. We just needed to rebound better at the end of the game.”
Q: In the second half, what was working? What stalled in the last minute?
NW: “Once we turned defense up, that’s when we are better offensively. Once we got going defensively, we started getting points in transition. We had them on their heels. We just couldn’t convert at the end. Our defense turned into offense, that what made us get back into the game.”
Guard Robert Woodard II
Q: What did Coach Howland tell you guys at halftime?
RW: “First off, I would like to give all glory to God for this opportunity. Making our runs, we knew coming out down by 15 we had to do something. We had to make some kind of change. We had to start on defense before we could make those runs. That was our main key for making the run.”
Q: How physical was the game, was there something that got that going?
RW: “There is always tension coming into a big game like this. We just had to be prepared for their physicality. They came out, made a few bumps. It’s just how you respond to it.”