Men's Basketball

University of Kentucky Basketball Media Conference

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Lexington, Kentucky, USA

John Calipari

Press Conference

Arkansas Razorbacks 81, Kentucky Wildcats 80

Q: What were you trying to do on the final play there?
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: What do you mean? On the final play?
Q; Yeah, when there was 4.3 seconds left and you were bringing the ball up and turned it over.
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: You mean the one where Olivier (Sarr) had it?
Q: Yes.
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, that ball was supposed to go to Olivier and then one of the guards and then we kind of didn’t get quite open. But, we were also going to look at BJ (Brandon Boston Jr.), who was open, and we passed him up, if you know what I’m saying. If you look at it, it was supposed to go to either BJ. If he’s open, throw it. He was open. We didn’t, which is OK. We threw it to Olivier. Olivier is catching it and throwing it to somebody and we’ve got our best 3-point shooters out on the corners and the wings. So, that’s what we were trying to do.

Let me just say this, guys. This team, that’s the best we’ve finished a game. So I’m like, I can’t be that upset. There were things that happened. I’ve got to go back and look at the last call, I mean, was it a jump ball? Was there body contact? Because this game was physical. To give up two free throws to win the game, I don’t know. We’ll see it when I watch the tape.

But this team fought. You know, B.J. (Boston) played better. We took open shots. We didn’t make them all but we took open shots. We flew it up the court. We posted it. We added a little wrinkle or two today — for today. We did some things defensively different. We’re just trying to see if we can bring some aggressiveness out now.

I was going crazy in this game. I was not going to let them hang their head. I had to tell them, we’re down four baskets. There’s five minutes to go. They look like the world ended. What? And so this was a breakthrough that way. Am I happy we lost? No. I want to watch the end of the game and make sure I know exactly what happened. But the plays and the execution that we had, flawless.

Q. I know you don’t like to run plays specifically to set up threes, but Olivier has shown such an attitude for that recently, is that an option to get some more offense going to have him do what you were doing in the second half more often?
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: Well, you don’t want him to take — well, how many you want him to take?

Q. He’s 8-for-15 on the season.
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: I’m asking. Do you want him to take ten a game?

Q. No.
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: How many did he take today?

Q. Four.
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: All right. So maybe he takes one or two more. I mean, yes, but he’s also pretty good when he squares up shot. He can do both. He can do both. He’s — I’ve been saying all along, you saw Davion make some shots, Devin made some shots, B.J. made some shots, Olivier made shots and I keep saying, most of this is mental for these kids. It’s hard. It’s hard. How we started this season and what the gauntlet was I threw at them, it was hard mentally. This has been hard. So they — let’s just hope this was a little bit of a breakthrough.

Q. You’ve spoken to a little bit, but not just in this game, at 5-13 now, you have a bunch of guys who have had a lot of opportunity to kind of just punt, you know, to just lay down a season and for all the agonizing losses, doesn’t seem like you have any guys, or many guys, who have done that. How significant is it to you —
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: Well, we don’t — we don’t have anybody — we don’t have anybody (who has done that).

And Kyle (Tucker), I want to say this, and I need everybody to listen and our fans to listen: the medical people, I’m not going to be specific of what’s wrong, but he (Terrence Clarke) has an injury that he cannot play. So everybody on this team, he cried. I cried. Because he’s out another four weeks.

So it’s not like anybody doesn’t want to play. He was supposed to be our best player. We haven’t had him, and now, you look at this team, I’m proud that they are fighting. We still make mistakes and we do some stuff.

But here’s the biggest thing I said to them prior to the game the last two days. If you’re not in and looking like this and you look like that, the game is really hard and you’re out there about by yourself. If you’re like this, the game is a little easier because you have a bunch of guys looking after you.

There was one point in the first half where we didn’t pass the ball and you probably heard me, I as was yelling, loud, “Just pass it to somebody! Pass it! Pass!” We stopped. Well, second half we went back to moving the ball. Pass the ball. Get it to the next guy. Throw it to a guy who is open. How about this? Create a good shot for your teammate. We did a bunch of that today.

Guys, this has been one of those — I told them today, they worked hard enough and had enough bad things happen to them. They deserve something good to happen. But no one is giving it to you. You’ve got to take it. We got closer today to taking it.

Q. It seems like on most of the losses this year, in the second half, the team has lost focus, had a lot of turnovers. What was the difference tonight? It seemed like they were a lot more focused and had a lot of fight in them.
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: Because they were playing together. So instead of each guy worrying about how I play, I played so bad, I cannot be engaged with this team. And that’s what we do, and then it leads to turnovers. I’ve got to get a basket because I’m 1-for-7, so I’ve got to get a basket. So you take a bad shot, you throw a crazy pass or you try to hit a home run because you’re playing poorly.

Today they were a team trying to create shots and execution for each other so that we can win. You know, again, we had some breakdowns defensively. We were — there were some guys that, you know, the game plan was we broke it off a couple times and they made us pay with layups. And so you know, but the reality of it is guys who are in there fighting, battling, you know, did some good stuff.

But look, this game of basketball, the key is, when I’m not playing well, how do I help the team win. If you want to be a really good player. Or when I’m not playing well, I don’t care if we win or lose or what happens. You can’t be that guy.

And what I’m continuing to say, we’re looking for singles and bunts. I don’t need home runs. We’re not capable of hitting home runs. So let’s not. Let’s just do all the bunts and great screens and execution and everybody do their thing together. Like I said after the game, hard for me to be mad. I wanted to win the game. I’ll look at the stuff down the stretch to see how I feel.

But the reality of it is the team fought and they executed and they threw daggers today. Finally, guys threw daggers.

Q. It was just a couple weeks ago that you said the team was listening but they weren’t hearing. And now the things that you’ve been emphasizing, the turnovers, getting out on the break, it seems like they are really hearing for the first time. What do you attribute that to, and does that give you encouragement for the rest of the year?
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: I think, again, you know, this is us — we’re still trying to figure out different things with this team. You probably didn’t know but I changed some stuff up today on how we had spacing on the court, what I did defensively on the halfcourt, you probably didn’t notice, but we are trying different things to see what works for this group.
And I’m not going to stop. I’m coaching. I’m fighting. I’m battling. I’m playing every game. We’ve got one game Saturday. I’m not worried about anything else. We’ve got a game Saturday.

So my day will be spent watching this, learning from the tape. It’s done. Let’s get on with the next game. I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t even know who we’re playing. I know we’ve got a game Saturday.

Q. I know you mentioned you wanted to go back and look at that last foul that was called, but earlier in the game, you had a long talk with officials. Isaiah (Jackson) gets a tech and has to leave — what can you say about the guys being frustrated —
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: I just told Isaiah, “Isaiah, if you miss a call, you’ve just got to let it go.” You can’t get technical in a game like this. And they keep the ball and all of a sudden the stuff changed on us.

Now from that point, we had our chances and got the one-point lead but we don’t want it. It’s the same, again, you know, you look at — in a game for us in our team, there are game-ending calls that we’ve seen. At Auburn, it’s a game-ending call. Not a jump ball. It’s a foul. Now those game — they are done. The game ends. That was a game-ending call. I’ve got to watch the tape. I don’t know. You guys could tell me. You probably saw it. If it was a foul, it was the right call. If it wasn’t a foul, it was the wrong call.

Q. I guess looking back, it’s kind of a minor thing in some ways, but toward the end when I saw your team huddle up on the court, Devin (Askew) got in and looked like he took charge and almost barking at the guys. Is that a step forward for him? First time I can remember somebody doing that.
COACH JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, and we’ve been talking about that. We’ve been talking about it. You guys don’t even huddle. You’re so disappointed in how you are playing, you can’t even huddle and talk at each other.

Again, we’ve got inexperienced guys who have only played for themselves. I’ve had it before but I’ve had the summer and the fall. And they figure out at some point in the year, we need each other, so I’ve got to stop this, or you’re not going to play. I’m not going to put you in the game.

And so now they are starting to huddle. They are starting to talk. I mean, how about how we had to finish the half. How about the stuff we’re doing, had to go zone, Davion (Mintz) playing, and then I said, “Let B.J. play for you.” Are you kidding me? He didn’t play point at one time in any practice at any point.

So we ended the night, I looked, I said, we’re right there, we shot 31 percent in the first half and we’re down one — I loved it, but I’m still saying the same thing. You know, there were points in the game, one or two or three plays, bang, that changed the complexion of the game and we’ve still got to get it under control.

Thanks, guys.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

FEB. 9, 2021
#3, Brandon Boston Jr., Fr., G
On the perseverance of this team …
“Coach tells us every single game to keep fighting, no matter the outcome, keep fighting all 40 minutes. That’s what we did today, but unfortunately it didn’t go our way today.”
On if you will take away more positives than hurdles from this game …
Nah, I always keep it positive. I feel like this was a game where we grew and learned. We finally fought the last five minutes of the game, and I feel like we just came out ready to play from the start, and that’s what happened today.”
On the difference in this second half vs. others …
“You know, just us getting in the gym every day, early mornings, late nights, just trying to perfect our craft.”
On if the team’s mindset has shifted to just improving ahead of the SEC Tournament …
“For sure. We can’t worry about the losses. You know, we take those as lessons and continue to work hard and grow every day.”
On Devin Askew leading the huddle at the end of the game …
“Definitely. He was just getting us fired up, telling us we have to finish this game out. Just be ready to shoot and be ready to defend.”
On if you need more leadership in the huddle from Devin Askey or anyone else …
“Definitely. Definitely need those encouraging words down the stretch.”
On his thoughts on the chemistry of Olivier Sarr and Devin Askew …
You know that’s something we work on every day with those two. Just try to let Devin read the screen and roll and find help with a man and get the shot that he needs to take.”
On handling Terrence Clarke’s absence for four weeks …
“He’s just trying to stay positive through this whole thing. There’s a lot of adversity and hate this year. We just have each other’s backs and tell each other to just smile through everything.”
On if the last ball was meant for him and just wound up in the wrong hands …
“Yeah it was set up for me to take the shot, but we just didn’t think fast enough.”
On what got him going for tonight’s game …
“Like I said, just waking up early in the morning, waking up at night just going to the gym whenever I can to put up a lot of shots and make them. I’m just building my own confidence every day.” 
On what his confidence is at this point …
“My confidence is always high, no matter if I’m going through ups and downs my confidence has to stay high.”
On if he could paint a picture of the rest of the season how it would play out …
“I told the guys after the game that I loved how we fought. As long as we keep fighting that way and playing with each other we won’t lose. That’s what I think.”
On how his views of toughness has changed over the season until now …
“Toughness is everything. Coming up with every rebound, with every ball if we lose the ball, playing defense, guarding your man, hitting those dagger shots. Toughness is all of that.”   
Kentucky Basketball Postgame Quotes 
Kentucky vs. Arkansas 
Rupp Arena – Lexington, Ky. 
Feb. 9, 2021 
Arkansas Head Coach Eric Musselman 
Opening statement … 
“Our game plan was to try to do as good a job as we could in the paint, which I thought we did. We actually outscored them in points in the paint. They normally don’t shoot the 3 ball like that, so you have to give them credit for knocking down 14 to 26 if you play the numbers. That’s usually not their game, but I thought we did a great job of battling. They made a run there at the end with Devo (Davonte Davis) making a huge steal. Our guys and our program, not to call a timeout in that late game situation, I thought Devo did a good job penetrating and then Jalen (Tate) attacking the rim got two free throws and then obviously clutch free throws. Huge, huge, win for us. It was a great basketball game to watch. I thought we did a really good job. Moses (Moody) with seven rebounds was really important, Jaylin Williams with seven rebounds, 12 assists, six turnovers – a lot of those things are really important. Then, our free-throw shooting, Jaylin Williams goes 5-of-6 from the line. I thought the free throws were really the difference in the ball game, we got two more than them and they really lived at the line in that first half.” 
 On offensive rebounds at the end of the game … 
“Jalen (Tate) has got a great nose for the ball, and I’ve got to give him a lot of credit. Again, the free-throw shooting in the clutch, that’s a lot of pressure on Jalen Tate when he stepped up there. I’m proud of our paint points tonight. We knew they were a great shot-blocking team, and to win five SEC games in a row, knowing we skipped out and missed at home on a weekday is tough.” 
 On fewest turnovers the Razorbacks have ever had at Rupp Arena … 
“It was no panic whatsoever in the huddle. I thought we were well established as far as what we wanted to do and obviously defending the 3, we probably gave up too many. We never felt the sense of panic, even there at the very end with our ball club at any stretch tonight.” 
 On how special tonight’s road win was to the team … 
“It really was. I think the simple fact that we were off for a full week, we were let down that we didn’t play on Saturday or Sunday. Look, anytime you go into Rupp Arena and win a game it’s hard to win a road game in the SEC. So, for us, again, you get five in a row in this league and knowing that we had a weekend game we were certainly excited to play. It’s a good accomplishment and now we have to move on and get ready for Missouri.” 
 On Jalen Tate’s game tonight … 
“I was really proud. Obviously playing in the state, he knows all about the Wildcats and how they dominate the stage of Kentucky. So, I’m sure Michael (Cawood) will grab him as well and he could give you a little bit more, but I think for all of our guys it’s a big win. It’s always big to win on the road, it’s always big to win a close game. Everybody is excited and we’ll get on the plane, a happy plane, and then we’ll start focusing on Missouri because they’re a great team and we’ve got to go to their place and see what we can do in another road game.” 
On Jalen Tate’s clutch shooting …
“I mean huge free throws obviously. I mean that is a tremendous, tremendous amount of pressure for someone to step in and make those shots. Even the time out is called, where he’s got more time to think about it. I actually think that is good. He got to catch his breath for a second. It was funny because he said, ‘After I make this free throw, make sure we get in what we work on everyday,’ which is our prevent defense because we’re supposed to match up full court right away and react immediately upon the ball going through the net. I thought his ability to coach the team and remind them of our prevent and the confidence that he had, I’m going to make the shot and were going to go into prevent was pretty unique in a college timeout.”
On how big it was to stop the bleeding against Kentucky …
“Yeah, I think it’s huge. I mean everybody in the basketball world that’s a basketball fan I mean — last night, after the dinner with the players, the players all went up to their rooms, our staff sat around and we did a University of Kentucky trivia on their coaches, and Adolph Rupp; and how many years he coached and how many years Joe B. Hall coached here; Rupp’s Runts; and Pat Riley playing center. All of us kind of chimed in and we were looking at Wikipedia. I mean obviously there’s so much history in this building that it does mean something.”
On Davonte Davis’s anticipation on the final play …
“Yeah, he’s got great anticipation. You know, I put him in before for defensive purposes and we were in switching in our pick and rolls and Jaylin Williams’ mans slipped it so Devo stayed on his own. Jaylin wasn’t able to recover back quick enough to Olivier Sarr. That was Olivier Sarr’s last 3. So, I took Devo out and tried to explain, ‘Hey even on a slip or a ghost screen we still probably got to probably switch that thing because we didn’t want to give up a 3.’ He regathered and went back in and thought he did a great job both offensively and defensively the last few seconds.”
On Jaylin Williams’ and Connor Vanover’s impact on the game …
“I thought both guys gave us something different. Obviously, Connor’s (Vanover) two 3 balls in the first half were very important in the first half were very important for us. I thought Vance Jackson played really, really, really good basketball for us in his minutes in the first half and it was a struggle to not to get him back into the game because I thought he played so well in the first half. Just a really good team, I thought almost everybody on the roster really contributed tonight.”
On contributions from the bench …
“I thought it was huge. Obviously, we rely on Moses (Moody) so much offensively. I thought this game was going to be close, Curtis, down the stretch. I didn’t feel like there was enough separation. I knew that this — they were desperate for this game as well and so we decided, or I decided make, to hold those guys on the bench when they had two fouls and I thought JD (Notae) gave us a good offense bursts there in the first half when we ran some pick and rolls. I thought Vance (Jackson) made great decisions as well and Jaylin Williams in his second stint in the first half was really good as well.”
 On the plan to get to the foul line during the second half … 
“I just felt in the first half the aggressor got to the foul line, the aggressor going to the rack. Kentucky was rewarded with that. I said we have to tip the scale on the free-throw attempts, we can’t continue to watch them trot to the foul line. The only way that you can get to the line is to be overly aggressive. Certainly, I did not want us to settle for 3s. I wanted us to try to score points in the paint, or try to draw free-throw attempts. That is what Kentucky was doing. I thought we settled a little too much in the first half, didn’t get to the line, and didn’t get into bonus early enough.” 
 On developing younger players … 
“I think those three guys continue to get better and better, I really do. You think about three freshmen and the minutes they are out there and they are contributing, and add in that Connor (Vanover) is only a sophomore. That is a lot of young players out there that are playing in big games on the road, not just playing but having a big impact. I think all of us can see the growth that has been made with all of them. I think Moses (Moody) continues to get better. I think Devo (Davonte Davis) continues to get better, as does Jaylin Williams.” 
 On thoughts to change defense after Kentucky’s 3-point success … 
“No, we played two possessions. The first one we caught them off guard, which is what we wanted to do. The second time, we dove to the middle of the zone and scored. Quite frankly, the game plan was to give up the 3. That is on me, that’s not on our players. Any criticism about them making 14 3-pointers can be put squarely on my shoulders and not the players shoulders whatsoever. That was the game plan, they executed it. We were willing to live with the 3 based on the number in conference play and nonconference play. All 14 of those, stick them right on my shoulders.” 
 On the focus on layups this week … 
“We have worked on it a lot. We have worked on it pre-practice, individually. We have worked on it as a team. We had one-minute stations all week of reverse layup, two-foot jump stop layup, pump fake, kick outs, drive it, pump fake off two feet. We probably worked more on layups over the last six days than I have worked on in six years as a college coach, but we need it.” 
 On mental toughness going into Rupp Arena… 
“I think those guys are really developing. They are gaining confidence. We were at Oklahoma State with under a minute and I told Devo (Davonte Davis) from the sideline, ‘Just take it to the cup,’ and he did. Tonight, I told him, ‘Just take it to the cup.’ He is not really established as a go-to player for us, but now two games I have told him in transition to get to the basket. I think he can beat his own man. I think it allows us rebounding angles because he is so quick. When he dribbles drives, he always brings an extra defender because he gets past his own man. I think we are seeing growth with all three of them from a confidence standpoint, and from a comfort standpoint playing in this league as well.” 

FEB. 9, 2021
#11 Jalen Tate, G 
On how many family members he had in the stands and the importance of the win … 
“I actually had 25 tickets on my list this week, it meant the world man. Everybody that came tonight man I let them know like, physically when I got to see them after the game and that’s why I was taking so long to talk to you guys, but it was just like they know how much it means to me. You know being 12 hours from home and the people that got to make this drive, my old school is only an hour away from here, home is actually three hours. Everybody’s been looking forward to this since I committed to Arkansas, everyone’s been trying to get tickets to this game and it’s just a blessing I was allowed to get everybody tickets that wanted to come.” 
On being the hero that was able to defeat Kentucky … 
“Man, I’m no hero dog. I’m just a guy that comes to work every day. As for living in the shadows man, I went to Northern Kentucky right down the road. I had to sit out and watch them freshman year, broken hand, had to sit out and watch Bam Adebayo, De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk you know and watch my guys try to take on those guys in the NCAA Tournament. So just having the opportunity to actually be out there and play, help my teammates and just be able to see things on the court man, be able to implement them you know, just help my team and be able to do anything to win the game.” 
On when was the point in his career, he decided to get the ball instead of play off ball … 
“Man, I just kept my eye on the ball. I was talking about freshman year maybe first game you know how it is. I’m talking about running from the free throws, never the big shot at the end. Definitely just, they hit that 3 and it was crazy. I wasn’t even looking at the ball because I was trying to box out. I thought they called a different play. So, I’m trying to face guard, basically top out my guy. I turn around and its going in, the only thing I was thinking in my head was just to get it out quick, give us a chance to get a shot off when they’re not ready. So Davo(nte), it was only Davo in that situation would put his head down and try to go make a play. I couldn’t ask for more you know what I mean? Just trying to get a shot on goal. I know it came off but I feel like I had a good chance to get it. I went up and grabbed it, something we worked on the entire week of practice. It was just something that seemed silly in the moment kind of, but it came back to help us man. It just speaks volumes into practice, Coach having a Tom Brady thing, watching the Super Bowl and seeing how they compete. I’m ready to just get back to practice and get back to working with these guys.” 


Related Stories

View all