Men's Basketball

University of Kentucky Basketball Media Conference

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Lexington, Kentucky, USA

Coach John Calipari

Press Conference

LSU 66, Kentucky 71

Q. You have been saying all year that you need Bryce (Hopkins), so did you see that coming tonight?

JOHN CALIPARI: Well, all I’ve been talking about is preparing for an opportunity. I showed them a video to the team, and really it would hit Daimion (Collins) and him a little bit harder, but every one of you at some point in your career will be in this boat, that you’re not playing as much as you think, you’re not getting the shots that you think, so now you don’t work.

And then you get an opportunity and you don’t take advantage. Now, you can listen to everybody tell you it’s everybody else or it’s the coach or why is he doing this to him and not him to you and this, or you could say, When I get my chance, I’m going to do what the team needs me to do.

What he did today is he rebounded and he went to the offensive glass, he tried to guard, he was involved in everything, made a stick back, makes a 15-footer. But there was nothing like crazy-crazy, but we’re all talking about him because he did what the team needed him to do.

He did it because I said I’m playing guys that are going to fight. If you’re not fighting, I’m not playing you. And I went with him. The team was so happy for him and so was I.

Q. I wondered if you guys, I guess it’s obvious, but the messy final two minutes, and you didn’t have much of a fast break today, did you miss the point guards?

JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, here is a pressing team, and we have 12 turnovers and — but we only have three assists. But this was a game that we talked about you have to drive them, because they’re switching everything. You got to make really hard cuts.

The first half we didn’t. I walked in at half time and said, We’re down four baskets, and you know what? If you will start cutting and driving, you will get what you want.

And that’s all we did in the second half that was different. We talked about it, we spent two days working on it, and we didn’t do; then in the second half we did it.

Q. From a psychological standpoint for the team heading into March are you better off having to win these two games when you’re shorthanded or if everything had been rolling smoothly?

JOHN CALIPARI: Oh, you’re better off winning at any point. Especially when a guy like Bryce, I think we’re going to need Bryce for (an) NCAA tournament run. I’ve said it to you guys from day one. Some of it is he fought it. You know, he fought it. He was behind some guys. They were playing well and you had some opportunities; you didn’t take advantage.

But he’s practiced, he’s being coached, he’s coming in the gym, spending extra time. That was big. Our guards, you know, you’re playing guys 40 minutes. You know what I’m saying? Then the end of game I should have gone to what I did with Oscar (Tshiebwe) right way. Just throw it up in the air to him and make him foul it. You know you’re getting it in.

I tried to tell the guys we’ve got in three timeouts. Call them; they still threw them in. Like call a time out. We’re fine.

You know, there were things that we did down the stretch trying to dribble through two guys, all you do is pass the ball now, just pass it. Why did you do that? ‘He grabbed me.’ You didn’t even need do to that.

So, we did some things dumb down the stretch, but the reality of it is you’re up 10 or 12 with a couple minutes to go, you know, it’s a good win.

Q. You mentioned showing them a clip. Somebody said Alabama, Nick Saban. I assume you mean the Saban video you showed them, and what specifically was that video? How did you come across it?

JOHN CALIPARI: Someone sent it to me, but basically what he said is that you have guys that are result-driven, minutes, shots, and the people around them absolutely that way, versus I’m going to really grow into a well-rounded player at my position.

And instead I’m not playing so I’m not going to work. I’m get getting in anyway so I don’t work. Then you get your chance to play and you can’t perform to the level that the team needs you because of all that stuff prior to.

You missed out on the grind. You didn’t learn all the stuff you have to learn to really reach your potential, which it’s a grind. It’s living in the gym. It’s like Jacob (Toppin). He’s living in the gym. Last year he didn’t. Jacob was like 12 years old. Everything was funny and laughing. Now he understands. He’s in the gym. He’s in the gym all the time building his own confidence, and he’s working in practice.

So that was what the message was.

Q. As a follow up…

JOHN CALIPARI: And now, if you’re not ready and you don’t perform, you got to take responsibility.

Q. As a follow up to that, now that you’ve had Lance (Ware) have a game like this and game I have Daimion and Bryce have a game like this, I know you want to play full strength, but how much more confidence does it give you that sort of come what may, somebody is going to…

JOHN CALIPARI: We have five guys that have scored 25 points in a game. I would like to get one more guy to do that so we have six, because you’re going to get in a game and someone may need to make baskets for you to separate. Either they’re making sorts and you’re going to have to score some baskets to separate.

Second thing you want a full team because the more players, more room for error. We had a couple guys not play well today. Well, you’re not playing as much. No big deal. Be ready for the next game. Somebody may get hurt like what just happened. Someone may be in foul trouble. You got to play the game anyway, so you want a full roster.

Now, I’ve done it with five when I was at UMass. We played five guys 38 minutes, 39 minutes, and had a chance to win a national title.

You know what? We dodged some many bullets, including against Baylor where Marcus Camby went down — no that was Anthony Davis went down. I forgot. But Marcus went down in a game and it was like, okay, we got to learn to do this without him, and we did. And we did.

So, you know, I would rather of a full team which we have. I’m proud of these guys. We get the other guys back, we’ll see how this works at what point they come back. They may not be ready in two days. We may have the same team going down to Arkansas.

Q. The way this team responds now to deficits compared to the way they did earlier in the season, how much have you seen them grow in that department and just not flinching no matter what the deficit is?

JOHN CALIPARI: Well, they’re playing to win versus not to lose. I’ve told you guys, my whole mindset is always on how are we going to win this. It’s never like, we could lose this. My mind doesn’t flip to that.

I’m trying to tell them, you play to win. If you don’t win, you don’t win, but you play to win. Playing not to lose, gets you to lose. Play to win. Play to stretch it out. You may use clock. You may massage the ball a little bit, massage the clock, and then make a basket.

If you don’t, you don’t, but you are playing to win, not playing like I got make these. No. You don’t.

Q. John, you preached it and preached it about taking advantage of opportunity, but how much does it matter to you to have a close-knit team that holds guys accountable so they’ll buy in again to what you’re talking about?

JOHN CALIPARI: Well here is what I said to them yesterday: a good team has good players. A great team has great teammates. These guys are terrific teammates. They’re great teammates. That gives us a chance. And we are talented.

But when you’re great teammates people watch the game and you know what they say? Man, are they fun to watch. Man, do they cover for each other. They make the game easy. Look how hard they play and fight for each other.

When you’re into your own thing you pout. Things don’t go your way, you hang your head and you pout. That’s when you’re into your own thing. If you’re into the team you just keep fighting.

You know what we shot from the three-point line? John, what did you think we shot?

Q. Not good. I don’t have the stats in front of me.

JOHN CALIPARI: Did you watch the game at all?

Q. Yes. I watched it.

JOHN CALIPARI: Okay. It was 2 for 12. Kellan was 0 for 5. Davion was 1 for — did they hang their head? Just keep playing. I’m not making shots today but I’m going to do everything else, or you hang your head and you pout and you’re looking for someone to blame with how you’re playing.

This is the kind of team that doesn’t do that. You got a bunch of guys that are for each other. I mean, that whole bench was cheering for Bryce. They were so happy for him, just like they were for Daimion down at Alabama.

Q. You talk a lot about trying to be able to win games different ways. Saturday was more a shootout and tonight more defensive style. How impressive is it to you to see team, especially shorthanded, be able to win two very different games?

JOHN CALIPARI: No, it’s good. It’s good. You know, they did some stuff pressing that we’re going to have to work on, but, you know, we got — again, you press when we got our full complement of guards and you stretch the court out on us, good luck. I mean, we’re shorthanded. You can go do some of this stuff and mush us a little bit, but, yeah, we — different teams doing different things is really good for us.

Q. Just talk a little bit more about Kellan (Grady) and Davion (Mintz), what they’ve had to do the last two games how they have accepted different roles and how you’ve felt they have played and especially how they have taken care of the ball?

JOHN CALIPARI: No, I said and doing it for 40 minutes, not subbing them, think about that. And I felt I needed to save those timeouts this game because of late, and I was — thank goodness I was right.

Normally I would’ve called some along the way to give them a break, but knowing how this team presses, knowing how we were shorthanded, I thought we needed those at the end.

But they played good. I mean, you talk about both of them. They have five turnovers together and they play how many minutes?

38 and 40? Come on. And Davion defended the whole game. He could have played another ten minutes. Defended the whole game.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

FEB. 23, 2022
Kentucky Student-Athletes
#23, Bryce Hopkins, Freshman, Forward
On his play today and what got him going …
“I think I played a good game today. I saw in the first half that we were kind of playing a little slow. So, in the second half, coach was saying that we needed a little more energy, so that’s what I tried to do when I came into the game, just tried to bring energy and contribute however I could.”
On waiting through challenges…
“Well, that’s one thing coach always tells us is just to wait for our opportunity. Today was mine and I took advantage of that. I was staying in the gym, just kept on working on my game and today was the day I finally broke through.”
On seeing his teammates have breakout games …
“It was encouraging. I mean, seeing Daimion (Collins) go out there against Alabama, I was very proud of him, we all were. We’re a brotherhood here and a family, so we’re all excited for each other whenever somebody goes in and does good. Tonight my guys were proud of me for going in and picking up where I left off.”

#34, Oscar Tshiebwe, Jr., Forward
On Bryce Hopkin’s performance …
“I’m so proud of Bryce [Hopkins]. You don’t even know how proud we are of him. We are cheering for him. For him to come out like that and knock down some buckets, it really helped us. He really helped us come back in the game. I am proud of him. I told him that this is your opportunity to show what you can do, and whatever you do, you’re forcing Coach to play you more. That is what it is all about, so I am so proud of him.”
On coming back after being down double-digits after the first half …
“Well, it does not matter how we started, it only matters how we finish. We respect people we go against, but we don’t fear them. We know people are going to come up and they are going to run. Sometimes it is going to be like that, but we cannot panic. We cannot go down because people are making shots. We just have to slow down and try to stop people and get the ball and finish. I think we did a good job stopping them from scoring and we started defending trying to make some shots. That was good for us.”
On the upcoming Arkansas game …
“Coach is good at preparing us against people we are going against, too. Coach knows what he is going to do for us not to be in foul trouble, especially me because I think my team really needs me because I help my teammates a lot. Coach is going to help us. He knows how we are going to go and not get into foul trouble. Coach is going to help us.”
FEB. 23, 2022

LSU men’s basketball head coach, Will Wade
Opening statement…
“Obviously a tale of two halves. [This is] like the fifth or sixth straight game we’ve given up 40 plus in the second half, we can’t sustain that. Our offense is not good enough to overcome that. I thought we did a nice job of not turning the ball over tonight, that gave ourselves a chance. We were better from the free throw line tonight, which also gave us a chance. We just didn’t make enough plays, didn’t get enough stops. They were very aggressive in the second half and we didn’t match or exceed their aggressiveness.”
On the difference between halves of creating offense…
“Well, we missed a bunch of wide-open shots. We had some really good looks and just, we didn’t make them. We’ve got to step up and knock them in. We got some good looks, we just didn’t make them. It’s a make or miss game, it sounds so simple. We made some shots in the first half, we didn’t make shots the last four or five minutes of the first half. The second half, we didn’t make some wide-open looks. We miss a wide open three, (Jacob) Toppin goes down there and banks one in, and he’s made 19 threes on his career.  That’s the way the game goes.”
On if there is any solace on the end-of-game comeback…
“No. I mean, an eight-point lead at half time, and just burned it away. I thought we were ready, I thought we were prepared and came out strong, we just didn’t play a complete game which is what you have to do if you’re going to win on the road in this league.”
On his view of Tari Eason’s performance tonight…
“He was in foul trouble the whole night. He fouled out – he had five fouls in 12 minutes, right? It’s hard to get mentally in it and get in a rhythm when you got two fouls in the first half. We played him with two fouls in the first half, and then he picked up, bang-bang-bang, three straight fouls basically in the second half. That’s tough to overcome. It’s tough – we just don’t have the offensive firepower to overcome 16 points per game when he plays 12 minutes. It’s tough to do.”
On what allowed Bryce Hopkins to play so well tonight…
“That’s just been a problem for us. We’ve let guys down the scouting report really hurt us. He certainly did that, and that was certainly disappointing. But he had a couple of mid-range [shots], he got going on the offensive glass, we fouled him, and he made a few free throws in there. We gave up the free throw offensive rebound, which was a killer. I think Tari picked up his third or fourth foul on the free throw offensive rebound. I’ll have to go back and watch it. That was certainly a back breaker.
On the press and how it was used to put the team back in the game…
“Well, we changed our pressures up more tonight. We played the one-three-one, we played the two-two-one, we moved our two-two-one back because we were so worried about them in transition, we played the diamond at the end. We just changed up our pressures, we changed up what we did and I thought that helped us.”
On how Oscar Tshiebwe was a difference-maker in how he impacted the offensive glass…
“Yeah, I think he had three offensive rebounds in the first half and I think we fouled him on all three of the offensive rebounds he got. So, he just drives up the foul count, it’s a back breaker. The one shot, it was an airball, and if it hits anything we probably grab the rebound, and he gets it, we foul him, in the first half. He’s just a tremendous, tremendous player. He’s got an elite, elite skill.”


Kentucky v. LSU
Feb. 23, 2022
LSU Student-Athletes
#1, Xavior Pinson, Senior, Point Guard
On if there was anything “redeeming” about the way the late LSU comeback …
“I mean, yeah, I can’t complain with the guys that stepped up like Eric (Gaines) and even Justice (Williams) came in in the last couple minutes. But I mean, the guys who stepped up stepped up as much as they can. I’m really proud of Eric and the amount of minutes he pitched in and tried to help. But, I mean, like you said, I’m not really with ‘moral victory’.  We’ve got to get the win at the end of the day, and we’ve got to do things little things and detailed aims to stay disciplined and get the win.”
On what the difference in scoring was between the first and second half …
“In my opinion it was pretty clear. The first half we opposed our will on them and in the second half they opposed their will on us. It sucks to say that, but I mean they played harder, they were the better team. They played way harder than us and they stayed locked in and you could tell that they really wanted to win at home.”

On how he feels to be able to get back to playing …
“As of right now, I don’t know. I want to win. I want to get back to winning. I want to get back to winning. That’s about it. I don’t know – me being 100 or 90 or 80 – doesn’t matter right now. I’ve got to come with it. I’ve got to come bring it to the table, no matter what. No excuses. I mean, we just have to win and find ways to get wins. Me being hurt is not an excuse for this team or anybody. We just have to find a way. We just have to do a good job and find a way. Winners just find a way to win no matter what, so we just have to find a way.”
On the feeling at halftime …
“I mean, it’s the feeling of every game. We do this every game. Coach tells us that we’re making the same mistakes. It’s the first half. It’s a good first half. We may be up 12, 13, or maybe 10, whatever. In the second half we come out slow. It’s obvious and it’s nothing that’s hidden. It’s pretty obvious that we just have to work on that and get better at that.”

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