Men's Basketball
Kentucky-Auburn Postgame Quotes

Kentucky-Auburn Postgame Quotes

University of Kentucky Basketball Media Conference

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Lexington, Kentucky, USA

John Calipari

Press Conference


Kentucky – 86, Auburn – 54

You guys have really been kind of in control of most of these games at some point or throughout and then you’ve talked about it kind of let the other team come back. Did this feel like, finally, I mean, obviously you’re up 40, like dropping the hammer, a complete performance, I guess?

JOHN CALIPARI: Well, having C.J. (Fredrick) back gave us minutes. Now you may look and say, He only played six minutes. That’s a lot of minutes for someone that’s playing 40 minutes.

The other guy that they talked about, they said, Chris (Livingston) had foul trouble and you played Adou (Thiero). How good did he play? I mean, he played good.

Difference for us was we made threes. When you go 0-11 from the three and still win the game you’re pretty lucky. But we make threes we can stretch things out a little bit. And we made threes today.

We still rebound the ball, we defended great. We’re getting better. The thing I talked about, like what areas can we get better at this time of the year. You’re only going to get one percent better in certain areas. But confidence, individual confidence can really grow. And that is, you do it in practice, you get in the game and you perform. You have a ball playing.

But the biggest thing is you’ve got to trust all your teammates are on the same page so that you can be a risk taker, you can make some plays, you can be aggressive because your teammates are behind you. And they also know and trust that whatever the game plan is, everybody’s locked in. Our shoot-arounds right now are 30 minutes. 30. These dudes are locked in. Bang. And then we go.

But look, that’s a good team. They’ve got size. They’ve got guard play. I think that the size of our guards probably bothered them a little bit. But they’re good. I mean, they’re a team that can score in bunches and can get you on defense and they’re good.

You’ve talked about Jacob (Toppin) making use of that great physical skill, the 40-inch vertical and all that this season. When do you think it started to click for him to have this kind of rebounding?

JOHN CALIPARI: LSU. Was it the LSU game? Yeah. He started. But I just slapped him and said, I’m not letting you back up. Just know. Like, I’m on him in the game now because he’ll like to try to take his foot off the gas and act hurt. And I’m like, Are you hurt? You need to come out? Your body language affects us.

And he is playing so well, I’m just saying, Why would you want to be that other guy? This guy, he’s one of the best players in the country.

Oscar (Tsheibwe), can you see he’s getting his confidence back? He was out, we were trying to make do.

Cason (Wallace)’s getting better and better. Still has one or two screw ups. But I’m fine with it. Because he does so many other things.

How close do you feel all your guys are on the confidence level and the whole trusting each other. How close are you?

JOHN CALIPARI: We’re on that rise. And at this time of the year you’re trying to have them empowered. They’re calling plays in huddles now. Cason saying, ‘Why don’t we do this’. Boom. The minute they say that to me I go, ‘Let’s do it’. Because it’s off my plate and now it’s on their plate to make it work. And I want that.

Defensively the same. We talked about changing and they went, ‘No, let us keep playing this way’. Fine. Let’s go.

So you want them empowered. You want them confident. But just as important you want them to have a ball playing. Even when it gets rough and the other team makes a run, you got to have a ball playing basketball. Especially this time of the year. Because you don’t want it to end.

Refuse to lose. Doesn’t mean you’re winning every game. It means your mentality of how you’re playing. You never stop. The clock may run out on you. But you just keep coming. And these guys are embodying that right now.

Not to kind of maybe go back to the first question too much, but you have mentioned a lot about not letting the other team get back in games when you get these double-digit leads. Did you think today not letting that happen is a sign of growth and maturity of this team, especially heading into these final couple regular season games?

JOHN CALIPARI: But we’re up 25. It wasn’t 10, 12.

No, but you were only up 15 there early in the second half. And Florida, they came back and made it interesting. They took the lead at halftime.

JOHN CALIPARI: We’ve been showing them the tape. We’ve been watching. We said, ‘Why this. Why that’. So, I got a very intelligent team. Smart team. And they’re getting it. But you got to be confident.

You know what you’ve got to make? Free throws. You know what you’ve got to make? An open shot. That’s a dagger. You know what you’ve got to get? A tough rebound and throw it ahead and make that three. That’s a dagger. And we kept running today. I mean, we didn’t stop. We wanted this game to be fast. That’s how we play.

Offensively, you know, I can’t imagine we’re not in the top 10 in the country offensively how we’re playing. And they’re getting it.

You talked about hitting shots, hitting threes. Antonio (Reeves) hit so many of those today, seemed to really get going. But it was just four, five games ago you mentioned there was a game you couldn’t play him because of the way he was playing on defense.

JOHN CALIPARI: It was Florida. What happened in the Florida game? He got beat how?

  1. Back doors.

JOHN CALIPARI: For layups. You know, what he didn’t do against Florida the second time? He did not get beat back door. And he looked at me and I looked at him and we both just smiled. Like, they were trying. And that’s what I’m talking about, confidence defensively.

You think that I’m talking about just shooting the ball and just let it go. No. I’m talking about confidence rebounding the ball. Confidence on defense. Confidence flying up the floor even if you don’t think you’re going to get the ball. That you’re confident if you are open you’re going to get it. You’re never jogging. Confident that you’re a playmaker and you’re not going to charge or throw it away. Again, today we didn’t have many open-court turnovers. They convert better than any team in the country if you turn it over, live ball turnovers. So, we’re getting better. A couple more. Yes?

After the South Carolina game and even the Georgia game, I mean it was assumed that the guys were pretty low. How different is the locker room the last week or so compared to those times?

JOHN CALIPARI: You know, there’s two things when you’re coaching: One, you’ve got to hold them accountable. Like, you got to — no. You say no. You got to hold them accountable. But you’re juggling balls because you also got to build them up. But if you just agree, Yeah, you’re fine. Just keep, yeah, you know. Vanderbilt so you got to hold them accountable, challenge them. Get them to think in terms of getting better. And the whole thing — all we talked about is winning today. Winning today’s practice. We gave out awards every practice. We just stayed in the moment. They just told me — I don’t even — I know we play Vanderbilt because they just told me next. I don’t know who we’re playing next. Now I know Vandy. That’s all I know and that’s what I’m focused on. So trying to get those guys to stay in the moment.

Then the other thing is, you know, what anybody is saying. You don’t have to read it, look at it. I said it, people tried to talk us out of the NCAA tournament. They tried. They’re out. They’re done. They’re awful. They’re this. You play yourself in or play yourself out. And it’s really never over when you have a tournament that has an automatic bid. So everybody in our league still has a chance to get in. But I just kept convincing them, you can’t — what they say has no affect on what we’re about to do. And again, I always say, Is it their opinion or their hope? They giving you their opinion or their hope? Kind of know what it is. But go ahead. Last one.

The spike you had in offensive rebounding, how much of offensive rebounding is just pure effort?

JOHN CALIPARI: It’s angles, it’s wedging. How about this: We — there’s things that are rated every game. One, sprints. You get graded. A, B, C, D, or F. Every time the ball changes defense to offense you’re sprinting. We also grade offensive and defense rebound attempts. Offensive rebound attempts. Who do you think is the highest on our team? Oscar. Who is the second highest on our team? Chris. Wow. Because he attempts so much, he gets a chance to rebound. We also grade weak-side defense. So when the game ends, they are graded on every possession they’re in. Again, to hold them accountable. They’re really listening and following game plans. We’re not breaking down. Especially defensively where it was ugly for a while. We’re just getting better. I’m happy for these guys. And you know what else, I’m just so happy for our fans. That we’re promoting and pushing. And I mean that building was packed. You don’t think that has an impact on the game? It absolutely does have an impact on the game. And so now we go to Florida, what do you think they’re yelling at the end of the game? Go Big Blue. Louder than their fans. And it’s our fans on the road. And I’m just happy for the fans who were so patient and were so supportive.

I mean, and I’m saying this to everybody, you can stop sending me letters now and cards. I got a stack of them. Everybody, I’m fine. I’m good. I mean, it’s, none of it — I say it, I got bazooka holes in my body. You think a bullet or an arrow? It doesn’t hit skin. I’m just trying to worry about them.

And if I felt bad — you asked me about Georgia and South Carolina. I felt awful after those games. My first thought is, If I feel this way, how do my players feel. And then I got to go back and get out of my own self’s way and say, ‘Let me be about them’. But they’re coming together. They trust each other.

Now we got another tough game. I mean, Vandy’s playing as well as anybody in our league. They are. So we’ll have another tough game to play and hopefully we have the same kind of crowd. When is the game? Wednesday at 7? We’ll see. One more. Let me go do radio, folks. Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




FEBRUARY 25, 2023


Kentucky Player Quotes

#12, Antonio Reeves, G

On how the win feels…

“You know, it feels great. Everybody was connected – talking on the defensive end. Everything was just going good for us, defensively and offensively. So I’m happy about that.”


On if the atmosphere today met his expectations of coming to Kentucky…

“Yeah, of course. You know, it’s just that everybody had to figure out what their role was on the team, at first. Everybody is just starting to get connected with one another – trust one another, so you know, you could just tell out there – it’s totally different. This is what it’s all about.”


On when he knew his shots were going to start falling in the game…

“I knew that – the first three I had, and then I had a wide-open three after that. I already knew I was gonna knock that one down. After that, I already knew every shot I put up was gonna go in, so like, it was just one of those days for me.”


On communication and having each other’s backs…

“You know, ball-screen defense, guards fighting over [screens], Oscar being in the right spot off the ball-screens. Just guys pulling – you know, if the ball is on the strong side of the board. Everybody is just connected with one another now, and everybody’s talking too. We weren’t really doing that at first, and this guy right here [Oscar Tshiebwe] – yeah, that’s what it really was.”


#34, Oscar Tshiebwe, F


On maintaining lead throughout game…

“Like I’ve been saying, we have to fight no matter how much we’re up by. If we slow it down, the other team will come back and it’ll give them more confidence. We don’t want to give people confidence. During Florida, there were times where we relaxed a little bit and then they came back and they got more confidence and then they started to think, ‘Yeah we can beat these people.’ That’s why I say ‘Let’s keep it going, we can’t relax’”.


On confidence increasing throughout the season and post injury…

“This is the time of the year, everything we went through was just to build my confidence and be prepared for the time about to come. March Madness and the SEC tournament. For me now, I have no distractions. I’m just in the gym, focused, locked in. We play together and we just stay focused. Right now I have nothing distracting me from this path, I came back to win a championship. I’m pretty confident right now with this team and where we’re going.”


On how team is taking care of business and focusing on the “small things”…

“I feel like right now everyone is locked in. Right now everybody just wants to win, you can see right now, even the walk ons, everybody just wants to win. You see our bench is hyped all the time, jumping up and down. Losing is too much, we don’t want to go through what we went through. We were just sitting in the locker room sad, going through practice sad, everybody is just sad. We were trying to figure it out and now we’ve found a way to win. We’re diving for balls, like coach said we need to refuse to lose. We just don’t want to lose anymore. I’m glad I outrebounded Chris today.”






FEBRUARY 25, 2023

Auburn Head Coach Bruce Pearl Quotes


Opening Statement…

“When I was at Southern Indiana coaching the Screaming Eagles for nine years, the two or three teams that mattered the most on our schedule were Kentucky Wesleyan in Owensboro, Northern Kentucky in Covington, Bellermine and Louisville, because we took great pride in our basketball in Indiana, and y’all take great pride in your basketball in Kentucky. I’ve come in here before and got smacked like that, and its embarrassing. Because you know good basketball, and you know really bad basketball. We were ready to play. You could tell early we had a really good game plan, and then with about three or four minutes left to go in the first half, things just started to unravel a bit. And then our guys just didn’t stay together. You can’t have one assist in the first half, and you’ve got to kind of just work together offensively to make each other better, and we just didn’t. And of course , the same thing happened on the defensive end as well. So, Auburn was not competitive at all today.”


On how different Kentucky looks compared to earlier in the season…

“They’re obviously really comfortable in their roles. Cason Wallace is a difference maker around the point with his ability to defend, play make and finish shots. The Reeves kid is obviously a great shooter and an older player. Tshiebwe is playing dominant on the inside. We thought we could score on him a little bit and hurt him a little bit in the ball screen, but he did a nice job there. He and Toppin are just physically imposing out there. And then their wings are just so big. They are literally bigger and stronger at every position. And their physicality, we were no match for. So, they’re playing really well together.”


On what changed in the second half…  

“I think that for the first 15 minutes, I thought we played pretty well defensively. Transition hurt us in the last four minutes, and then the entire second half. I thought one of the keys was their guards being able to get down hill. We couldn’t stay in front of them. And I thought that was the difference.”


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