Kentucky-Saint Joseph's Postgame Quotes
UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY MEN’S BASKETBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 20, 2023 Lexington, Kentucky, USA Coach John Calipari Press Conference
Kentucky 96, Saint Joseph’s 88
JOHN CALIPARI: Just talked to kids about, you know, the position they are in and how you can make people feel special and create hope for people, just by being nice, ask them their name, where they are from, let them know that you care enough to ask those questions.
See if they comment about your game, watching games.
And, so, that will be Thursday. And we play Friday. So, we are going to have off tomorrow. I won’t. One of the assistants,
I guess, will do the radio show. Okay. And then Wednesday I will be traveling, come back late, and then Thursday we do what we are doing and we play Friday.
So, Saint Joe’s, I knew they could play this way. Last game they were 6 for 30 from the three last game. They made 15 3’s. And some of them, we were on them. And for us to hold on with a bunch of young guys; you know, the amazing stat, folks, the amazing stat, Reed doesn’t score a basket and he has a plus 16. How does that happen?
It is incredible. One of my guys on the bench, I went to put him in, “No, wait, what are you doing?” No. You want him taking it out?
You know, making those plays.
But they all did well. I mean, D.J. (Wagner) played better, just starting to see who he is. Justin (Edwards) played better, more confidence, more relaxed player. Antonio (Reeves) made shots. Robert Dillingham does what he does. Adou (Thiero) went and banged and rebounded against a big team. Tre (Mitchell) made those shots which are, what I call, those are ‘the moment.’ There was that play, ‘the moment.’ And one team is playing with house money and we’re playing with we’ve got to win. And they never — it never fazed them. And, like I said, I’m probably leaving somebody out. But I thought Jordan (Burks) played well, went in and mixed it up and did some good stuff. And, so…
Q When you got Tre, were you fully aware that he was capable, as you call ‘the moment,’ making those shots?
JOHN CALIPARI: That you only get to see when you are coaching them. But I knew how talented he was. He is a skilled basketball player,
shooting 3’s, passing balls. He will fight. Missing some
free-throws, which are stunning to me because he is a really good free-throw shooter. But Justin made a couple of plays. Now, he shoots that 3; you know, we got lucky, Robert fell down, I call a timeout. I mean, again, a little bit of discipline and more organization when you are playing to win. The play where Reed rebounded, bringing it up and someone’s running for a basket. Why? We are up five. We don’t need a basket. Don’t run that way, run the other way.
“I didn’t have the ball.” I know, but you ran like you were going to try to get a lay-up. We don’t need it. We want to finish the game off. But, again, we shot a high percentage. We only had nine turnovers, two of our guys had six of those nine, and we played a good team, a veteran team. And they did not go away. And they out rebounded us.
Q With young guys, defense, half-court defense, 3 point defense, how much of that is just paying attention throughout the entirety of a possession and just walking in?
JOHN CALIPARI: In most cases we were in the vicinity, we didn’t have hands up or we didn’t take the 3 away. What happens is, if I go up too close and he’s able to drive around me, it is kind of embarrassing. So I will stop a little short and give him a 3 and have my excuse why I did it. Well, I know why you did it, you didn’t want him to beat you on a dribble. And I’m saying, let him beat you on a dribble. We will recover from behind. If they’re shooting 2’s, they can’t beat us shooting 2’s. They are going to beat us shooting 3’s.
The other one was, and the main reason I put Reed in wasn’t Reed himself, it was Reed’s team defense. That’s why I put him in the last part of the game, it was his team defense. Did a way better job of cutting a man off coming off screenings. But he is talking. He understood what the game plan was.
But, yeah, there’s things we are going to have to get better at.
We are going to have to rebound the ball better. But to get out a team makes 15 3’s and you figure out how to win, you make
free-throws, you make plays, you get rebounds down the stretch, you fight to win with a bunch of young guys, it is perfect. You play a game you could have lost but you didn’t. You figured out how to win.
Q You have spoken a lot about Reed this year and he has some of the best hands that you have seen.
JOHN CALIPARI: Not just — the hands were not better than Stacy’s hands. Stacy led this women’s program in steals and she played a while ago. She had — Jeff just wanted to shoot it.
Q Fair enough. But with Reed, kind of a two-parter, on the last play where he got the game sealing steel, what did you see there? Is that something you can teach or is it instinct?
JOHN CALIPARI: I work on that with him every day. No. That’s who he is. That’s why he was in in the end. We need a rebounder. Who rebounded the ball? He did. Do you need that rebounder or does it got to be a bigger guy than him? So you want to play guys in the end so that we’re a good team at the end of the game. It appears as though he has got to be in, at least one of them. But I was so happy
D.J. busted through, Justin busted through. You know, you want guys to feel like their hard work is paying off.
Now, the thing with Justin, which I was — you know, you can’t prepare for a game the way you prepare. The day of the game, right before the game your preparation has to be unbelievable, excellent because you are playing to play great. Not just to play. So he’s learning. He had a great shoot around and he had a great warmup and it led to the game he had. Now, will he understand, you know, that’s important? Yeah.
But, you know, all of them did something different in the game.
But, again, we got beat to balls; you know, they sent five guys to the glass. So their way of playing is 3’s, lay-ups, and offensive rebounds. Pretty good. And they got a team that can do that. I will be surprised if they’re not in the hunt to win that league in the last week of the season, I will be stunned, what I saw today.
Q Cal, there is always a lot of talk about balanced offense, but what about balanced assists? You had five players with three or more tonight.
JOHN CALIPARI: They all can play. How about, we had all guys in double figures and Adou had seven and even though he didn’t get in double figures, plus minus, as Reed. But the thing I’ve told them, even the last game, we had seven guys have between 8 and 10 shots. So you can’t say, well, I don’t get my shots. No, you got them.
What are you doing with them? You are one for eight. Don’t come talking to me.
I mean, so, when you play this way, yeah, there’s more weight on a shot because you are not taking 25 shots. You are just not. And the way we play it is a balance and, really, assists. Now, when you have a team like this, and I’ve said this a couple of times, every — you have got different teams you are watching. You won’t believe this, we don’t all play the same. Well, you should play like him.
Well, if I had his guys I would play like him. How about I don’t. The way we play now, there are many teams in the country that can’t play that way and shouldn’t or they will win five games. Well, I’m just going to play the right way, though. Yeah, okay, now you are looking for work.
How do I play with this team? We have got to get one of these bigs back, hopefully two. It changes who we are. Now, you say, well, how are you going to play? You ready for this? They can play basketball. They can bounce it. You can still play five out. You could put Tre at the four or him at the five and those guys on a perimeter because of how they play and how they shoot. So, but, I know what you will have is someone near the rim that is 7-foot-2 that you are not just getting lay-ups, which we are still giving up a lot of lay-ups. What did they shoot for the game? 42 percent. 40 from the 3.
Q John, I wanted to ask, you guys were up seven with five and a half to play in regulation but you go on to overtime and you win it. So do you just view that your team got more out of this game winning in that fashion, having to make winning plays late as opposed to if you had won by 15 or 20?
JOHN CALIPARI: I would have liked to have won by 15, 20. But you take advantage of what unfolds. And that’s all I can tell you. You know, again, we missed some shots, some free-throws. They bang a couple of 3’s, all of a sudden it is anybody’s game. We were kind of lucky to get to OT. We really were.
And, so, I will watch the tape tomorrow on the plane, have an idea of what we are going to have to see on Wednesday, we will probably watch some of this, and then what we have got to work on. You know, there were things that I am doing, I’m still trying to figure out the team. When do you let Robert go, let him go do a little bit more? We did that in points in this game. I also ran one of our grinded out offenses that I have not used this year, and Robert makes a shot out of it. You grind it a little bit. We did some different things bringing both big guys out. I’m just trying to figure out, you know, how do we do this and get what we want to get from it.
Q And, John, just as a follow-up to what I just asked, you guys had the 14 point lead last week versus Kansas and obviously Saint Joe’s is not at Kansas’ level. But do you view the fact that you guys won this game —
JOHN CALIPARI: Kansas couldn’t have made 15 3’s, so you played them different. But, no, I mean, we’re a team that’s still learning, playing winning basketball. Like Justin came out and just with
20 seconds on the clock shoots a three. What? Why would you do that? You know, you are not shooting a high enough percentage to take that shot in a winning situation. You know what? He knew it. I got it. Stuff like that they have got to learn. Like Robert trying to take a baseline. I was seeing if he could get something. When he fell down, we call a timeout, kind of get lucky.
Q John, D.J. scored 10 in the second half, 7 in overtime. Throughout his high school career I thought he had earned the reputation as a closer. Is that something you saw recruiting him?
JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah. But he played as much off the ball as he did on the ball. The point guard ended up going to St. Louis. So…
But it doesn’t matter if you are on or off the ball when you play basketball the way we are playing. Literally, Reed’s a point guard, D.J.’s a point guard, Robert’s a point guard. You know, we put Antonio in pick-and-roll’s. I mean, we’ve got — and we are playing with three of them at times on the court. And then you say you have got a lot of guys with a lot of assists. Yeah, they are point guards, basketball players. So…
KENTUCKY MEN’S BASKETBALL POSTGAME QUOTES
KENTUCKY VS. SAINT JOSEPH’S
RUPP ARENA – LEXINGTON, KY.
NOVEMBER 20, 2023
#4 Tre Mitchell, F
On what a win like this can do for a young team…
“I think it can instill confidence in our guys – just showing that we’re capable of being in these moments and we have dudes that are going to answer the call.”
On what he was feeling on the back-to-back 3s in OT…
“It’s open so I was letting it go – I know Cal would probably yell at me if I didn’t.”
On what is going through his mind during those big-time moments…
“Keep shooting – if they’re going to leave me open, I’m going to shoot it. I don’t think that it necessarily the moment for me because I try to stay present throughout the entire game so regardless of what the outcome or the score is going to be – if I get an open look, I’m going to take it.”
#12, Antonio Reeves, G
On how it feels to get the overtime win…
“It feels great because it is my birthday, and we got the dub and that is all I really wanted. Everybody was happy that we won. It was a tough win against a good team, and everybody played well on their team, but we just needed to get that dub at home.”
On how the team is managing such a good assist-turnover ratio…
“We just practice it every day. Everyone is making the right pass and not trying to do too much, and we just try to emphasize it as much as possible.”
On why he did not take more than 3 3-pointers since he was perfect…
“I just play in the flow of the game to get open and knock it down. I did not want to take any bad shots in a close game, so I just continued to play in the flow of the game.”
#21, D.J. Wagner, G
On it being the first overtime in his college career…
“It was good, it was fun just to be able to play in that atmosphere. Just hearing the fans supporting us, just knowing that a lot of people were cheering for us, it was definitely a fun atmosphere and it was very competitive.”
On attacking the basket more…
“Really just listening to my coaches and my teammates, just telling me if I feel like I got a lane just take it. He gives us all a lot of confidence to play our game, I feel like that’s where that is from.”
On having the ball in his hands late in games…
“It feels great just knowing that coach trusts me with the ball in my hands, and my teammates trust me with the ball in my hands. It was fun for sure, and just to play in that atmosphere in a game like that it was fun.”
Saint Joseph’s Head Coach Billy Lange
Opening statement …
“Kentucky is a great program, great team. I thought our guys played well enough to win and we didn’t and that’s what we came here to do. We’re Saint Joe’s, we believe we should win every game we play and we represent a great university that has an amazing fighting spirit and we needed to do that in front of Big Blue Nation tonight. I thought we did. Kentucky made some amazing plays in transition into half court. They are going to be a really, really good team as they get even healthier and get more guys. We got some work to do, but we had enough opportunities, and we couldn’t make the plays at the moments we needed to make them, but a lot of that was because of Kentucky. So, I think there were two teams tonight. They both played well enough to win and only one can, hence basketball.”
On making 15 threes in tonight’s game …
“That’s just what we do. We shoot em up, we sleep in the streets. That’s it. We had opportunities to do it, it opens the floor up, it gives us the chances to get to the rim. But Kentucky is a terrific defensive team. I thought both teams intensity’s were really good. Almost every basket we got, we had to earn it. So, we would’ve done that no matter what.”
On Kentucky’s young team …
“I didn’t talk about Kentucky for the last three days. It was all about us. We’re young too. We’ve got multiple freshmen on the floor. And they’ve got Tre Mitchell, I coached against Tre Mitchell when he was at UMass, so I know he’s not a freshman. That I know. And some of those other guys are not freshmen and the freshman that they have are really good. You know they’re really good. So, it’s talent. They’ve got great talent. The only thing I talked to our guys about was can we have 16 united hawks against everybody and everything? And I think we did. Ya know, including foul calls and timeouts that we called with two seconds left in the game that were not rewarded. But that’s okay. If you’re coming into this building, you have to do it. Before we’re going to get some of those calls, we have to earn the respect. Sometimes it’s winning and sometimes you can have a loss that’s actually pretty good for the program. We don’t think like that as coaches, but this was about us not Kentucky.”
On what makes Kentucky so dangerous …
“Athleticism, physicality, talent, Big Blue Nation, their ability to go from defense to offense as well as any team in the country and Cal stresses it. They have always done that, they are good and they are good at half-court right now. I give them a lot of credit. He has done a great job with this group so early. They can turn that quickly (on steal and score) and I thought we took care of the ball fairly well. No turnover is ever a good turnover, but the ones that we had were not nearly as timely as we would have liked them to be and it is just a stampede they are out.”
On Tre Mitchell’s game evolving…
“I think that the first thing that sticks out is his body has changed and I respect that because it takes discipline. You can have all the strength coaches and resources and clearly Kentucky has that, but just looking at all of the work our own players have done to transform their bodies it takes two. And he has done a great job since he left UMass, at Texas and West Virginia he did it. But this is as lean and slim that I have seen him. I think that the offense positioning that it looks like the coach is doing is essentially moving the ball for them so the guards can cut off and play on the second and third side and he needs to be that fit to do it for them. I was upset when he left West Virginia, trust me, I knew we’d have to play him.”