Kentucky-Marshall Postgame Quotes
UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY MEN’S BASKETBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 24, 2023 Lexington, Kentucky, USA Coach John Calipari Press Conference
Kentucky 118, Marshall 82
JOHN CALIPARI: Let me say this before we get started. My good friend, Bob Marcum, who was our AD when I was at UMass and he and I are — he is a different — he is the one that talked me into playing this game. You know, he was an AD at Marshall after he left UMass and he said, “I want you to play this. Please play this game.” So if we got beat, I would maybe never spoke to him again. It would have been my last time speaking with him. But we played good.
Let me say this, offensively Marshall was a handful for us.
Now, there were a lot of possessions, which gave them more opportunities, but they were a handful. And coach and I talked after, and he said “I’m getting a better feel for my team. They’re big, you know, they have got good guard play.” And I think in their league they will do fine. I’m going to be honest, you guys know, normally I won’t look up and look at the score much in the first half, I am not that worried about it. But I saw we had an 18, 19 point lead at one point. I just glanced up and I am like, all right. I didn’t know we had 69 until I called that last huddle. And I said, “Dudes, you have got 69 points? That’s crazy.”
And it was based on assists, shots made, you know, again we’re creating great opportunities for a team that can shoot. Why don’t you play in way? Well, if you have a bunch of times that can shoot it like this, then you play it this way. Why not Reed (Sheppard)? Reed is a basketball player. He is. You’re seeing D.J. (Wagner), you’re seeing Justin (Edwards). We’re just getting in a rhythm. And now we have got to have one of these big guys back. Will he be back for Tuesday, one of them? I don’t know. I don’t know. I am not pushing it on any of it.
You know, poor Big Z (Zvonimir Ivisic) got sick again. I’m like, practices three days and now he had a 104 temperature. I’m like, what in the world?
But, you know, this group, 27 assists. I was mad about three of the turnovers, like there were no reason for them. One was Antonio (Reeves) not shooting that last ball, just shoot it. But we only had nine. I was mad about three of them. So we have got to get better defensively. We still don’t stay in front of people. So then instead of moving your feet we reach and foul. Some of the fouls were based on I’m fouling to stop the game, my guy. Just foul. Then
the game stopped. Whoo, let me get my breath. No, that’s when you sub yourself. If you can’t stay up with it, you don’t foul and stop the game. You sub yourself.
But, again, we got out-rebounded. You know, we’ve got some issues. But, you know, it is fun to play the way we are playing and it is fun to have a team that cares about one another and plays for one another. How about Rob Dillingham? How good did he play? Are you ready? And he only took seven shots and he made eight of them but he had eight assists in two turns. You talk about efficient.
You know, again, how about I want to get more shots? Well, you didn’t have to. He was the best player on the floor with seven shots.
That just shows, six guys in double figures, could have had seven, you know we have got to have one more guy making some baskets. You have seven and, hard to say, who are we stopping?
Q Coach, you were talking about playing this way. The coach who came in before said we’ve never seen a Cal team play like this. It is the most points you guys have scored in the era since you have been here. Talk about, even in the preseason you said any guy can go for 20, how do you keep that balance when these teams come in? Is it just feeding the hot hands, playing the system? What does that look like when somebody like Miami comes in or you are traveling a big game?
JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, it is going to be a great environment. You know, Miami is so well coached and has really good players, plays four guards and all of them can beat you by themselves. They have got a big guy similar to Tre with a high motor. And, so, they’re really, really good.
I will be honest with you, I’m just going to worry about my team right now. I have not watched any Miami tape, just because I have not had time to. But I know, and Jim Larranaga and I are friends, he is a terrific coach everywhere he has been, and they will fight and they are good. I’m more concerned, let’s play and be who we are.
Here’s the other thing. Three minutes left in a game, how are we going to play offensively to finish people off? Well, why didn’t you just come down and shoot a quick three with 25 on the shot clock? He should have just…
Well, you don’t quite do that late in the game. You want to shot that but not early in the clock because you give them a chance to beat you. You are trying to shorten the game at that point to win the game. So we have got to still work on it. There are some things I have to do to give Rob some space. I talked about it after the game. Because him one-on-one, I’ll be honest with you guys, if the court is open he may not make them all but he’s going to make most of them. So we’ve got to look at that. You know, everybody, why didn’t we play zone in the preseason, the exhibition? How are we against
zone? We went to Toronto. They played zone today. I would rather them play — anybody play a zone, please. Because you don’t really listen to me. What happens when they play zone? We have to…
I know you don’t watch. We have to pass the ball against zone. You cannot just dribble one-on-one and set a screen. You have got to move the ball. And we do.
Proud of the team, though, 27 assists. You know, I tried to spread it out. I was so happy for Jordan (Burks). He’s fighting and he finally made a basket. You know, like you want him to — you know, he’s missed some that he’s just a little anxious. Joey making a three was a big deal for our team. They were showering him in there. They just were so happy for him. But, you know, again we’re just — we’re not going to play this way every night out, where you make every shot. We’re just not. But why don’t we play this way and try to? How do we play to finish off the game? We are still working on it. What will we do different when we have a 7-footer? Not too much because he is a ball player too. Whoever that guy is, they’re basketball players that can pass, dribble, and shoot.
So Aaron’s been practicing but just not live. So he’s been with us 5 on 0, drill work, all of that kind of stuff. He is just not the competitive man-on-man, body-to-body. We just haven’t started with him on that.
Q Actually I was going to ask about Aaron (Bradshaw). How close is he to doing body — because I know he is practicing and getting into shape.
JOHN CALIPARI: I don’t know. You know, if I give something, then everybody will say he’s lying. And I don’t know.
Q Do you think you will tell us or you will just trot him up to the scores table one game?
JOHN CALIPARI: I wouldn’t mind doing that. But you will probably know; you know, someone will say something. We had people in our practice the other day and one of the teams was Z, Aaron, and Jordan at the three and Rob and Reed. That’s 7’2″, 7’2″, 6’8″ and those two guards. And the people in our gym are watching and saying this other team doesn’t want to play against that team. And that’s — you know, and Adou’s now jumping and running. Or Ugo. I’m sorry, not Adou.
Ugo is running and jumping right now. I don’t know what that means. I just — I — I worry that if Z is cleared, he’s physically not — he has just gotten sick or hurt and goes 4 or 5 days and how ready will he be? I don’t know yet. But it will be nice to have one more big body that we can throw in instead of them getting lay-ups, and those are all blocks if you have got a big guy in there.
Q With Aaron, what is realistic to expect when he does come back as far as not necessarily a minute count but getting in there and playing?
JOHN CALIPARI: There are some things we will probably have to do with him that’s different. Like right now we cannot post-up our four man. Do we want to make Tre a four instead of the five? Why? Tre’s really good at what he is doing. Why screw him up? Let him keep playing and now your four ends up being 7’2″. He can shoot it. We can post him. You know, instead of mush-mouth, you can run the stuff we’re running and run them into post-ups. You can do all of that stuff, you know, ball screens with him or Z.
Z’s thing is more than even Aaron, Z can go — you can throw lob’s to him. I haven’t seen it with Aaron yet. But Aaron’s shooting it and they are both good players. Ugo is a good player. He is not even the same. When you look at him, he looks like a swimmer. He is cut. He has gained 25 pounds. And…
But even without him, I’m liking what we’re seeing. And now you get one big and he floats in to what we are doing. Pretty good stuff.
Q D.J. Wagner scored 50 points in the last two games combined. Can you talk about what switched for him? Was it like a confidence thing or what has kind of sparked his offense?
JOHN CALIPARI: I told him after, in front of the team, I said where
D.J. and Justin are to where they were two weeks ago. But I never worried about D.J. and I told him that. I went up to him and said, “You know, I am not worried about you at all.” Because he has a great temperament about it and he’s living in the gym. So it will bust through.
Teaching the stuff with Justin, how you get prepared for a game to play great. How do you lock in and focus on it? What do you do? How do you practice to get ready to play great? And he’s coming on. I mean, he’s just — you know, I just think there’s so much more to him. I said, there’s more that people are going to be seeing as we go forward. But you have Reed and Robert and Antonio and we have got — you know, those guys are — even if they are all playing
25 minutes and then whoever is playing the best maybe play a few more minutes. I think they will all accept it. They have accepted it to this point.
KENTUCKY MEN’S BASKETBALL POSTGAME QUOTES
KENTUCKY VS. MARSHALL
RUPP ARENA – LEXINGTON, KY.
NOVEMBER 24, 2023
#15 Reed Shepperd, G
On how it feels to put up that many points tonight as a team …
“That was crazy – we were shooting it well, credit to Marshall they had 80-something. Scoring is really good, we got a bunch of dudes that can score. We got to get more connected on the defensive end and keep their numbers lower and keep staying at that. It was a super fun game– Marshall is a really good team and we were hitting shots, moving the ball so it was really, really good.”
On what DJ flipping the switch has done for the team …
“I knew he would – it’s nothing new for him he’s a really, really good players. It’s helped a lot now we have eight dudes that can just go and get a bucket and that’s really, really hard to guard when you go out on the court all five dudes no matter what can pass, dribble, and shoot– so it helps a lot. Now we just got to keep building off of it and just keep playing together and stay positive through it all.”
On if he takes pride in the other things such as steals, rebounds, assists …
“Yea for sure – anything I can do to help the team win. If I have to go out and score zero points and do the little things then that’s perfectly fine as long as we come out with the win. Any time I can make an assist for Rob or DJ or any of them to make an easy bucket is really, really good. I just love going out and making the easy play and the basketball play and helping the team win.”
#0, Rob Dillingham, G
On playing in a game like that, which is so high scoring …
“Well, we got to stay disciplined throughout the second half even though we won by a lot, we got to learn to not give up so many points.”
On scoring the most points in a game in the Coach Cal Era …
“No I didn’t know that at all, but that just means we can score, but we still need to be able to play defense.”
On the message in the postgame locker room …
“I mean he was happy for us, but that’s what we got to realize. We definitely can’t just give up points like that.”
#21, D.J. Wagner, G
On having a big individual game …
“I wasn’t really focused on the way I played individually. That’s never the focus. I was just happy that we were able to win games. Everybody could see how good of a team that we’ve got. We still do. I’m confident in my teammates and they’re confident in me.”
On whether the team is having fun …
“Most definitely. It’s fun. I feel like everybody can see that. We’re having a lot of fun out there playing with each other and playing together and winning.”
On how many shots it takes for him to find his confidence …
“I feel like it’s important to be confident on the first shot. Every shot you take you should think it’s going in. That’s basketball. It’s 80 percent mental, 20 percent the other stuff. Just staying confident.”
On how much extra time he is spending in the gym …
“I couldn’t even tell you. I feel like everybody is in the gym as much as we can. Sometimes the coaches tell us we can’t be in the gym sometimes because we’re in there so much. I feel like it’s showing. That hard work is paying off for us.”
Marshall Head Coach Dan D’Antoni
“We got our butt beat. [Kentucky] played really well. Not to take away from them, they passed the ball and they shot it. They played better basketball than we played. I hadn’t seen Cal do that. I’ll give him his dues; he came into the modern times. Passing that ball, throwing it around, and shooting threes. Who was that? I didn’t know that was Calipari. You should be proud of that team. They’re a good ball club and [Cal] has done a real good job with them. They played really, really well. It’s not to make an excuse, but to defend my team a little bit, it’s hard to be on vacation for three weeks then come into [Rupp Arena] and have to play. We were in the Cayman [Islands], touched down [at home], had one night’s sleep, then got on a bus to come here. We were in the Caymans for five days and, right before that, we were at the Greenbriar. It’s tough but—somebody asked me if I felt good about this game—we use Kentucky to see what we need to do. They showed us. You have to give them credit for that, they let us know ‘this is what we have to do.’ I have a better handle on my team. It reminds me—my son went to West Point. I asked him ‘Would you go to West Point again?’. He said ‘No, but I’m glad that I went.’ If it came time to sign this game again after what we did, I’d go ‘Nope.’ But I’m glad we came here, because I feel better coming out of here. We know what we’re going to do. These young men came off of a plane, slept one night, got on a bus, came here, and they played their tale off. When we executed, we scored. We know if we keep our game in, we’ll compete with this team later on, although they are very, very good. You should be very proud.”
On preparing to play Kentucky …
“You act like I had a chance to prepare. We just got home. We looked at them. I didn’t have a big chance to look at them. I’m not big on ‘let’s watch the other team’, I’m more big on ‘let’s watch our team.’ What we do can work against anybody. We ran little a gap play and [Nate Martin] passed and [Obinna Anochili-Killen] got a dunk. When we executed, it was right. We just are a growing team. We got poached last year by people like Cal. Spend all your money—okay that’s fine. That’s the way the landscape is now. But, you know what, we’re going to be alright. I felt a lot worse coming out of the Caymans than I do now. We’re going to be alright. We’re big and we’re athletic. [Nate Martin] is going to grow; it’s his first [year] with us. [Obinna Anochili-Killen] didn’t go with us—he hadn’t played in five days. Not to make excuses, because every time you make excuses, you take away from [the players], and I don’t do that. They played extremely well. So, did we prepare? Obviously, they’re a hard team to [prepare for]. They’re a good team. Any good team is a hard team to prepare for. [Kentucky] shoots the ball extremely well. They spread the floor. Kentucky has a workout guy, he worked out with me, not with me, but for the Nuggets. I know [their] workout guy. Good ball club. I’m not disappointed at all. We’ll be around. I’ve lost games like this before, then turned around, and beat somebody. In fact, Southern Miss, we lost by 50 with John Elmore and crowd. In the end of the year, we were winning everything. This team is going to grow. We’re going to be fine.”
On lineup decisions…
“They weren’t playing very well. We played better with this team. I was learning. After we realized we were going to get beat, I was trying to figure out how we were going to be better when we leave from this game. I was testing people. We put a pure freshman on the floor, little [Ryan] Nutter. It didn’t faze him a bit. He got where he needed to get. Took about three charges. I don’t know what he had—let’s see. He got 1-3 (Field Goals), 7-8 (Free Throws), nine points, four assists, two turnovers, had a couple of charges—two or three charges. I learned a lot. We found a point guard. Nobody wanted him. He wasn’t recruited. He wasn’t in the blue book that y’all recruit from. He stayed right in there and it didn’t faze him. We’re going to get better. He’s going to make us better.
#25, Obinna Anochili-Killen, F
On his return to the court…
“Staying at home five days and not getting to go with the guys, that kind of sucked. I realized how much basketball means to me. When you’re sitting [at home] and listening to the guys playing, you just wish you could be down there with your guys. It kind of sucked. When I came down [to Lexington], I was hungry. I just wanted to play again.”
#41, Nate Martin, F
On defending down low…
“I think [Kentucky’s] guards did a great job of getting in the paint. They’re shooters outside, so you can’t help too much off of them. So, when that happens, their guards have lanes to the rim. They have quick guards. It’s crazy how they are freshmen. They’re quick. They’re good. They’ll be a solid team if they can keep getting in the paint like they did tonight.”