Men's Basketball
Kentucky-Illinois State Postgame Quotes

Kentucky-Illinois State Postgame Quotes


December 29, 2023
Lexington, Kentucky, USA
Coach John Calipari
Press Conference 

Kentucky 96, Illinois State 70

JOHN CALIPARI: And, again, every coach that watched the game, because no one else played tonight, they are going to say we are just shooting it and running four guys at the rim. They’re not going to block out. I just told Ugo and Aaron, if you don’t rebound, I can’t really play you. One of you had one and the other had two. Both of you had a chance for five more rebounds each. He didn’t come up with any of them. And that’s not being mean, I’m just keeping it real.

I thought Jordan went in and mixed it up and did some good stuff. His first real opportunity to play, really proud of him. And again, 23 assists, 6 turns. But we gave up 24 offensive rebounds.

Now, we reverted back to where we were, which is looking at the ball as it is shot, they drive us under the basket and tip it out. It was

— give them credit for what they did. Yes.


Q John, curious, SEC play starts next week. What are you happiest with and what concerns you most about your team?

JOHN CALIPARI: Well, right now it is rebounding. You have to be kidding me, 24 offensive rebounds and all they did was bum rush us. There was no x’ing, there was no screening the guy to get free. It was just you and that man and they blocked us out. We didn’t go get any balls. We got a few but not like they did. So that will concern me, but we have got time. What is that?


Q Anything make you happy?

JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, the way we are playing. We have got a good team. I mean, we pass the ball, we shoot the ball. We have a couple of guys that are trying to be play makers when they are finishers. I have to keep on them about it. “You are a finisher. Don’t try to make that play. Give it up, you get it back, and you make a play, make a basket. So we have got a couple of those. But it is —

you know, without Adou it shows. He gives you a toughness. But I


thought Jordan did some of that today. I tried to play Justin at some 4. I don’t know how many games I will be able to do that.


Q Cal, what do you do from here with the rebounding? You have done the drills, you have blocked out the rims in practice, you have done all of that. Where do you go from here over the next eight days?

JOHN CALIPARI: Keep doing it. And then, basically, keeping it real with guys. If you are not going to rebound, I am not going to play you. I don’t care who you are. How about Ugonna blocking shots? So now you have got to get some rebounds. And part of that is accepting being blocked out. You get blocked out and you just stop. And then you try to tip it over the guy. No, he blocks you and you move and…

We are going to work on it. We have got some time. They have got an individual work day tomorrow, they have a day off on Sunday, and then we have a bunch of two-a-day’s to get us in the right frame of mind. It is going to be a hard game down there. It is always a hard game. It is sold out already, sold out weeks ago. They are good. They have got size, their big kid’s good, their guards play good. Florida is good.


Q Tre Mitchell posted eight points tonight but he had a plus minus of 30. Can you just talk about how much he has meant to this team so far this year?

JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah. I think Tre is so skilled as a basketball player, his size. And all I keep coming back to for him personally, for him to bust through personally, more motor. Now, you saw what I did. Four was killing us, so I said you are back to five, you play him, you two bigs can’t, you are getting screened, you are grabbing. Well, you are not going to play. You can come to my house, stay overnight, I will make you breakfast in the morning. You are just not going to play. And that’s why I went to him and went to Justin and Jordan at four. And then I gave Aaron and Ugonna a couple of more chances. They are going to be fine. This is a great lesson.

You don’t fight, this is what happens. Wait until you get in our league and you don’t fight.


Q Cal, the guys talked a lot about this week, sharpening up the defense during the break. You held them to 32 percent tonight. What looked sharper tonight on the defensive side of things?

JOHN CALIPARI: Well, we had some breakdowns. But I will be honest with you, they are a good offensive team when they are in that half-court turning down ball screens. And, you know, they do some


good stuff. And I thought Reed did some good stuff. But part of defense is rebounding. We gave up 24 offensive rebounds. Some of you can look back. I can’t remember one of my teams in 15 years giving up 24 offensive rebounds. I can’t — I can’t remember. And, so, you know, was it that way when we played North Carolina? When we played Miami? No. So we reverted.

You know, I talk to you guys all the time about dominant habits.

It is obvious they still have the dominant habit when the shot is taken by the other team, they chase the ball instead of go hit the man and block out.


Q Coach, it was a homecoming game, of course, for Antonio. How proud are you of him and those last two performances?

JOHN CALIPARI: He has been great. Do you know who was in the gym last night after shots? He had 1,400 shots in yesterday, 400 of them came after dinner. He was in there by himself. But the Noah machine charts every shot. Face recognition, you shoot it, it is — I told the guys, who do you think was in there? The guy that made all the shots. There is no secret to this. Well, I was playing video games and I made all kinds of shots. No, it doesn’t work.

So trying to get these guys to understand that you have got to go. I thought we attacked the rim today good. So Antonio didn’t just shoot it, he got to the rim when we needed it and so did D.J. They got to the rim. Robert did what he does. He had one pass. It is only one, though. So he tried to — Antonio had no one on him, he tried to throw it to three guys on a look-away and it went out of bounds. But he only had one. I can deal with one. I just can’t deal with five.


Q On the subject of the shooting machine, you mentioned on pre-game radio that Justin stayed here over break, put up like 3,400
shots, I think. So it is clear he is doing the work. But just how happy are you right now with his process?


JOHN CALIPARI: Unbelievable where he is going with this. He is trying to figure it out on the run. And it is hard at Kentucky trying to figure it out on the run. And we’re trying to do everything we can to help him to define how he should be playing. But he did some good stuff today. He did.

Now, he started the half, he gave up two 3’s. It is hard. You have got to — you know, I can’t allow that. You can’t give up two 3’s because you went under a screen and you didn’t follow a scout.

But in transition, open shots, attacking the basket, you just watch. He just needs some more time. It is like Jordan. Jordan did good today, he just needs more time.


Q Cal, going back to Antonio attacking the basket, getting a lot more 2’s, efficient. When he can do that, how much easier does it make it on everybody else?

JOHN CALIPARI: How about he was guarding their best player? Last year he would guard their worst player and we hoped he had black socks on that guy because now he is our best perimeter defender.


But, you know, you — when you have — here is what I keep saying. You have choices now. You start rotating them in and somebody’s having a tough day. We can still win, so don’t worry. Before they had to ride them and if they went one for — you know, you rode them. Now it is not on you, it is on us. Go play your best, go play harder than them, go have a ball. And if you have got it rolling, you play. If someone else has it rolling, they will play. But, again, the balance, you know, you are starting to talk 6 and 7 guys in double figures. Not many teams say that.


Q John, off subject, what are your thoughts on Rick Barnes being nominated for Hall of Fame and kind of the history?

JOHN CALIPARI: He is so deserving. And I remember him when he had a ponytail and hair was down his back. He did. He drove around in a Volkswagen Beetle. And he had a toss back in the back seat that he would go camp to camp and that was his station, teaching that. We both stayed at Pitt in the training room because it was not an overnight camp but we had to be there, so we didn’t have money for a hotel. We stayed in the training room together, like on the tables. And Tim Gurwitch’s wife brought us lasagne and we put it on that thing that heats up the bag that kept it warm, we had left it.

So, no, he and I go way back and we’ve been brothers for a long time. I love him. Well-deserved. You know, he’s good at what he does, cares about kids, faith-based what he does and how he handles himself. So I’m happy for him.


Q Thanks, Cal.

JOHN CALIPARI: Let me say, the McGuires are here, Molly and Michael and their son. They are in town. They called for tickets. You know I’m saying yes to that. He was the coal miner who got there so he could be with his son. So the McGuires are here. I’m going to see them in the back.

But this was a good game. Guys have got two days, an individual work day, and then they have got a day off, and then we are on it.

It’s like, Let’s go.





DECEMBER 29, 2023


#12 Antonio Reeves, G

On spending extra time in the gym …
“Yeah, I spent some time before and after practice getting in the reps before the game today.”

On playing against his former school …
“Yeah it meant everything to play on the floor with them. I have been here for two years but, yeah it was awesome. It is a great feeling.”

On having shooters on the team…
“Yeah, it’s a community out there. The guys find me on the court and other guys.”

On what the team needs to continue to work on …
“Rebounding, we have been having trouble rebounding. Also getting better at boxing out players. And to make sure to square up on a guy and being physical to keep up.


#21, D.J. Wagner, G


On the secret of improving in the rebound regard … 

“Just boxing out. We have been working on that like I said in practice. Boxing out sometimes and just try to go for the rebound first. At this level, this ain’t going to work. We just got to work on boxing out before we try it again and get the rebound.”


On hitting big three-pointers and how the shot is coming along … 

“It felt good just to be able to hit those shots. You know I felt very confident from just being in the gym just working every day. The work always going to show no matter what so just staying in the gym no matter what, staying confident. You know my teammates have been helping me a lot and my coaches tell me to keep shooting and to just keep practicing. It’s been helping me a lot.”


On how connected this team is and the team vibes… 

“You know all good vibes. We are all real close. When we go out and stuff, we go out together no matter what we’re doing. Something simple like going to the mall or something probably a couple of us will go. I feel like we are all really connected and that shows on the court how we play for each other and how we play the game.”

#0, Rob Dillingham, G

On the team’s offensive upside …
“I feel like the only way we lose is if we beat ourselves honestly. So, we come to play every day and we come like nobody owes us nothing and we win games, but I don’t think we come like that every day. So, if we need to change that but I feel like we definitely have some potential to be there.”

On expecting good games from Antonio …
“We expect a big game from Antonio every game so it’s no different, so when Antonio scores a lot, we blow a team out when he doesn’t score a lot, we just get the dub barely, but when someone scores the ball we play well.”

On heading into playing Florida…
“We go over personnel, we do what we have to do when we play our game we don’t know many teams that can beat us. But if we really play, we don’t worry, we just go out there and play basketball.”

DECEMBER 29, 2023Illinois State Quotes

Illinois State Head Coach Ryan Pedon

Opening Statement …
“First of all, congratulations to Coach Cal and his team. I was very impressed with them on film coming in and was very impressed. I have followed Kentucky for a long time, and this is my third time coaching them in this building. Of course, we faced them a few years back when I was at Ohio State as well and their talent now is like it was then. There is a different brand of basketball and a different commitment with this team, and I think there is a very big difference to me and that shows up in their selfless play and they are really hard to guard already, but now they are really hard to guard and are selfless. They are tremendous in transition, and they expose areas of weakness for anybody with the way they are playing right now. I watched that Miami (FL.) game a couple of weeks ago, who is a top 10 team in the country I believe, and they dismantled them and that made me know our margin of error would be small today. It is a game we can use; it is a great game for our program, and it is great for building. It was a great atmosphere and I think it is something we can grow from and build on for the evolution of our program from here. So, congrats to Kentucky.”

On the growth of Reeves since he transferred …
“When I got there Antonio (Reeves) was already on his way into the portal, so I only had a few conversations with him. I will say this, I was very impressed with him as a young man after having sat down and had a few conversations with him. It was pretty obvious to me that he was going to move on, and he was respectful so I have no ill will but the opposite of that actually, I love the way he carries himself and he plays the right way. I have seen real growth in his game from last year to this year. I think he is a gifted scorer and I think he is playing his role well here for this team.”

On what makes Kentucky tough to stop…
“Elite speed and quickness. You see that on film and when you look at the stats you see they are fourth in the country in three-point percentage so what is the scouting report for a team coming in? I watched North Carolina play them and stay home but that opened driving lanes for guys and for when we played them, I knew they were going to have superior length and athleticism. They just were, so we could not go with that same formula. I thought we had to do a nearly flawless job at keeping our guys in front but also throwing bodies in gaps as well as honoring their ability to shoot the ball too. They are a hard guard, a very hard guard because of their elite speed and athleticism and Reed Sheppard is the real deal man. He separates them from years past when they did not have a Reed Sheppard but now, they do as well as the talent around him. They are going to be hard for anybody to guard.”

#4 Myles Foster, F

On positive things to take from this game …

“I guess, one of the big things is just effort on our part and trying to play hard. I am not a morale victory type of person, there is stuff we need to work on. Some of the biggest things that Coach touched on is transition defense is really where they created some separation and shot selection. Across the board, on all the other stats, I think we were pretty solid, rebounding, turnovers – we won the rebounding matchup and turnover margin today. I would say shot selection and transition defense are the two biggest things we need to work on. We need to just go back to the lab and toughen up on those things.”

#3 Dalton Banks, G

On playing against Drake next on national TV and how Rupp Arena prepares them for that …
“I think that is great for us to get the chance to play on this type of stage. It is unbelievable to go out there and there are 20,000 fans. That is something you don’t get to do often. Like coach touched on, we are going back to start league play in a really good league. To play in hostile environments and get that experience, it is only going to benefit us. We have to take what we have learned tonight and go try to beat a really, really good team on Tuesday. Nothing but great things that we can take from playing a top-10 team.”

On playing against Kentucky’s guards and what he takes away from that …
“Yeah, it was great. You got guys like Dillingham, Sheppard, Wagner – those are high-level players. There is a reason they are on mock drafts and so highly recruited out of high school. I looked at it as a challenge to go out there and compete. I felt like I did that to the best of my ability. It is always great to see what it is like to play against the best and take what you can from that and try to improve your own game to get better. Those guys played well. It was a good experience for me and now we just have to try to get better on our own stuff.”


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