Men's Basketball
Kentucky-Gonzaga Postgame Quotes

Kentucky-Gonzaga Postgame Quotes


February 10, 2024 Lexington, Kentucky, USA Coach John Calipari
Press Conference

Kentucky 85, Gonzaga 89


JOHN CALIPARI: The team that was out there was playing so well together that I left it alone. And I told he and D.J., that’s the only reason I left it alone. And if we finish the game – you would have said, but – now you look at it and say why didn’t you have him in. You’re right. We could have. But that group was playing so well that I didn’t go to the rotation.


Q Cal, the last play of the game or at least the failed lob attempt at the end there. Was that plan A? What was the plan there?


JOHN CALIPARI: The plan was Antonio if the lob wasn’t there, and obviously wasn’t, was to go to the top of the key. But that didn’t lose us the game. 18 offensive rebounds. 50 points in the paint. We thought we could guard them one-on-one. We probably needed to trap more. But then you are freeing up some other guys.

Q Cal, the last few possessions seem like 10 or 11 possessions in a row they were going low- scoring down there. What you do going forward switching guys in and out at the five, what you do going forward at that position?


JOHN CALIPARI: Keep working on their defense. The other thing is, okay, someone is not able to guard. The play where we switched and 22 is under the basket, we stood behind them and it was a three-point play. They scored eight times in a row and it was like lob’s which I was saying the same thing, just keep retreating. We don’t want to give that up. Let the little guy try to shoot it. We came up. We broke down some. We took a bad shot when we were up five and ready to go. The kids kept fighting. They just kept fighting. They never stopped and – so, it’s just tough. We lost three games kind of like that where we have a chance. I told him after, we lost the game in the first half. That’s when we lost the game. And we came back and fought and made it close, but the first half is what cost us. Yes?


Q Cal, on that you said it seems like it’s become a trend in the last few games with a slow start outside the Vanderbilt game. What do you tell your team to get those slow starts so you want digging out of a hole?


JOHN CALIPARI: You keep on them about the intensity and start a game and the fight you have to have, especially at home. This is – it is just disappointing we got beat to so many balls. Just disappointing. I think we are better than that. And there are things we have to get our big guys to do. There are things – some execution stuff. Even the last play, Antonio was supposed to throw it to the rim. Take one bounce and throw it to the rim. He said he grabbed me. I said I knew he was going to grab you, that’s why you throw it to the rim. Had some breakdowns Offensively a little bit at the end. It’s all stuff we can clean up.


Q Coach, as you alluded to, the game was already lost in the first half except for the last five minutes where they went on a run. Why is the team so inconsistent in their fight where they may start really well and end really well but there is that stretch in the middle of the game.?


JOHN CALIPARI: I don’t know, I wish I had the answer to it. We know we are capable. We are playing teams and we’ve got a chance to win at the end of the game even if we don’t play great. And we have our chances. Most of our breakdowns come down on the defensive end. And I’m spending a lot of time on it and we are working on it. Thank goodness we have time. We’ve got a tough schedule. Our league is really good.

Q John, you guys have lost three straight at home with all fantastic crowds. How frustrating is it to not defend home court?


JOHN CALIPARI: I want to tell our fans how much I appreciate what they are doing for this team or what they are trying to do. They are here. They are loud. When we needed them they stood up. This team needs it and I would just say stick with them. I appreciate the fans and, you know, you walk into this building and it’s packed like it has been for three games. We just normally come out like on fire and we just haven’t. But again, nothing has changed in my mind with this team. We have the ability to do what we want. We are just going to have to do it together.


Q It’s a young group. It’s just what you have to expect with young teams. I know everybody talks about freshman. But they are freshman.


JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah. You know, you are going against a veteran team that really executes what they are trying to do at the four-minute mark. We weren’t able to withstand some of the stuff they were doing. Most of it were breakdowns. You can’t have them at that point in the game. But, young teams, I’ve been here with young teams where we had to kick it in gear and go. As much as I’m feeling it hard, tough, I can’t stand losing. How do you think they are feeling? I have to make sure I’m focused on them and keeping them in the right frame of mind.


Q Cal, pick and roll defenses have been sort of a struggle. All three of your big guys have been in and out.


JOHN CALIPARI: Trying anything.


Q Just in terms of their availability. How much is that potentially limited, how have they been able to get comfortable in those situations?


JOHN CALIPARI: Believe me, we are working on it. You’re talking about young players and you’re talking about kind of going off script a little bit of times. But they’ll get it. We’ve got a good team. We didn’t play great, and we had our chances. Give Gonzaga credit. They came in here to that crowd and withstood our run and made some baskets and did some stuff and stopped us.




February 10, 2024



#1, Justin Edwards, G


On losing three games in a row at home…

“We’ve got to take pride in the little stuff. That’s something we say all the time to each other, we’ve got to take pride in guarding the ball down low. What hurt us the most was guarding the ball and second-chance points.”


On getting a stop after limping with potential injury…

“We needed it, we really did. That was a big play that we needed, and I just dug down and did what I had to do, honestly.”


On what the team has to do to take the next step…

“Team pride. That’s really it. We’ve got to take pride in guarding our man.”


# 12, Antonio Reeves, G 


On defensive improvement… 

“Yeah, there was definitely some improvement in the second half, but I feel like mostly it was just rebound that killed us. They got like 18 plus rebounds offensively and you know it kind of killed us at the end.” 


On the failed lob up to Reed at the end… 

“I think Reed should’ve thrown it higher and maybe he would’ve got it, but you know it was a good play. Adou was open so he was there, but everybody makes mistakes.” 


On the biggest lessons learned in this game…  

“Just throw the first punch in the first half. We all got to come together, you know we got to fight, you know, in the first couple minutes and show. No flunks or anything like that.” 


On how different the team is without Mitchell… 

It’s very different you know he brings some juice. He brings something about it you know just facilitating it and being a veteran team he kind of missed that you know he’s hurt.” 


On how Adou performed… 

I’m very proud. He definitely gave us a lot of energy, you know, a lot of drives, and kicks and you know he kind of finished out at the rim you know a lot of dunks from him too, and a lot of rebounds he did mostly everything, so I am definitely proud of him and hopefully, he can continue doing what he doing.”


#3, Adou Thiero, G


On what happening in the paint to give them an advantage…  

“They were more physical than us. Some of it was my fault, as a leader on this team I got to be able to go out and be physical and show that we’re going to fight– set the bar so that whoever comes into the game knows we go to fight every single time and I didn’t do that so that’s how everything was just easy for them.” 



On if there is a physicality in the team… 

“Definitely, I think there is– we just got to find it. We do it in practice every day we just have to bring it to the game and transfer it to the game. We just got to find a way to you know when the lights turn on be able to flip that switch again and be physical.”  


On what some of the other bigs can do to not get pushed around in the paint… 

“I can’t speak for them–I can just say what I did. You just got to have more pride and being physical with everybody, I can’t really speak for them.”





February 10, 2024



On Gonzaga’s success in the paint …

“It’s one of our strengths. So, at this point in the season, you just have to play to your strengths. You’re hoping you can do that, obviously. We take a lot of pride in our rebounding and it’s been decent this year, at times, but, it was exceptional at times. Kentucky, to your point, is long and athletic and they have a lot of bodies in there. I thought their wings and guards did a nice job going to the glass, too. But, you hope for the best and plan for the worst, if you’re a coach, so that was a pleasant surprise.”


On coaching through the game …

“What an awesome college atmosphere. Just unbelievable. I thought both teams did a good job—we were switching our coverages as everybody was switching their coverages, so you had to keep adjusting. We would have success on one or two of our actions and Cal would switch up their coverage and then we wouldn’t have success, so we had to keep adjusting and monkeying around. They looked similar but we were moving some pieces around, too. Then, obviously, when you have Ryan Nembhard, he makes the right read on those, which is just being a basketball player. Nolan [Hickman] had a great job managing the game tonight too. He made some really, really solid plays on the ball screens and I thought that was a big key. Those guards got a lot of our bigs those shots. There was a lot of stress brought their way by the crowd and the toughness and athleticism of the Kentucky players and the schemes that Cal and his staff brought at us, but those guards showed a lot of poise tonight.”


On scouting Kentucky prior to today’s contest …

“The preparation, to me, was so much harder this year. What a job they’ve done assembling this roster. They have veterans like [Antonio] Reeves and we spent a lot of time worrying about Tre Mitchell. He’s a tough matchup with his pick-and-pop and what he can do if he gets a small guy on a mismatch. So, we caught a huge break there, with him not playing. Just the skill they have and the pace we play with—we love to get out in transition. It’s one of the best things we do throughout the years. They’re an impressive team, but at halftime, we had only given up two transition points, which I thought was damn near miraculous. That’s probably the biggest thing—the skill level and a nice mix of some really talented young guys and some veterans.”


On preparing for the final defensive stand …

“At that point, we had thrown out two or three ideas we thought they might go to. That’s a great play—I need to have that in the back of my pocket at the end of the year. Ben [Gregg] just made an incredible individual play there. He did a good job making a read and making a basketball play. He just jumped up and saved us. We did not want to give up a three at that point. At minimum, we wanted to guard without fouling and make them take a tough two and then rebound five. That’s all we talked about. “


On Kentucky’s potential …

“I see a lot of potential. I know our results aren’t reflecting it, but we’ve been right there in every game, with the exception of the UConn game. If we would have closed out some of these other ones, this would look a lot different. I see a lot. I thought I saw two really, really good teams out there making plays at the highest level and I think [Kentucky] is going to be fine. They have skill and athleticism. I think they need to get healthy. If they get Tre Mitchell back, they get that skilled four back. We have a skilled four, Anton [Watson], and the schemes change dramatically and it puts [the opponent] in a lot of difficult situation. I think those guys getting healthy, but man, if they keep shooting it the way they shoot it and flying around—I know people have discussed a lot about their defense, but they climbed up against us in the second half and it was hard. We had to work really, really hard to get buckets in the second half. We executed good and made the right plays, but we had to work”


On Braden Huff’s performance…

“He came in and he was scoring and he finally had some success against some high-level athletes and some high-level opponents. I think that was encouraging. His defense is making some strides. It’s still not quite up to industry standards yet, but it is making some strides. We were very concerned about that, but I think that everyone in the program has tons of confidence. That’s why they kept throwing him the ball—he’s going to be able to score if we get him the ball. Obviously, that’s a luxury.”


On key stretch to secure the game…

“There were key stretches throughout that game. There were so many runs in that game. It was crazy. There were so many plays down the stretch, that play Anton made at the end there was a minute left or whatever where he basically just said screw it and just dove in there as hard as he could and got an and one. We just talked about settling down and playing with great poise. There was a lot of possession left, a lot of game left, and we just needed to get back and get shots on our terms. I thought we were kind of panicky and rushed especially on our shots around the basket.”


On if Gonzaga’s bigs had an advantage…

“We run a lot of stuff through our bigs. We’ve always done that, if you think about Timmie Sabonis, you turn it off, and just all the great players we’ve had. I mean a lot of that goes through our bigs. Again, I think we’re analyzing through statistics a little bit too shallow here. A lot of those points were on just absolute dimes and for them hard for dunks and layups. One on one those guys guarded us pretty dang good. They stood Graham up and I thought they handled him well and it was tough to get baskets. A lot of those baskets are on just beautiful reads off the pick and roll.”


On what Gonzaga talked about during timeouts…

“I didn’t think we were handling it very well, so I told them that. At the end, you know for us, we finally made a play to close out a game, we finally made some shots, and we actually finally made some free throws. We’ve had several we’re probably going to want at the free throw line this year. We just talked about, we got through the first half, we’re taking great care of all, and we were just making the right basketball play. We weren’t trying to challenge those Kentucky bigs at the rim because that’s what ignites them some of those breaks was a blocked shot and off, they go to the other end. We’re giving up those transition points, which we didn’t do in the first half. Talking about settling down there and then just kind of schematically got back in the right spots. Not trying to just make something happen but making the right basketball play but they deserve the credit. I mean, this was an incredible atmosphere tonight. It was hard to communicate, that was a great run Kentucky, and they made another one off there two thirds of the way through so yeah, it’s a heck of a win.”


On what this means for the rest of the season…

“It’s obviously something we want to build off of because I don’t know how many teams are going to be able to come in here with that environment and I don’t know what it was like these other two games at home. It couldn’t have been any better than it was tonight. I mean, to come in here and get this done I guess a really well coached team. We just need to keep drawing from that. Probably the biggest thing is we finally closed one of these suckers out we haven’t been doing that. So that’s what we’ll take away.”





#13, Graham Ike, F

On how to attack Kentucky bigs…

“We knew their bigs were athletic and that they may double some, but we knew to stay poised and to stay even killed and attack the guys. If we felt the double coming, then we passed it out but if not then we made quick assertive moves and that is what we did tonight.


On if they took a step in the right direction…

“Yeah, we definitely took a step in the right direction. That is who we are with the way we played tonight. We closed the game out like we were supposed to, and it is just a great feeling.”


On if he felt his physicality would be key to a win…

“That played a part in it. We knew coming in that I had to be physical and assert my will in the paint but also help the guards get open on ball screens and pin downs and things like that to free them up by using my physicality on those screens as well so yeah.”


#11, Nolan Hickman, G


On what you thought of your first trip to Lexington today…

“I mean great atmosphere man. Great atmosphere. I mean that’s what college hoops is about. Just coming in and doing what we do. You know it’s different at arenas, it’s different atmospheres, but this is right up there with The Kennel you know what I’m saying. It was amazing. I loved it. Crowds like that, it was cool and a great experience.”


On defensive strategy on the LOB play…

“Honestly man we were just telling ourselves we needed the stop. Whatever it was we just needed to make sure we got the stop. Making sure we get a solid stand in front of everything. Benny came up with a good steal to secure the win, so it was dope I loved it.”


On playing well and sealing the win…

“Like I said, it’s just how basketball goes man. God’s blessed me and put me in the right position to play the game that I love and this is just how it came to be. All glory to him.”



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