Kentucky-Alabama Postgame Quotes

Kentucky-Alabama Postgame Quotes


February 24, 2024

Lexington, Kentucky, USA

Coach John Calipari

Press Conference

Kentucky 117, Alabama 95

Q John, can you take a moment to talk about the season-long journey for Justin Edwards?

Played well at Canada, it’s been a struggle to get to this point today.

JOHN CALIPARI: You know, I kept saying you’re going to break through, I believe in you. He said

coach, I believe in you. And I said you just got to stay the course. What I said to the team today – he

has lived in the gym. He made every shot. I took him out because he reverted back and he was

going to spin and move and throw the ball. I took him out because I said you’re playing a perfect

game. I’m not going to let you screw it up. But, and even Z. I made a decision yesterday that I was

going to play Z. I did get some pushback. But I said nope, when I wake up and in my gut says that’s

what I should do, then I’m doing it. He’s waited his turn. He and Aaron, none of it is their skill. It’s all

physical play. Are you physical enough to stay in games. And in this game they were. But look, we

had a di8erent lineup. I was going to play Justin at four today. And that worked out really well

because now you have four guards out there with a big. That’s why I keep coming back to, we can

do this all kind of di8erent ways and we just have to have everybody ready when their opportunity

comes up. Rob was good, Reed was good, Antonio was good. You know, that time o8 for DJ has got

him a little o8 timing and o8 rhythm. It just has. You understand he was a 40% three point shooter.

When you see him make free throws like everyone. Then you start saying well, the timing is o8. He

took two and a half weeks o8 and didn’t bounce a ball. He’ll be back. But what he does for us, he

fights on defense, he fights over ball screens, he comes up with balls. The point of our defense

when it’s him, we are pretty good. We are. Now, LSU, I didn’t play him and they scored 48% in the

second half.

Q Cal, going back to Justin. Aside from the ten for ten, he rips a 50-50 ball out of the hands and

starts a break. He starts a break and has a strong o6ensive rebound, how much of that do you

think went along with the scoring?

JOHN CALIPARI: That’s what I told him. The one where he got fouled over his back he reached with

one hand. But that rebound in tra8ic, he grabbed it with two hands and jerked it out. You know, they

are understanding. They are starting to understand. Like I said, Z did some good stu8 today. They

were, you know, Adou did some good stu8 today. Gave up some 3s’s. Our plan of what we were

trying to do, it wasn’t to contest 3s, it was not, it was don’t give them any. We are going to give them

some dunks and layups. Did we. I didn’t think they could beat us shooting twos, if we said if we are

going to give up something it’s going to be that. I told them, I said you know, the way they were

locked in prior to this game, two games ago. We’ve got to get locked in and young kids, they just,

they lose focus and then they get in the game and they start panicking a little bit. This was a good

win. Against a good team, by the way. A scoring team. The other thing I said just so you know, we

may have to outscore these guys. That may be how we try to win the game.

Q Cal, you mentioned Justin at the four, a di6erent line-up – those three guards Justin and Z. I

think they scored 28 points in six minutes. What did you see from that?

JOHN CALIPARI: I thought they were good and I left them in. All I said was if you need a sub, I’m

going to sub you out but you will go right back in because this unit is really pretty good.

Q John, you said you felt in your gut you needed to play Z more. What have you seen – ?

JOHN CALIPARI: Not play Z more. I’m putting him in as the first big guy tomorrow. And then if he

didn’t deserve more minutes. I wouldn’t have played him more. He went in and I just said, I watch

him in practice.

Q Well, Thats what I’m asking. What have you seen from him to give you that feeling?

JOHN CALIPARI: It’s like Jordan. It’s hard when you’re not playing to get in there and perform. It’s

hard to stay the course because you know these kids are hearing from everybody. But what I saw

and what – two things, Georgia wants to hard show pick and rolls, so what’s open, the middle. Well

Z is really good in there. That’s why I said him and Aaron may play more this game because of that.

There have been other games Ugo played 36 minutes because of how they played, the other teams.

I’m just happy that he got a chance. Robert played really good today. Made all kinds of easy plays.

We didn’t turn it over like the last game. 10 turnovers, 24 assists. Then you say why don’t they play

that way all the time? I don’t know, why don’t you ask them. Because we are not changing practice.

We are not doing anything di8erent. But – good group of guys.

Q John, how hard is it to get, as you mentioned, a young team to understand that, you know, at

one point you guys were shooting 70% for the game in the second half and it’s not always going

to come easy. Sometimes you are going to have to win a game – ?

JOHN CALIPARI: It’s like we shot 38% down at LSU. We didn’t move the ball or pass it to one

another. We defended in the first half which gave us a chance. And we still could have won. I would

have been really happy. 38% from the floor and you win a game. That means you were defended but

we didn’t defend in the second half. You have to win games all kinds of di8erent ways. The best

thing with this group. A year ago – even two years ago. If a guy played bad we didn’t have, well we

would put in him and him. If they played bad they play bad and they are not machines and not

robots. Now it is, alright, try somebody else. You can go right down the line. We’ve got a full roster

of guys that all can play basketball.

Q Coach, you said there are multiple ways you guys can do this and you also said it’s about

how locked-in they were today. What is the balance of team by team, the personnel you are

playing against and these guys staying locked in. Where is the balance?

JOHN CALIPARI: They are freshman. Well, you look awful. Well, I didn’t sleep last night, I don’t

know, I was playing video games all night. They are 19 year olds, they do stupid stu8. They get in

the game and their minds not into it. We got the youngest team in the country but we have a

talented team. Like I said I’m not trading them for anybody. I believe in them. The building was

unbelievable today. The fans were like – it was crazy. That’s what makes this what it is.

Q Coach, it’s hard to repeat a performance like this to put up 100+ points with 10 minutes to go

and you had a big game against Auburn and you came up and won that game?

JOHN CALIPARI: We play di8erent, didn’t we? aSo you are playing to win. You won’t believe this. So

how do we have to play to win? Di8erent games you got to play di8erent. This one I thought we may

have to outscore them. Because of how good they are all o8ensively.

Q How do you get this team. They had a letdown against LSU and they did it for the big games

but what about the – ?

JOHN CALIPARI: And again, I probably believed too much in them. I’m thinking we will get LSU, it

may be hard game because they are really playing well. They had Florida beat. They beat South

Carolina. They are really playing well. Don’t look at their record. They are playing well right now. If

we get them and get this then we are playing for first place. We lost a couple, we missed a free

throw. No no, you make the free throw and we win that game. Now all of a sudden we are in first

place. You are trying to get your team, like I said before this game. I need you to think in terms of

your mindset being, if that free-throw, do you know that free-throw went down – bang – went up to

the top of the backboard. Do you know which one I’m talking about? And came back and went in.

Let’s say that didn’t go and we won this game. Why don’t you think in terms of that. We didn’t play

great down there and give LSU credit but let’s think as though we won. We beat Auburn, we beat

them, we beat this and we beat that and now let’s go and play and have that, young kids, you know,

are they going to get overwhelmed by stu8. That’s my job to keep them going. You can’t deal with

the clutter. All the outside stu8. Everybody has an opinion. That’s great. I agree. Can we just move

on now. You know, and this team, they are doing good stu8. All right. Let me go do this.






FEBRUARY 24, 2024

Kentucky Student-Athletes

#1, Justin Edwards, G

On how his performance felt tonight…

It felt good. I had been struggling mentally the whole season so to go out there and to play how I did felt good.”


On if he felt he always had the mindset to perform well…

Yes, me and Coach Cal always talk about it, and he tells me he believes in me, and I tell him I believe in him. I stay in the gym, and I just believe in God.”


On how the four-point play felt…

You know something crazy, that is my first time shooting a three and getting fouled, so I did not know how to react.”


#15, Reed Sheppard

On Justin’s performance  …

“Yeah, that’s really hard and especially where he was at the beginning of the season mentally. And he’ll tell you he’s just had to fight and just stay positive and talk to people about it. And he’s really grown from it. And now he’s back. He’s getting his rhythm and is finding out who he is as a player and it’s really fun.”


On the offensive performance of the Kentucky team   …

“Yeah, I mean, you know, we go against each other every day in practice, we see it every day we make shots in practice. Everybody on the team gets in the gym and works out all day and gets up a lot of shots. And everybody can play. You know, that’s the good thing about this team is everyone no matter what can play really good basketball. So, it makes it easy out there playing when you can pass and pass and to shoot and just have fun. So, I knew it was coming and it’s something that we’re gonna continue to get better at just playing with each other and sharing the ball.”


On the defense effort from Kentucky …

“Yeah, for sure. I mean, Alabama is a really, really good team, and they’re a really good three-point shooting team, so we had to work to take those away from them and we stuck to our game plan really well. And that’s what happens when we stick together and stick to the game plan and just have confidence and faith in each other.”


#44, Zvonimir Ivisic, F

On how much fun it was to play in a game like that…

“I had a lot of fun to be honest. My time finally came, I enjoyed my teammates, I had a lot of fun.”


On what it took to earn his time today…

“Just stay focused, practice and stay locked in, while staying focused.”


On if any other team has a gear like this in the country when the team plays like it did…

“No, I think if we play like this, we are going to do something special this season. So we just need to stay locked in like how we were an hour ago and great things will happen.”




FEBRUARY 24, 2024


Alabama Head Coach Nate Oats

Opening statement…

“Kentucky was ready to play tonight, we weren’t. Cal and his guys were ready to go. I didn’t. They looked great, we looked awful. Our defensive intensity was not there, and I told our guys after the game we’ve had question marks about our defense all year. Those question marks are completely erased. Everybody knows we don’t really guard at this point. Thought our effort stunk and you know part of the issue was we turned it over and they scored 29 points off our 16 turnovers so you can’t turn the ball over that much just starting back guarded too many turnovers. We need to do a better job tagging them and taking care of the ball, but you know we had given up 16 points in transition not including the points off turnovers. Take the 29 points off turnovers 16 other points in transitional so you’re at 45 points before you even give your half-court defense a chance to get a stop and then once they’ve gone half court I didn’t think they were that great in there so, on Kentucky they shot the ball pretty well. They’re supposed to be a team who can shoot and they shot it twice cause we did 54% from three, 64% from the field and any kind of decent defense was played in the last 8 minutes when I thought the game was already over I’m guessing Kentucky pride was coached in the end so there’s not a lot of positives about this. The only positive is we played well enough on offense through the course of the year to be tied for first place after that earned us effort so we got three, four games left so we gotta get these guys a little more motivated to play harder on defense.”


On transition defense and transition turnovers… 

“Yeah, I mean we knew transition defense was key to the game and we knew if we turned it over, it was gonna fuel their transitions, so you know I didn’t have a third point guard to put in that wasn’t gonna turn it over, you know. Would’ve helped to have Latrell Wrightsell, but he wasn’t gonna make up 22 points tonight, but you know he is shooting better than the rest of our guys and taking care of the ball better than the rest of ‘em so woulda helped to have him but certainly wouldn’t have made a difference in today. We needed everybody to play a lot better but I’m not sure what else I would’ve done to change up. Certainly not gonna walk the ball off the floor I don’t know if that woulda helped anyways; turn the ball over more probably. Most of our points, most of our turnovers weren’t transition turnovers they were just careless passes being careless with the ball, throwing it straight to the other team and picking roll. You know I would have to go through all 16 of the turnovers to tell you all of them but yeah, we knew that there was some transition, we couldn’t turn it over. We turn it over and I felt there were too many guys to not give us an effort to get back in transition get matched up and made us pay. We suspected they would if we didn’t do a good job.”


On defensive issues …

“There’s no perfect offense. We gave up a 1.46 tonight. Best offense in the country. I don’t know if there’s many games in the country where somebody scored better than 1.46. So, you know Kentucky’s good offensive team and they’re top 19 coming into the game. We know that. Cal’s done a really good job kind of fixing the shooting, the issues he’s had in the past. You know, he recruited some shooters. They got some shooters and he had some other guys today, you know, Justin Edwards goes for four and he hadn’t been shooting it all that great. But you know, we let Dillingham, Shepherd, and Reeves all shoot over 50% too. so, you know, he’s done a good job getting his roster fixed to where they’ve got good shooting. He spaced the floor out. Obviously, they’re a better offence, but no, if the defense isn’t fixable we’re not going to be able to win big games.”


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