Men's Basketball
Kentucky-Vanderbilt Men's Basketball Postgame Quotes

Kentucky-Vanderbilt Men's Basketball Postgame Quotes


March 6, 2024

Lexington, Kentucky, USA Coach
John Calipari Press Conference
Kentucky 93, Vanderbilt



Q Coach, Antonio had his sixth straight games with 20 points. He now is tied with Jamaal Murray for the most points per game of the season. How much has his game elevated and how has he stacked up against the other elite scorers you had.?


JOHN CALIPARI: Great layup shooter. Mid-range game, as good as anybody in the country. And he’s shooting 50% from the three. What’s he do from the foul line? I think he’s missed one in the last 10 games. Every other one he’s made. For us, he’s also rebounding. He’s defending better. Look, he gained weight so now he’s a different player. He’s also has lived in the gym. When he misses he is stunned. Stunned. Because he’s shooting 5000 shots every two weeks or more. 8000, whatever it is. The guy is putting up shots. Sometimes you just got to show up every day. Show up every day even if you’re not the best. At your best. You show up and he does. But I’ll tell you Robert, again, he just did stuff that separates the team. He and Z together. I wanted those two in. When he got his third foul, I let the thing go a little bit cause I looked him and I said we will be fine. I put him back in and he makes play, play, play, ballgame. DJ made threes. He’s back to shooting over 40% from the three. Tre is where DJ was 10 days ago, two weeks ago. You take of that kind of time, it’s going to affect you offensively. It’s going to affect your motor. You are going to be a little bit behind the action. But he came up with a big rebound. He made a basket near the goal which we needed. So, he will be fine. By the way, Adou, stuck him in the game. He’s the one that rebounded and ofensive rebounded for us. Justin made the shots that we needed in the second half to create some space but give Vanderbilt credit. They played good. They played good.

Q Cal, you mentioned just about the entire team there. I know you like to shorten the rotation once tournament time comes. Is that possible with this team? Or is this going to be a gut thing?

JOHN CALIPARI: I don’t think so. I don’t think so. Because Z wasn’t at his best today and then Aaron got pushed around so we had to go with Ugo. We needed ofense at the end to separate so you go back with Z. We can also play Justin at four. We have been good with Justin at four which we were again today. So some of it is the feel of the game. Yeah, we are diferent. And I say it again, we got enough guys we have room for error. Somebody fouls, somebody is just not playing well. Okay.

Just be ready for the next game and we will finish this without you and don’t worry about it, we’re all good. But you know, we out rebounded, 27 assists. I mean we’re doing – we’ve got to get Reed at late game stuf. How about the pass he threw to Antonio. Why would you do that? We can’t do those kind of things late.

Now, Mississippi State, he made that shot. What about the passing through – he’s better than that. I told him you can’t take that many chances those last four or five minutes. Just play solid. And he can do that. And then, the way he is shooting the ball. You’ve got to guard him. The space is the court and we get to the rim. Yes?


Q Cal, we know how dangerous Rob can be in isolation but we saw at the end of that game him facilitating guys like Z. How dangerous is he also kind of as a play creator for people around him?



JOHN CALIPARI: If he is choosing to play that way, he’s as good as there is in the country. He really is. If he chooses to play that way, sometimes he’s not choosing to pass it and I’m going to try to score this. Today he took one bad shot. He knew it. But I gave him one play a half that way. And I don’t say much. But if it goes to two or three, you are out. Because we respect the fact that we are giving you the ball and letting you go. Just make easy plays, shoot the ball. There was a play that I told them, I said we are snapping it and he kept it and did his step back and just threw one. Now he was hoping it went in so he could say okay, But it didn’t so he looked at me, my fault, no kidding it is your fault. But it’s one half. That is fine. What he’s doing by us letting him go a little bit. It’s demoralizing. If you are on that other side. Make three threes in a row. Make two layups and two passes for dunks. He’s good, I told him today the greatest thing about him and I said for him what I was saying to him, if I take you out, you don’t have to say anything. The whole building is mad at me. So you are fine. They are mad, why is he taking him out. That’s why he started laughing. I said you have to get mad, they are mad at me. Just be ready to go back in and play.



Q I know Reed has some work to do late game situation but I’m curious when you are talking to him on and of the court does he think like a player or does he think like a coach?


JOHN CALIPARI: He’s got a coaches mentality. Like he will come to me with stuff like different players, you know. He’s the greatest in that. Just give it to Robert and we will get away from it. Like, think about that. People are talking about Reed too. And he’s like, yeah, let him do his thing. I’m fine.

Great teammate, terrific player, unbelievable feel and reactions. Except you’ve got to recognize with three-four minutes to go it’s not early in the second half where you can go try some stuf. But he will be better. I just said to him, I didn’t raise my voice. I said you are better than what you are playing at the end of games. You are turning it over and leaving 3-point shooters and you are doing stuf. You are too good, you are too good of player. I’m saying this, I love coaching him because he’s an unbelievable teammate. The guys know they can count on him.

Q Cal, there was that stretch for a month where DJ in games missed 15 straight threes.


JOHN CALIPARI: He was out two and a half weeks and did not touch a basketball. You would miss 40 in a row.



Q I would miss way more than that because I’m not a D1 athlete.



JOHN CALIPARI: And lay-ups. You would shoot airballs and a layups. You didn’t even have to take time off to do that. Go Ahead.



Q He made 9 out of his last 14 over the last three game. How much more dangerous does that make him and unlock even more parts of his game?



JOHN CALIPARI: Well. I told him the whole time. Look, I believe in you and it’s going to take time. You took two and a half weeks off and didn’t touch a basketball. The thing that goes, his energy, his toughness, his defense, none of that went. It was – couldn’t make a shot. So now like you just said, he’s like 50% or better from the three when he was 0 for whatever. Look, his whole life he has been chased. People have tried to make a name at his expense. He knows how to deal with it folks. If you are chasing your whole life and you come to Kentucky and now they are chasing you, you may not respond the same way. These guys have all been chased their whole careers. They were chased. So they know how to deal with it. They are just – the problem is they are 19 and the guy they are going against is 24, 23, that becomes a little bit of an issue.

Q Cal, just big picture for these guys. How beneficial has this month been before getting ready for Knoxville and then the SEC tournament, having just this string of games where they are playing and clicking like this?



JOHN CALIPARI: What we did learn was we had some trap games in there we didn’t respond. You know how worried I was about the Arkansas game. I hate to tell you, I was worried about this game too. If you were at our shootaround. You would know. I was not mean or nasty but I was on it.

Because I needed them to be on it because I knew Vandy would come out and play well like every team that we play. And that wewere going to have to play well over 40 minutes and we could get them. But you are not going to play bad. We would have been down 12, 15 at the half. We made some shots to go up 5. So, you know, you want them to learn about trap games. And every game this team plays, they are the youngest team in the country. Every game they play, it’s another experience they get to see. When you’re playing against 23 and 24 year olds, they’ve been through all of these experiences. These kids have not. Vandy came out and tried to throw some zone at us. They did some different things. I thought we responded. Appreciate it.





MARCH 6, 2024



#12, Antonio Reeves, G

On emotions when playing in Rupp for the last time…
“Definitely emotional, seeing all the fans and my family and all the emotions came running to me as soon as I came out there. I am very appreciative and blessed to be in this position.”

On going through it all last year and being able to experience it again…
“It was different, I didn’t expect to come back but it was the same emotions really, the last game at Rupp really means a lot to me, and being able to experience it again is everything”

On how far this team has come since November…
“Very far, the young guys stuck with it and got better every day and that is how we got better. Everyone was locked into practice and we got better each and every game.”

#15, Reed Sheppard, G

On conversations late in the game with Cal… 

“Yeah, just being smarter with the ball and just doing what we need to do and not trying to force anything. And you know just do what I do the whole game and just make the right Reed and make the right play and not try and make something happen towards the end of the game.”


On getting to play in Rupp one last time… 

“Yeah, it was awesome, you know. Especially being able to go out with a dub for the seniors and going out one last time with them and it was really really cool. Special to me, and you know this year has flown by, and just being able to play in Rupp in front of the best fans in the world for a lot of games this year was awesome.”


On Rupp going crazy when he scores and if he hears it…  

“There’s sometimes that I’ll hear it and it’s really cool. You know because I used to be sitting in the stands cheering when people hit shots and now they’re cheering when I hit the shot, so it is pretty cool being out there and hearing the crowd get loud.”


On his trust in Rob as a player…  

“Yeah, I mean Rob is an unbelievable player. So is DJ, Antonio, and everyone else on the team is really really talented. You know anyone you pass through can pass dribble and shoot, so it’s really fun being able to play with people like that and you can trust them to go hit a bucket, make you look good even if you just pass it to them they can create something.”

#21, D.J. Wagner, G

On playing with Kareem…
“It was fun, it brings back a lot of memories of when we were younger. Being able to play on the same team coming, so it was fun. Brings back a lot of memories.”

On knocking down some shots…
“It felt good, seeing those shots fall in. That’s a part of the game, just come with the game. So I just really try not to focus on that. Like if I miss a shot I don’t let it determine the rest of the game, I try to do all the smart things, the little things. My coaches and teammates help me with that by just telling me to keep shooting and just stay confident no matter what.”

On playing with Rob…
“Playing with him is amazing, he makes the game a lot easier for all of us, just all of thereat things he can do. He can score, he can pass, he can do anything, so it’s amazing that he makes the game a lot easier for all of us. It’s fun as well just to be able to be out there when you see him do all the great things he does.”


Opening statement…

“I thought that was really highly contested game you know. Kentucky is really good, talented offensive team. The best that I’ve seen I think since I’ve been here, just down the line multiple guys step behind the three I think we probably had seven guys tonight with at least three made field goals and they’re tough to cover. I thought our guys competed and ran out of gas a little bit in the second half. We had to run our guys a little bit longer as they were tired. I thought they both played well the younger guys. JQ Roberts and Malik Presley came in and did some nice things for us as well. Ven-Allen Lubin competed as well. But just again, tough team, I think it’s time for a big run this year.”

On how Dillingham puts himself in a position to be consistent every night…

“Well, I would say he is so shifty. I think that’s the word that I would describe him, and I saw him in high school. I mean, I knew him when he was at Combine Academy when he played against my teammates from North Carolina. And when I saw him, I just, I didn’t know if he was big enough right at the time when I first saw him as a ninth grader, but he continued to grow in, and it just got better. I mean, that kid really gotten better, and he’s a tough cover for anybody. He’s the guy that’s capable of exploding and going for 25 or 30 on any given night. I think that’s why you’re seeing him projected on the draft boards and his own because he has that type of ability. You know, being able to play one on one create off the dribble kind of kind of Kyrie Irving like and I think once he continues to grow as a defender, right, I mean, he’s going to be a guy that you try to pick on it, but I think he has to that same shift in this that he has on offense he can apply that and become a good on-ball defender as well.”

On how the second time playing Kentucky was different than the first time this season…

“Well, they really kind of blissed us. I thought we took care of the ball a lot better tonight. That was something they really tee off on everybody. You don’t take good shots and you turn the ball over. But think probably Reed Shepard is one of the best that I’ve seen at those outlets. You make a mistake at transition, or you know you’re not closing out there and he along with being a knockdown shooter his ability to hit up the floor. He got us a couple of times tonight just because we were trying to press him in or we didn’t turn around and see the ball and it’s on a zipline to where it needs to go but they’re a very, very talented team again, I know they’re talking about trying to get better defensive and I think they’re doing that. That’d be a challenge for them in a tournament but offensively they’ve been able to score with anybody else.”

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