Video: Calipari talks about Wiltjer’s defense, Poythress physicality, Harrow situation, etc.

Coach Calipari discusses the Cats 81-70 on Wednesday night.  Transcript below.  For more on the Wildcats, visit and be sure to visit us regularly for all your news on basketball, past present and future.

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COACH CALIPARI: Yes, questions?

Q. What do you think of Morehead’s play tonight and your kids’ reaction to it?

COACH CALIPARI: We started the game shooting all jump shots, because it was the easiest thing to do. You got to give Morehead credit they just came after us, got up under us, got body-to-body, hand checking. Needed it. It’s exactly — I said it before the game: They are going to come after us, and we didn’t respond early. You can’t shoot jumpers in a game like that, and what happened was we just started saying, okay throw it to the post every time, we threw it to Alex (Poythress) or Archie (Goodwin) in the post. Couldn’t throw it to Nerlens (Noel) early because he couldn’t make a free-throw. We can throw it to you, but if you’re not making free-throws, how do we keep throwing it to you? You’ve got to make your free-throws. What, are you going to miss two more and two more and two more?

It was a good game for us. You walk out again, we don’t rebound on the offensive end, yet we gave up rebounds. We’re shooting a high percentage, we’re making free-throws. They shoot 36%; it’s not as though they shot 55% against us. Alex and Archie were tremendous, for young kids, but we just — they wanted Kyle (Witljer), and I told Kyle, “This isn’t last year. You want to be on the court, you got to guard somebody. They went at you every single time.”

He’s got to learn. He’s also got to come up with balls. Willie (Cauley-Stein) looked a little overwhelmed because it got a little physical. You want to stay in the game you better fight like heck. If not, sit over here, let the two guys play.

Look, we are where we are. I watched 20 minutes of the game the other night. These dudes — it’s like they’re in February right now. They have their teams back, they’re hyped up. We’re not there. We’re just trying to get better.

Q. Can you update a little on Ryan Harrow?

COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, he practiced for two days. I say, “practiced” in the facility with us. He called yesterday and said, “Coach I’ve got an issue I’ve got to deal with, and my mom is here, and I’ve got to deal with it.”

If I knew more, I would keep it from you, but I don’t know more.

Q. Question regarding when  would return to the team …

COACH CALIPARI: Yes, it should be this weekend. It may be Friday but I don’t know. We all love the kid, we want him to do well, we’re trying to walk him through this. Mom is a little concerned; he’s a great kid. We need him, but it’s bigger than basketball for me.

You want the kid to be right, and you want to make sure in his mind he’s right.

Q. You’ve said that is not for everyone. Is Ryan struggling with the adjustment of this?

COACH CALIPARI: I don’t think so. No, I don’t think it’s that. Might be some of it, but I don’t believe that. He was getting better; that’s the sad thing about it. He had — I was all over him.

I just saw Alex’s father and I said, “You know, I’m on him half the game, and he’s playing better and better, but he’s only 50% of the way there now.”

His dad said, “That’s why he came here. He wanted to be challenged, and he wanted to be coached, and he wanted to be pushed, and that’s what my son needed.”

They know that coming here. This is an open book; this is not we embellish and — we don’t do it. So I think he’s fine. My hope is he comes back this weekend, and he’s got to start on the road getting with the team and practicing and seeing where we are. His weight is still down, though.

Q. You talk about you can tell them what it’s like when you try to simulate it in practice, but when they play a team like this do they get the message?

COACH CALIPARI: Let me ask you: How did people play us last year? They played us exactly the same way. Now what I see is that’s how everybody is going to play us. You’ve got to mush and hope it’s a day that they’re not getting low and they’re not getting through bumps and we bail out on shots.

The minute a guy took a fade-away, I subbed him out. You’re either a man or you’re sitting down, because they’re coming after your face, so go at the rim or sit. If you couldn’t come up with balls in this game, I put somebody else in. The issue is I played Archie and Alex too many minutes, and you won’t believe this but I wanted to win. I didn’t want to lose the game, and those two had a will to win. Their will to win was unbelievable. Nerlens’ was good, but he didn’t have as much energy, and I liked the fact that they pushed and shoved on him because it makes him fight back.

Q. They were up 16-6, you call the time-out. Alex comes out, dunks it, scores 8 points in the next four or five minutes. What is that button you pushed?

COACH CALIPARI: We threw him the ball. We said, “We’re posting Alex and we’re posting Archie. The rest of you dudes get out of the way. If you want to win, you’ll figure out stuff to do.” This isn’t brain surgery. Alex and Archie had it going, you keep going to him. My staff, the whole time, was saying, “You know it’s Archie and Alex” — “I know, I know. What do you want me to do? These other guys are out on the court. You should let them touch the ball a little bit.”

The only thing I can tell you is we got a ways to go. There are a lot of teams better than us right now but I will say this: I like my team. We haven’t figured out how we have to play but I like my team.

Q. At the end of the ballgame I saw Poythress grabbing his hamstring, is he —

COACH CALIPARI: He’s fine. Archie had the cramps, and they’re both fine, they were just — they’re good.

Q. As you know, Morehead had 16 offensive rebounds. What’s going on there? Is that getting better?

COACH CALIPARI: We’re better. We got some tough rebounds, Alex got a bunch of tough ones, Nerlens got some; Kyle is still not getting any tough rebounds. And when you look at this, if I go back, the long, bouncing balls that we don’t get, those are guards, those aren’t our big guys. But the ones around the goal that we don’t get, those are our big people, and we will keep analyzing it and breaking it down and showing them on tape and obviously we got to get better. We can’t give up 16 offensive rebounds.

What they did is they just came right after us. You got to give them credit for how they played.

Q. The problems you key with Kyle on defense, does that concern you? You thought he would be better at this stage or no big worries —

COACH CALIPARI: No, I don’t have any worries because if he doesn’t guard, he’s not playing; it’s real simple. I told him, I said it to him in front of the team, “If this is what other teams do to us, the minute I see it, if you don’t stop the guy, do something to stop him, then you’re out, and I’ll play Willie or I’ll go small and go Alex at 3, and we will go three guards.”

I was going to do that tonight, and I didn’t, because I want to get Willie time. I need Willie to be out there. But I almost did that and went small. But Kyle is capable. But, listen, here it is: You stop the man or you’re sitting. Would you figure it out? You better try like heck, and I told him after, “Kyle, you know I love you, but you’re not playing and guarding that way; I’m just telling you now.”

Q. Question regarding Kyle Witjer’s play …

COACH CALIPARI: He’s got to anticipate, he’s got to be rougher, he’s got to be nasty. You don’t want to be nasty, you’re probably not going to play. Doesn’t mean dirty, it means playing people before angles and all those things, but I’m going to tell you, playing that way is really, really hard. It’s easier to loping up and down and letting the guy catch it and then trying to play him, obviously that’s not getting it done.

Q. Quick turnaround to Friday night. What will you and the team do over the next few days?

COACH CALIPARI: We’re going to have Thanksgiving at my house tomorrow. We’re going to do a walk-through later in the afternoon; we’re not going to practice. We may do a little bit of film stuff at my house, and then we’re going to do a movie — there is a movie that I want them to see. We may do that tomorrow night and go Friday.

As you know, we always give them off Christmas. They’re going home for three or four days, I don’t care. Mainly because I want to be with my family, to be truthful, but it gives them a chance to go home, and I’ve done that every year I’ve coached. We never will stay here over Christmas, not happening. I won’t play in a tournament that we would have to miss Christmas; that’s time with our families. Usually I give them a day and a half off over Thanksgiving. The way the schedule fell it’s not what’s happening, so we will just have to deal with it.

Q. When they were down like that, was there something that you saw in them where they were starting to get it, it’s like, we have to react to this pressure, we have to do some things differently?

COACH CALIPARI: No, I was thinking it’s going to be a long Thanksgiving is what I was thinking. I didn’t know and hadn’t seen these guys in this environment. You have to understand, I’m learning about my team and they’ve got to be thrown in situations like this. We need another team to play a zone the whole game. We need another team to do what this team does, foul you and get up into and grab you, and I know there is one more we’re playing, there may be a couple.

We got to play those guys. We’ve got to play a team that’s going to hold the ball, spread the court and hold the ball and make us play defense for 35 seconds and shoot a three. We need all those kind of games.

Q. In the game 15-0 run, tonight a 16-0 run. Is there any similarities you’re seeing from your guys when they’re giving up these long runs?

COACH CALIPARI: We’re not stopping them, and we’re not scoring. (Chuckles.) It’s not brain surgery, no. Look, there were a couple of plays where we didn’t come up with balls and didn’t block the shot, and I looked at the guy, “Why didn’t you get the ball?” “Well I tried.” “You tried?” “Why didn’t you block that?” “I tried.” You what? We’re in the mode where we think it’s okay to try. What about them? “They tried harder.” “I know he tried harder than me, but I did try.” That ain’t getting it. That’s what happens when you get a bunch of young guys. We’re getting better. Isn’t it nice that we were down and had to fight back? And how about the second half? They didn’t go away, and I think we got down 6 again and we had to come back.

It’s good for us. It’s what this team needs. There are games you may be up 25, but what do you learn other than okay we got stats and nice stats and all — this is how you learn. Let a team come in and bang you around and do their thing, you know? Thanks.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports


#22, Alex Poythress, F

On if the game was as physical as it looked… 
“Yes it was. It was really physical. They were punching us in the mouth and we were trying to punch them in the mouth. All in all, we won the game so that is all that matters.”

On how his leg is doing… 
“It’s alright. It was just a cramp that was bothering me. I’ll be fine.”

On if he is playing at the level Coach Calipari wants him to… 
“I think I am making strides. It’s hard playing for a coach that demands so much, but I just try to continue to try my hardest.”

#10, Archie Goodwin, G

On being carried off the court…
“That was a first. If I would’ve got up, it would’ve been ugly. I couldn’t have gotten up because my leg was cramping to bad.”

On Morehead’s intensity…
“They came out with a lot more intensity then we anticipated they were going to come out with. That was the reason we played the way we did. Second half, we turned it up and we got the win.”

On what made their performance change … 
“It was just (Cal) preaching intensity and being tough, that was really the whole reason for the speech we got at halftime. We came out and showed a little bit of both and we got the win.”

On his will to win…
“Me and Alex both came out trying to win. We didn’t want to lose especially this early in the season to Morehead. They played their heart out tonight and that’s a good team, but that’s just one of the teams you can’t lose to, especially at a time like this. We came out in the second half, brought it together and we said we have to step it up and that’s what we did.”

#3, Nerlens Noel, C

On what they learned from the game … 
“We definitely have to come prepared for the physicality. We know if a team is not as talented, that is something they are going to do. They were very physical and we just have to be prepared for that.”

On how long it took to find their footing with the style that Morehead played with … 
“It took us a little bit to get used to. We started off shooting too many jumpers but at the start of the second half, coach really got into us and just really told us we have to toughen up. I think that’s what we did.”

On if the team was prepared to face a team like Morehead with their style … 
“I think we were prepared but you don’t know what it’s like until you experience it. They hit us but we definitely just kept fighting back and staying strong and staying in the game.”

On what went through the team’s head when Morehead went on a 16-0 run early in the game … 
“We just stayed focused. We have had deficits before, being down against Duke. We just stay together as a team and brothers and just bring each other together and we rallied in the second half.”

Head Coach

Opening statement … 
“My guys battled tonight against a great team on their home floor. We gave them everything we had, we just couldn’t hold on. You’ve got to tip your hat off to for sustaining, taking our blows and finding a way to win. I’m proud of the effort of my team as we continue to grow on this new journey. We’re not there yet, but I like where we’re going. I can’t say too much, not enough, about the effort and the passion that they brought tonight against Kentucky.”

On dealing with Kentucky’s point guards… 
“We didn’t wide them a lot because John (Calipari) did a good job of spreading us out to where we couldn’t trap. The only thing we could trap was ball screens. We couldn’t trap in our full court pressure, but we kept enough pressure on them to where they just couldn’t breathe and make easy cuts or easy passes. That’s how we were having success early in the game not letting the bigs catch it easily. We pushed them out some. We just wanted to be physical, and keep a body on them for 40 minutes.”

On ’s style of play reflecting the personality of its head coach… 
“What do you think? How did they look tonight? They look just like me right? They see me every day, and that’s how we’re going to be every day. We’re going to fight. Nothing’s given to us. We’re considered underdogs even in our own conference. Every day we step out in practice and in games we have got to have a chip on our shoulders that we have something to prove.”

On coaching a game in Rupp Arena against his alma mater … 
“This was my third time. I thought my third time would be the charm. I’m very, very proud of my team. I got a lot out of tonight. I think we proved to ourselves that we belong. Just got to tweak the little things, continue to get better because we’re worried about at the end. We’re going to face a team like Kentucky again throughout the year. Hopefully by the time it’s tournament time and things like that we’ll be ready to seize the moment.”

On this game being a learning experience… 
“We learned a lot about ourselves today. We learned that we can compete with some of the best teams in the country if we just stick to our guns. We missed a couple of block outs that were key down the stretch because it made them get a couple of runs and a couple of 3-point plays. All in all, being this early in the game and me being a new coach with this team and these guys all being new to me, I’m happy where we are right now.”


#24, Milton Chavis, F

On if being physical with Kentucky bothered them at all…
“We just tried to use our physicality and see if we could shake the other team. They won so I guess they fought right with us. We are just going to keep battling and see what happens the rest of the season.”

On the 16-2 UK run early in the first half…
We just really tried to keep our composure. All teams make runs; it’s a game of runs. We were expecting it we just have to fight harder next time.”

On gaining confidence after playing in this environment…
“We just want to win, that’s all we want to do. This game is behind us, it’s a thing of the past and we are just going to move forward and keep trying to win and do whatever we have to do in practice to keep getting better.”

On if this was a moral victory…
“No we want to win. We want to win. There is no such thing as a moral victory in our locker room. We are just going to keep getting better.”

On what Kentucky did best…
“They attacked the pressure. They got some fouls by driving the lane, making plays getting to the basket, so we just have to cut down on our fouls.”

#00, Drew Kelly, F

On the number of fouls called… 
“We put ourselves in some situations where we were more-foul prone as a team. We’re never going to blame a game on a ref for the foul discrepancy or anything; we’re not going to cry over that. It was a hard-fought game, it was a very physical game and we just have to be a little more disciplined in where we place ourselves.”

On the close rebounding margin… 
“They’re very long, very athletic. They hardly have to jump and they’re there at the rim. All week we worked on really boxing out, really getting into guys. It was hard fought, so I guess from a rebounding standpoint to only be down by two, you could say we’re proud of that.”

On Morehead’s aggressive play… 
“We wanted to be aggressive defensively and offensively. They’re a very young team, and no knock on Kentucky, they’re a great team and they’re going to make a run in the tournament, but we tried to use their youth to our advantage. We knew they were young – they’re talented as all get out. We tried to use their youth to make them think, maybe they’ll pull back and not be as aggressive. But I thought they were still aggressive even with our defense.”