Kentucky head coach John Calipari addresses questions from the media after Kentucky defeated Lipscomb 88-50 at Rupp Arena on Sat., Dec. 15. See full transcript below video.
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Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari
Q. Coach, they shot 50% in the first half, and did a better job, the kids did a better job at 21% in the second half. How worried are you that six of your opponents have shot 49% or better?
COACH CALIPARI: Our field goal percentage, defensively, overall is not bad. But what we’ve had is one or two guys breakdown and not guard them. It’s frustrating, but we’ve gotten better. We talked a little bit better today. Not where we need to be.
What I want to do is get to a point where I don’t have to yell, “Talk.” That’s a great strategy that I’m thinking about, “talk.” Then I don’t have to yell, “Stay in the stance!” That’s another great strategy. “Help, get off, get off.” That’s what we’re doing. There is nothing to do basketball wise.
That’s where we are as a team, and that’s why we’re going through what we’re going through. But hopefully we’ll show incremental changes. It’s a process with a team this young. It’s a process.
Q. Kyle Wiltjer shot the ball a lot better today, also rebounded the ball.
COACH CALIPARI: I don’t care whether he made shots, he got 12 rebounds. You could say, well, they weren’t that big. Well, that big kid had nine rebounds at halftime. My two big guys had three, so we had to go in there and mix it up a little bit. The week before the game, we had several starters. Before we looked at it, like we had last year, some of them come off the bench and driving in. I said, you know what? I’m going to bring Kyle off the bench today. Figured it out an hour and a half before the game that that’s what I wanted to do.
I also thought Ryan (Harrow) has a ways to go. This again goes back, kind of head down versus — you’ve got to lead these guys and you’ve got to get them to talk, not me. But I thought he did better today. I told him, he needs to get ten or 12 points a game. That’s all we need from him, and he did it without forcing shots. That’s what we need.
Q. Lipscomb’s Coach said no disrespect to you guys, but the second half it was like you didn’t come out ready to play. Like they gave you every opportunity, and it was self-inflicted. Were you disappointed with the energy you got early?
COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, that’s why I changed the lineup. There’s not a whole lot you can do. I think what’s going to happen is there are going to be questions of why don’t you guys have energy? Why aren’t you playing? Why aren’t you competing? Are you afraid? What are you afraid of? It’s out there. I mean, somebody behind me said Alex (Poythress) is standing straight up and down. I went, wow. You guys are watching it too, huh?
So we all see it. Now we all want to see change. You can blame whatever you want to blame. “I walk to the locker room, it’s so far, and I get tired by the time I come back.” You can say whatever you want to say. But at the end of the day, everybody watching it in the building, on TV, want to see you compete at a higher level. They want to see you battle at a higher level.
Now we did battle them on the floor a bunch today, which is showing signs. But it’s, like I said, it’s kind of like, okay, we’ve gone five days, five days. Now you expect it to change in five days? These guys have been doing this for 18 years. Now let’s talk about it. Nine years, eight years, that is how they’ve been playing. Now we have to change it this week.
So we’ll go tomorrow morning, have breakfast. Go tomorrow afternoon, have dinner, tomorrow evening, and Monday. It’s on. Here we go. Then if you want to say I’m exhausted because of the workouts, okay. I’m all right with that. See, that is the main thing. We’re practicing so hard, I’ve got nothing left. Okay, I’d rather it be that than the walk to the locker room is too long and I think we need to switch this around. I don’t know what you say. But I still like my team.
Q. On starting Ryan Harrow over Kyle Wiltjer …
COACH CALIPARI: Well, it would have either been Kyle (Wiltjer) or Alex (Poythress), either one. I thought, well, let’s go with Ryan (Harrow), and let’s play Alex to see if he’ll compete those first four or five minutes and what will happen. He did okay. Still, again, I believe that Julius Mays out-rebounded him for the game. You can take that however you want to take it. But those numbers don’t lie.
Then in the second half I switched it up because he didn’t rebound. So I said, okay, let’s go with Kyle. Kyle had five and a half or something like that, or six.
Q. On Ryan Harrow’s aggressiveness …
COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, he just didn’t get the ball. He had two excuses. His big toe hurt, and the other guy slipped in front of him and didn’t block him out. He didn’t give us one, he gave us two. My big toe and the other guy didn’t block out. So that’s why we didn’t get the ball. Okay. What happened to your big toe? You’re out next time.
Q. Coach Scott Sanderson has compared you guys to Ole Miss because he played them. He mentioned Ole Miss’s guards were more physical, getting in, forcing more turnovers. Could you talk about that a little bit?
COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, if we don’t start changing we’re going to struggle. That’s just how it is. We’ve already struggled in any game that anybody had any physical toughness to them, we’ve struggled. You either want to change or you have your excuses of why it’s happening. Let’s just change. That’s my thing. What we’re doing is trying to get them to change. Now they can do this in workouts. So then the game starts, what? You’re right back to where you are. I’m only doing this because you’re making me do it. I don’t believe I have to do this. You’re making me do it? Okay. I’ll do it. We’ve got to get out of that.
Now we’ve got this week. We’ve got a couple of days to follow in a week. So you’ve got to accept that I’ve got to change. There is a plan. It’s not working the way we’re doing it.
Another thing is we’ve got to come together as a team. All this stuff, we like each other. Don’t talk, you’re selfish, bottom line. If you quit on a play, you’re selfish. You care more about how you feel than what the team needs. You can say what you want. I’m not selfish. Yes, you are. If you don’t talk to your teammates, you’re a selfish player.
If you don’t play to every possession, because your teammates need you to, you’re a selfish player.
We’ve got a bunch of good guys. They’re good kids and all those other things. But now we’ve got to crack this issue that we have players stopping on possessions, just quitting on the play, lack of communication on both offense and defense. You change. But I swear the coaches should not be coaching a game saying “talk.” That should not even come out of my mouth, and I’m saying it 410 times in the first half, and probably the same in the second half. The crazy thing is we’ve made strides. Now are we going to get where we need to go?
Q. Not to be spending all the time quoting the other coach, but he also said your kids would be fine, your team would be fine as long as they listened to you. And he said listening is a skill. Something they work on.
COACH CALIPARI: Sure, I don’t say I have all (the answers) — I’ll let you ask your second question. But here’s my thing. The one thing is that it’s not — if they are listening, they’re not changing, and that’s what was frustrating for me today. I thought I’d see more of a change. I saw little change.
We just went five days, and I saw little change. So if I see a little change in this next week, from that point on, folks, we’re not winning many. That’s a fact.
Now if I see change and change and change, it’s on. Everybody would say that’s where they thought they could go. They’re hearing, but they’re not listening. They’re hearing what we say, but they’re not listening to it. Sometimes you’ve got to hit rock bottom, but each individual right now thinks they’re good. Like, I’m okay. Individual guys. Thinking, I’m okay. Until they all start, you know, caving a little bit, but we’ll see.
Q. He also used the word resisting. Do you think your kids are resisting you?
COACH CALIPARI: I don’t know. You’d have to ask them. I know this. We’re doing a lot of running. If you watched us practice, there is not a whole lot of back and forth, get on the baseline, let’s go. We’re running less and less each practice because they’re listening more. But are they really hearing what we’re saying.
But, look, I’m not cracking at all. This is part of what I do. Having a young team does not bother me. I’ve had young teams before. Having a team that’s not responding as well as I’d want them to, that’s probably every year that I’ve coached. Maybe this is more so than other teams, but most of the time I’ve had players that held back. They scored 1200 college points, but I held them back. What are you going to score, 3,000 and be the leading scorer in the history of the game? So you’ll have some of that.
But as I said, I think again, the tape doesn’t lie. You watch a little bit of this tape, and you’ll see. Their big guy threw our big guys around. Then you talk about the guards at Mississippi. Wait till you see their big guys. The big guys at Tennessee, wait until you see their big guys. Their players are throwing us around is what happened.
Just be more physical. You’ve got to bend over. You can’t stand straight up and down. You can’t accept that he’s going to beat you to the spot. All those things right now throughout their careers have been acceptable. It’s not anymore. Well, we’re trying to change habits that they’ve developed over a period of time.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports
#5, Jarrod Polson, G
On what John Calipari is wanting them to do better after today’s game …
“It’s really just about effort. I thought we did some good things today, but the overall effort level probably wasn’t where it should have been.”
On how ‘Camp Cal’ practices have been this week …
“They have been pretty rough. We have been pretty competitive in practices doing more drills where we win or lose, not just going through things. It’s pretty much been all competitive and its been pretty rough, but I think it’s been good for us.”
On improving on communication on the floor …
“I think we have improved on everything, including today. I don’t know if we are just too tired, or not thinking as much, but communication has to get better.”
#33, Kyle Wiltjer, F
On what he did well in the game …
“Its always good to see some shots go in, but I just wanted to have a good rebounding game because that is what I struggled on. So I just wanted to become better at that and make strides. ”
On pregame strategy for rebounding…
“Just working hard in practice and getting in better shape. That really helps, and having the mentality of being ready on every play and don’t ever have the thought that someone else is going to get it. Just be aggressive and go after it.”
On what Coach Cal expects from him…
“Just be physical down there and be in position and when on defense boxing out.”
#12, Ryan Harrow, G
On the team’s performance …
“I thought we played better, I guess. I don’t know. I guess we all just have to play with intensity the whole game and don’t have the coaches telling us what we need to be doing. We just have to come out there and be ready to play.”
On listening to Coach Calipari …
“We just have to listen to what he says, go out there and execute it and not have him have to tell us during the game what we need to be doing. That’s his biggest thing. We did all of that in practice then we don’t do it in the game.”
On Kyle Wiltjer’s game …
“It’s real important. I don’t know how much we won by, I think its pretty big, but I think when all of us are clicking, it’ll be scary. Me scoring, Archie (Goodwin) scoring, Alex (Poythress) scoring, Kyle (Wiltjer) scoring, Julius (Mays) scoring, Nerlens (Noel) scoring, all of us playing well, it’ll be the team that everyone’s expecting and with this time off we’ll get to gel a little bit more. Come January and February, we’ll be the team everybody has been looking for.”
Lipscomb Head Coach Scott Sanderson
On Kentucky’s play in transition …
“A lot of that was just can you rebound the ball. Like I told the guys before the game I would rather have a shot clock violation then to have a perimeter turnover where they dunk it down at the other end of the floor. When you have those things in this kind of game it can get away from you in a hurry. I understand that. We’ve been in these games before. We have a lot of young kids. It was a 10-point game and to be honest, I’m not trying to be disrespectful at all, but at the start of the second half Kentucky wasn’t ready to play. They weren’t ready to play, and they gave us every opportunity. We score a couple of baskets in a row, they called a timeout and they do what good teams are supposed to do. They come back and respond, and when they responded we didn’t. I understand how that plays out, and how we were playing the first few minutes was good, but we didn’t finish the last 16 minutes. That’s a growing process for us, for our team and our level just like it’s a growing process for Kentucky in the SEC.”
On how Lipscomb’s turnovers impacted the game…
“A lot of our turnovers have been from non-primary ball handlers. Martin (Smith) had four, Stephen (Hurt) had five and John Ross (Glover) had four. None of those guys are our one or our two (guards). They’re non-primary ball handlers. I say that, we played Murray State a few weeks ago and we turned it over seven times. The best way to understand our team right now as far as taking care of the ball is we’re extremely inconsistent. If we take care of the ball and we turn it over 12 times instead of 24 times that’s 12 more shots you get on the backboard. That didn’t happen. In a game like this you can’t afford not only to turn it over 24 times, but many of those are dunks at the rim or at the one or zero. You give up 26 points and for a young team like Kentucky they need that, they want that and they got that. Especially the last 16 minutes of the game. Teams that don’t turn the ball over, that take care of the basketball and make Kentucky guard the possession and guard the shot clock are the teams that will give them (Kentucky) problems. We weren’t able to sustain that. Like our team at our level they’re working hard just like we are.”
On Kyle Wiltjer’s outside shooting …
“To guard him you have to involve those in the low post because he’s on the line between a post player and him. We were off the line. When you’re off the line between the post player and him the ball comes directly out there to him. When it comes out there fast he’s there setting his feet being able to shoot the basketball. That obviously was not supposed to happen. I think all nine of his 3s appeared to be wide open. That wasn’t the plan at all. He’s been their best shooter for the year. The rest of the team was making about a half a 3 a year. I told our guys he got too many open looks at the basket, which was not by design.”
On the Rupp Arena atmosphere …
“It’s a great environment. I’ll say this to the people out here, obviously growing up in Alabama and knowing Alabama and Kentucky, I’ve said a lot of times to a lot of people that we’ve been to Indiana, North Carolina and Arizona. We’ve been to a lot of places in my career at Lipscomb, but the Kentucky fan base, not even close, is the best fan base in the country because they come to see Kentucky. They don’t care who they’re playing. You see this room in here with these cameras back here and it’s completely full in here because they love Kentucky. They’re respectful of the opponents they play, but there’s a difference with Kentucky basketball … I think this is the greatest environment in college basketball that there is to play in.”
#35, Martin Smith , F
On what Kentucky did to disrupt their game…
“The pressured us. We handled it well in the first half, then they started to ware on us, the pressure and the adversity lead us to fold in the second half.”
On what the team learned by playing a team as athletic as Kentucky…
“I don’t think any team in the country is as athletic as they are. It was a good game for us experience wise to figure out what we have to do when we play athletic teams like them. It was just a good test to see where we were at as a team.”
On things the team can take from playing this game…
“We need to be able to handle adversity, we hit a spell where they started making their run and we did not respond to it well. In the first half, we showed that we can play with guys like this, it’s just a matter of being able to play with them for 40 minutes.”
#41, Stephen Hurt, C
On what UK does to cause problems in the game…
“They pushed the pace on us. We aren’t used to that. They rebounded real great. They have a long team and they attacked the boards real hard. I think that affected us. I think everything else was self-inflicted.”
On how this game can help the team in conference games…
“They were preseason number three. That’s a great experience for us. We are a young team. Going into conference, it will help us fight through adversity and get down and know how to come back. It can help us mature a lot before we start conference play.”
On what he learned from this game …
“We learned we can play with anybody as long as we do what we need to do. We played with them until about 16 to 17 minutes left in the second half. We proved to ourselves that we can play with anybody as long as we keep focusing.”