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SEC teleconference transcript: Coach Cal talks tough tests vs. Arkansas, Tennessee

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With his team facing a quick turnaround following a win at Vanderbilt on Saturday, John Calipari joined the Southeastern Conference coaches' teleconference on Monday. Read everything he had to say about UK's games against Arkansas and Tennessee, Julius Randle's cramping issues and Alex Poythress's evolution below, as well as relevant quotes from other league coaches.

Coach Cal

On this week's games ...
"Two hard games. Two teams that are playing well. Arkansas had Florida and Florida came back and beat them at the end. Tennessee, I watched some of the LSU game just 'cause I watched it on TV. I haven't really scouted them yet. LSU is a terrific team and they beat them really good. So you're talking about two tough tests for our team and I'm anxious to see, in a hostile environment, how we do and then against a really physical team how do we do."

On Julius Randle's cramping issues ...
"Well, first of all I really believe he's gotta get to cramping in practice. He's gotta go that hard in practice. He's not cramping in practice, so that leads me to believe he's gotta step on the gas there. Second thing is, we probably gotta get him a quicker rotation so that he's in and out instead of staying on the floor seven, eight, nine minutes, ten minutes. Let him go three or four minutes, come out, go back in and play a little bit of a different rotation. But those are some things. Diet. We blood-tested him and all those things, but I believe, again, when you go at the pace he goes - because he puts out and he goes really, extremely hard - that your body says, 'Hey, man, slow down.' "

On whether he has had a player with this kind of issue ...
"Not that I can remember, no."

On Randle's play ...
"Well, he's played well but he always has three guys guarding him. I don't know if you were covering Arkansas when LSU had Shaq (O'Neal), where you just--everybody played him. And he's not Shaq, but that's how they're playing him. So you watch tape, when he catches it he literally has three guys on him. The guy guarding him and the two nearest guys crowd him. If it's driving they collapse all five. If it's in the post they're collapsing two guys on him and it's what he's doing. We're trying to get him to, if he feels a quick trap, get rid of it. But it's hard because he's working hard and they're taking a lot of his stuff away that way, but he's still rebounding the ball, he's still running the floor well, double-digit rebounds. You sometimes have to play the game as it comes."

On the sense of urgency Arkansas will have after starting 0-2 ...
"They always play well against us. I mean, they always do. The games that I've coached against Arkansas, they play well. They're a terrific shooting team from the 3, from the 2, from the free-throw line. They're scrambling their defense, they're playing some 2-3 zone, they're still pressing and trapping and scrambling, sometimes trap, switch pick-and-rolls, doesn't matter who it is. They're playing. I think the Texas A&M game was a little bit of an anomaly, but what I saw on the Florida tape, they're a terrific team."

On Alex Poythress's declining shooting percentages having to do with his improved effort level ...
"Possibly. But if you understand me as a coach, that stuff will all come in line. The other is, until they do that the rest of the stuff really doesn't matter. If you're not going to compete at a high level, if you're not going to have your mind and your body in the physical and mental shape it needs to be in to compete, I don't care if you make shots or not or make free throws. It doesn't really matter. You're not going to win. You're not going to be a winning player. He's now put himself in a position to be a winning player. I mean, the dunks that he had there was contact from his knee to his elbow on all those and he still dunked them. And so now, OK, gotta make free throws. You were a 70-percent free-throw shooter last year. I'm glad he took the jumper. In the first half, he was tentative. No question about it. In the second half, he played."

On whether the Tennessee game will be decided by physical play ...
"That, and their guards are really active and long. Again, I watched about five minutes on the TV version, so it wasn't any tape, of LSU and they were dominating. I mean, they were truly dominating. Their guards shot the ball and got to the lane and their bigs did what they needed to go against a--I mean, Johnny O'Bryant's a really good player now. They are good. It's funny how this league is playing out. Georgia has played well. Texas A&M, and I may say that that Arkansas game was an anomaly, they come back and beat Tennessee on the road so maybe it wasn't. I don't know. But I'll tell you, you got teams right now, we're all trying to find ourselves, I think. And that includes the two teams we're playing this week. That includes us, absolutely includes us. We're all trying to figure out what are we and exactly how we have to play to give our teams a chance to win."

Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson

On this week's matchups ...
"It's certainly higher every one. Kentucky is coming to Bud Walton Arena, should be a great great atmosphere. Kentucky's a team, they're very talented, one of the more talented teams in the country and they're playing at a high level. Cal has those guys 2-0 in conference play, winning at home and winning on the road. So it's going to be definitely a challenge for our basketball team but it should be a great opportunity. They present problems with their size. Julius Randle right now is probably playing as good as anyone in our league, possibly in the country so we've got to somehow contain he and Willie Cauley on the boards. You have Young, James Young, a guy who is really putting the ball in the hole. It's a balanced team and of course the Harrison twins. They're a talented team that are playing at a high level right now."

On what impresses him and concerns him the most about Willie Cauley-Stein ...
"Well number one, he plays the game unselfishly. I think he presents a problem. As you look at him each year, from last year to this year, he's so much more established. He's athletic, he can come out on the floor, he can run the floor like a deer. And he's got a great feel for the game. He's a good passer. So he presents a problem from you can throw it in there, he can make passes, he can come from the blindside to block shots or straight up. So he's a very versatile, big guy for a 7-footer."

On transition ...
"Transition can be both ways, transition defense to transition offense. Obviously we would like the game to be up and down the floor and I'm sure they would love to play up and down the floor as well. ... We've got to certainly limit them in the open floor and see if we can get out in the open floor."

On importance of good shooting ...
"I think it's very important if you look at the first two games we've played in conference play. We shot the ball pretty good throughout the year. The key is, you have to put the ball in the hole, obviously when we do that it gives us an opportunity to get into our defense and of course make the game a 94 foot game as opposed to a half court game which that goes in their favor with their size and with a guy like Julius Randle. He draws so much attention that now you've got to, you got a guy like James Young all he does is spot up and knock shots down. You got the Harrison twins, they can score in a variety of ways. You got Willie Cauley roaming on the glass. So when you talk about transition, defensive or offensive, it's going to be a big key in this game."

On pressure to pull players away from what they do in practice ...
"We can't let them do what they want to do. Our defense is geared towards not letting teams do what they want to do and obviously they work on it each and every day. They're going to be good at what they do. We'll see if our defense is good enough to make them speed it up or disrupt what they want to do."

Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings

On whether this Kentucky team is more physical than the past teams ...
"Gosh, I don't know. I would say one of the most physical Kentucky teams we've played, yes. This is my 15th year, so you'd have to forgive me for having a little amnesia. I can't remember all the way back to the first years that we played, so I don't (know). They've had some physical teams over the years, but this is certainly a physical edition of their team. But whether or not it's the most physical, I wouldn't really be able to say."

On Kentucky being more physical on the perimeter ...
"Well, they're bigger. They're bigger on the perimeter, and I think that makes some of their drives more physical and things like that. They may not be as fast, they might not shoot as well as some of the other teams that they've had, but their guards are big and their wings are big. and they're physical when they take it to the basket. Yeah, they're physical in almost every spot on the floor and physical with size."

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