Kentucky-Alabama Postgame Quotes

University of Kentucky Basketball 
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
John Calipari
Kentucky – 78, Alabama - 53

Q. What did you think you got out of Alex tonight and his return?
COACH CALIPARI: I was really proud of him. He could have stayed out a couple more days. He knew the team needed him. He was sick over Texas A&M. He felt like, I probably could have gone in and helped. But he just wasn't quite there. So to have one day to practice, to do what he did, amazing. He looked comfortable. He took himself in and out. So he was good. He was good.

Q. Cal, with your experience in the pros, Avery Johnson said that Tyler Ulis was comparable to some past NBA players. Can you talk about that.
COACH CALIPARI: Tyler, he controls the game. We only had four turnovers today. I mean, you think about that. We're playing fast, we're being aggressive, we're moving the ball. We had four turnovers. I think, again, he's a guy that his middle game, like he can make that stuff. Probably got to be a little more consistent with the three, which he will be. He's disruptive defensively. They're trying to post him with seven-footers and he's hanging around. So it's not like they're going to do that. I think he's going to be a really good pro. I think he'll have a long career.

Q. Cal, how different was your defense tonight without Willis, with the lack of 3s and attempts?
COACH CALIPARI: We had to play different. If you watch, some of you guys are the 'Basketball Bennies' in the room. You saw we did some stuff different. We put in some different things based on who we have now. We're going to try to zone in on that.

I told Dom (Dominique Hawkins), he and Mychal (Moulder), You are the other 3-point shooters for us. You can't go in and pass up shots. You don't have to make them all, you just can't miss them all. So one of you guys step in and make a couple 3.

You still have Jamal (Murray), you still have Tyler. Now Isaac (Humphries) and Skal (Labissiere) playing give us another shooter. Then what happened was we were pretty good defensively. Ended up defending a little bit better and we rebounded better. We gave up 15 rebounds in the first half down at Texas A&M.

Q. Cal, Alabama didn't have much offensively tonight. Retin Obasohan had 29 points. What is it about his game?
COACH CALIPARI: He was really good. When I walked in, I walked in here around 5:00, they said he was already on the court warming up. That was over two hours before the game. I grabbed him and I told him, I heard you were in here really early. I told him, Just keep working.

He is shooting the ball, he's driving. He gets to his right hand. He's got a soft touch around the basket. He had 15 at half. Ends up with 29 out of 53. He did it not taking a whole lot of shots. It wasn't like he shot 25 balls. So he's a terrific player. He's one of the best players in our league, and most improved.

Q. John, the decision to start Isaac, how much of that was performance related, and how much was it to let everybody know nobody blames him for last week?
COACH CALIPARI: It wasn't the second because no one did blame him. I think he knows. The team was really good about it. The staff, we told him, don't worry, just go do your thing. I knew he would get that kind of ovation, because that's who our fans are. Again, I expected more rebounds from him, and I told him, There were four balls in the first half. One you went after with one hand. A couple others you didn't pull in. You're not going to play. I went to Skal. I thought Skal did some good stuff today. Grabbed a couple rebounds. You’ve got to fight for your minutes. You got to prove you need to get on that court more.

Q. How concerned were you about the chemistry, the rotation, with getting Alex back and starting Isaac?
COACH CALIPARI: I'm going to tell you what's worse: When you're in your office, and 22 minutes before the game they say, Isaiah is out, he sprained his ankle.


In the warmup line.

That's a tough one.

Alex is out for the game.

For what?

His knee.


Like right before the game.

We had an idea what we were doing. I had a day to do some stuff. It's next man up. I've always coached that way. Then the guy that's sitting out, you're playing real well, don't sit out long. I tell them the Wally Pipp story. Never be heard of again. I mean, just how it is. Next man up. Let's go.

Q. I know every season's unique, especially with your teams. Is there one season that you would compare this one to in your coaching career as far as the injuries and ups and downs?
COACH CALIPARI: No. We’ve got really good guards. Like we have really, really good guards. If we can sure up that front line, I like what we have here. As you know, my teams normally, as the year winds down, play their best basketball.

This team got empowered early because of that South Carolina game. When I saw that they really don't need me as much as I think they need me. They ran all the stuff that we work on. They did it without me telling them. They also coached each other. That's what I want. It's not just calling plays, it's that when a guy doesn't do his job, they should tell each other, not me. Then I don't have to do it. Now I'm just saying, OK, what adjustments are we making? I'm thinking basketball instead of effort and energy. I shouldn't have to coach that.

That's where we are with this team. Look, we shoot the ball well and do some stuff. We can create havoc for people. But the biggest thing is if you defend and rebound, you got a chance to win every game you play. If your guards are really good, you really have a chance to win any game you play.

But we've proven that we can also get beat.

Q. Cal, can you sense that Alex recognizes that that clock is ticking, that his time is sort of winding down?
COACH CALIPARI: I don't think that had anything to do with it. I don't think so. I just think he wanted to be on the court and he wanted to play. Both he and Marcus (Lee), like Marcus had 12 rebounds, but there were two others, a grab and a stick-back that he looked timid on. The last rebound where he could have grabbed it and dunked it... I said, Maybe I want more for you than you want for yourself.

If that's the case, just come and see me and say, coach, you're trying to make me be too good. Just let me be who I am here. If that's what you want from me, that's what I'll give you. He is like, No, no, no. Just be a beast, do it. You can do it. When he does it, we all sit there and say, If he's that guy, we're really good. It's hard to be that every night. But guys that want to be unique and be elite, that's what they do: they figure out how to do it every night.

Q. I know late in the game it looked like Jamal took a shot you weren't pleased with.
COACH CALIPARI: It wasn't a shot. It was a crossover, hit off his knee. It was stolen and going the other way.

It's only one time this game. Do you remember early in the year? Now you look and he did it one time. That's why we were laughing after the game. I mean, how much better is he? Oh, my gosh, he's not even the same player. His shot selection, he's not turning it over, he's defending better, he's getting by people, he's drawing fouls. He's that big guard that he can be. You put him in pick-n-rolls, we did that late, he got to the rim. He's a lead guard who scores it and is playing pretty well right now.

Q. What impressed me is when he was at the other end of the court, you were yelling at him, he ran down to get with you.
COACH CALIPARI: No, no, he looked right away. He looked right away and said, That's me.

Q. Earlier in the season, he would have stayed far away from you.
COACH CALIPARI: No, he's doing good. He's doing good. Again, the kid ends up with 23.

We've had more balance. But this team needs him to score baskets. He does it. And that team was almost playing like a box-and-one. They just said, Do not let him get the ball. Do not let him score. And he still got 23.

Q. There was a stretch of games where you were blowing people out without Alex. There was buzz, Is this team better without him?
COACH CALIPARI: No, it's not better without him. When Alex is the best version of himself, he's as good as any guy his size in the country, but he's got to come every day and be that guy.

Today he played it without having played for two, three weeks. He was close to it for spurts. Now it's like, Okay, it's time to finish.

Q. Do you have an update on Derek Willis, when you expect him to be back?
COACH CALIPARI: I have no idea. Going to take another picture of his ankle so everybody could see. He was fine.

UK Student-Athletes

#00, Marcus Lee, G

On Alex Poythress returning tonight … 
“It’s always great having him (Poythress) back. We had to make sure he took the right precautions, and once he felt good, we just let him go.”

On how the team felt when Isaac Humphries got a standing ovation at the beginning of the game … 
“That’s amazing. He’s worked so hard for that and to see him finally get recognized and get the chance to do something great is awesome for all of us to see.”

On the importance of having a strong rebounding game today …
“That’s our job, so it’s either we do it or we don’t, and today we were really focused on it.” 

On changing lineups this much late in the season …
“I think it’s a plus because we work so well together with different lineups, with different teams that we’re being thrown at, so we’ll always be ready. If something happens, we can change it up real quick and be totally fine with it.”

#3, Tyler Ulis, G

On Avery Johnson being so complementary on him as a player and his potential to play at the next level …
“It’s great to hear. When a guy of his stature, a head coach at another school and a guy who actually coached and played in the NBA says something like that, it’s a great thing to hear.”

On if he felt as if this was one of his better games …
“I don’t read them but I wouldn’t say it was one of my better games. I didn’t shoot it as well as I wanted to and I missed a couple free throws. Other than that I played alright overall.”

On if he thinks about the numbers he is putting up …
“Not really. I just think about winning. March is about to be here so it’s going to be a time where we have to win the game or go home. That’s what I’m worried about now.”

On how important it was to have Alex Poythress back …
“Very important because that gives us a post presence. Throwing the ball down to the him tonight helped us out a lot especially when they (Alabama) went zone or throwing it to the middle and him getting buckets.”

On if he still goes out with the mindset as he did in high school of wanting to prove the doubters wrong …
“Definitely. There are still people out there who doubt me. A lot of doubters. That is something that motivates me to just go out there and play.”

On if he ever feels like “what else can I do?” …
“Not really because at the end of the day I really don’t think about what other people outside of us (his team) and outside of my family think. I just try to go out there and play and do what I know what to do.”

On the difference in the teams offense that limited their turnovers to four …
“There was no difference. We were playing at a fast pace trying to get some in the first 10 seconds. If not, grind it out. We just did a great job of taking care of the ball tonight.”

On Jamal Murray at the beginning of the season compared to now …
“Completely different. He’s catching and shooting, getting by guys and doing what coach wants him to do. He’s not turning the ball over and that’s one of the reasons why we only had four turnovers. He’s playing at a very high level. That’s what is helping us get these wins.”

On if Jamal and Tyler’s relationship is catching up to Tyler’s and Devin Booker’s from last year …
“Definitely. With me and Devin it was more of when I get it, throw it up the court, he was leaking them. With Jamal it is he is trailing me. He wants the ball. That’s two guys that I love to play with because they can shoot the ball so well. The chemistry is great.”

#22, Alex Poythress, F

On what it was like being back on the court …
“It just felt good to be out there again. You know, just playing.”   

On how yesterday was his first practice back before playing …
“I just went through the whole practice and it wasn’t hurting or anything, so I just felt like I mean, I could play just fine.”

On how he felt sick while watching the Texas A&M game …
“You know, I just felt like I could have helped the team out there a lot. You know, it was some mismatches, we didn’t guard it well. We didn’t rebound it well. I mean it is what it is, we look for our next game. You can’t dwell on the past or anything like that.”

Alabama Head Coach Avery Johnson

Opening Statement …
“Tonight was a tough night for us. Kentucky was on top of their game. They played well, (Tyler) Ulis and (Jamal) Murray are hard to handle and we had one guy in Retin Obasahan who did his best to be competitive against both of those guys, but it was basically two against one. Give them credit, they were the aggressor, we fouled a little bit too much – careless fouls – but overall we didn’t have the energy and confidence to be as good as we have throughout SEC play. We’ve been playing with confidence, whether at home or on the road, and we just didn’t have it tonight. But give them credit, they had that fire in their eyes. They were one step faster than us, they jumped about two steps higher than us, so give them credit. Now we just have to go back to the drawing board and see how we can correct some of those correctable errors.”

On whether he was surprised the team lacked confidence and energy …
“Yeah, a little bit. This team has given me all that they’ve had all year, so we aren’t going to get into a situation where we undervalue how good of a season this team is having, ok? They work hard, I love my guys, they just didn’t have it tonight. I have to go back and look at how we prepared them for this game, because as a coach I’m the one who’s responsible for seeing how we could have better prepared them for this game. At the same time, like I’ve told you guys a million times, it’s not always about what we don’t do when we lose. Sometimes you just have to give the opponent credit, and our opponent was 20 points better than us tonight.”

On the offense outside of Obasahan …
“Yeah, we’re not a team where we’re a one-man band. We’re normally better when we have three or four guys in double figures. Retin is obviously playing at a high level, but we’re much better when we move the ball and get different guys to take shots. But give them credit, he got in the passing lanes, disrupted some of the things we like to do on offense. We didn’t get to go to our automatics and backup situations when we get denied the basketball, and it’s an ongoing process for us to try and go to our second and third option when our first doesn’t work.”

On whether it was Kentucky’s defense or poor offensive efficiency that resulted in the loss …
“You know, this would be a typical answer, but I’m just telling you the truth. It’s a combination of both. Give their defense credit. When (Alex) Poythress came in the game, he ignited their defense. We struggled to score in the interior. Jimmie Taylor has been giving us a lot, but we struggled to get him off the block. I think we only had eight points in the paint at half time. So some of that has a lot to do with them, but we didn’t set good screens, we weren’t physical and this was probably our worst performance in the SEC. But for our team, we have a lot of character, a lot of heart and I know when we get back to practice they’ll bounce back.”

On why Johnson thought Poythress has had success matching up against Alabama …
“I just think he’s a tough guy to cover inside. He’s a bit quick for our big guys. He can get off the floor and you’re talking about a guy who can get off the floor and had he not gotten injured last year he would probably not have been in the building tonight. So I was hoping that he didn’t  injured last year, but at the end of the day what does it come down to? Tyler Ulis getting him the basketball. Whether it’s a short pass, a lob – here’s a guy who put on a show when Cal got kicked out at Carolina. He’s a coach’s dream, man. His double-double speaks volumes.”

On how different Poythress makes Kentucky…
“I mean we prepared to play him. We didn’t prepare for (Derek) Willis, but we basically had an idea that this is the game that they circled for him to return. The energy that he gives them running up and down the floor, the shot blocking – even when he doesn’t block shots, the way he contests them in the interior. And again, he’s just a terrific pick and roll player. When he picks and pops he does a great job of taking bigger guys off of the dribble.”

On Alabama’s lack of perimeter shots …
“That’s not our game. We’re a team where we need 20-plus 3’s a game. We had some open looks and for some reason some of our shooters were a little bit gun shy. We’ll go back. The great thing about our team is they look at film and accept coaching and come out trying to do it better next time. I love the 3-point shot, especially for our team. We don’t have a lot of creators, and because we don’t they have to take shots when we get them and even the situational guys like Riley Norris, we need to get more shots. We need to get more shots for Riley and Arthur (Edwards) for our team to be effective.”

On whether he thinks Ulis’ size will affect him at the NBA level …
“You’re about the fifth person to ask me today, and I’ll give you the same answer – he’s a pro. He can play on the professional level. He’s probably better than a lot of the guys who are there now. He’s good, man. He can do everything. Now when I was playing in the NBA, there was guys like Spud Webb and Muggsy Bogues, but you know he is much better than those guys were offensively. And boy, he’s a pure point guard who can hold his own. He takes charges. He throws his body. What does he weight, about 160? Wet, maybe? (crowd laughter) So, he gets his body in there. As a coach you don’t like playing against him, but I see a lot of the things I did as a player in him. He’ll probably have a long, long career.”

On why Alabama was “gun shy” …
“We’ll go back and we’ll talk about it. I have to make sure I’m giving them enough confidence to shoot. So we’ll go back and figure out whether they think they were guarded, if the window was opened or closed. We’ll figure out why we had some hesitancy there.”