Kentucky Basketball Previews Arizona State

Briscoe, Murray Video

Kentucky Men’s Basketball
UK-Arizona State Pregame Quotes
John Calipari
Joe Craft Center – Lexington, Ky.
Dec. 11, 2015


John Calipari

On UK’s inability to hit shots from the outside so far …

“Well, here’s what I would tell you: If you look at the top-20 teams – supposedly the top-20 teams; I’m not sure who is ranked what – we’re by far (the worst). Like you have teams that are probably shooting, on average, 40 percent. You have, I believe, three of four teams that are shooting 45 percent as a team from the 3. Now here’s the issue if we were doing that: None of you would see – think about that now, that’s about 10 more points for us a game – you wouldn’t see the issue we have, which is physical play, which is grit, which is fight. That is our issue. And you know what, by shooting poorly, it kind of shows he’s not just saying it, we can see it. So I’m not worried. And again, we have good shooters not making shots right now. They’re making them in practice. My concern is not that. I have no – doesn’t mean we’re going to shoot it great every night out, but I’m not worried about that. We need to just, every game – Arizona State, perfect game for us. One, their inside guys are seniors and they’re physical. Their best player is a four and he’s an active four. Their three man is 6-7. So they’ve got a big three. It’s exactly what we need. They attack the glass. They play tough and physical. They will execute. So here’s what happens to us: We’re so young and inexperienced that we’ll play defense for about 15, 18 seconds and then we break down. If we do that, it will show. This year, it’s different. Last year we were trying to win every game and I believed we could have – and I believe that’s what we all thought. This year, it’s like a typical year here. How do we get this team ready for March? And the only way is to play people like this, learn, figure stuff out, and then go back and work on it. We’ve been working on stuff, but we’re a ways away. There are so many issues we’re dealing with that the shooting, I’m not gonna (worry too much about it). Maybe playing Jamal (Murray) too many minutes, probably what I’m doing, which is taking his legs out maybe a little bit. But other than that, the guys that need to make 3s are making them in practice.”

On if team’s are defending differently because of UK’s shooting …
“When you look at the 3s, they are wide open. Like, they’re open, we’re just not making them. But I’ll say this: We are still getting to the rim. We are still shooting layups. Without Marcus Lee we weren’t offensive rebounding, but with Marcus we are offensive rebounding. But I think that teams will – it’s a tough deal when you know Jamal and you know Tyler (Ulis), especially those two, you know Isaiah (Briscoe) can make 3s because he’ll will the ball in. You know Derek (Willis) can make 3s, and your defensive plan is to let those guys to shoot. OK now, what if we go for a 9-for-14 night? Will you get beat by 30? It’s not as easy as you think to just give them 3s because they know we can shoot. What was Tyler last year from the 3? (Reporter says 41 percent.) And what is he this year? (Reporter says 12 percent.) Well, which one do you think he is? Right now or last year? And again, it could be a lot of minutes on the court for him, too.”

On how UK’s guards match up with Arizona State’s guards …
“Not bad. I mean, if we shot the ball better I think a lot of this stuff that we have would look a little different. But I think defensively being active, being playmakers, all three of them can do that. We are trying to get Jamal to be more of an attacker like Isaiah, get to the line more, play through the bumps. We did something with Skal (Labissiere) yesterday and it shows you that we have got to watch and then go back and train. You can’t just say, “Well, save two” and they understand. We made Skal post up, we threw him the ball and had two managers with those arm sleeves whack at the ball. He had to hold the ball, not make a move, not do anything, don’t loose the ball. And the two managers were whacking at him with one arm sleeve each. Now, we put Alex (Poythress) in there, and Alex grabbed the ball and it worked until Skal was like, ‘Wow, you can do that.’ Yes, you can. You have got to be able to hold the ball. And so it’s all stuff that he’s learning and we see it in Jamal with playing through bumps. We have got the most inexperienced team in the country and we’re playing one of the most experienced teams in the country. Juniors, seniors, that we are going against. So this is a great challenge. We are going to have to play better than we have been playing, and we might not be capable of that”

On if Alex Poythress is turning it on more often than he has in the past …
“Time to do it against juniors and seniors who are as physical as you. Time to do it. I was so pleased and happy for him. Because most of it is him getting by himself. He’s got to get by that which is holding him back, which is himself. It’s not teammates. Someone said to me that Marcus (Lee) made a great statement: You need to hold him to that standard against a bigger, physical guy. It means you’ve got to work harder longer. You’ve got to figure out ways, but we also need to find a couple of guys on the bench. I told Mychal Mulder. I said, ‘Mychal, we’re not making shots. This is perfect for you to come and show us. Make shots. Build confidence in me that I can put you in. Build confidence in your teammates.’ You know, missed his next eight shots, but that’s part of that growth of where he’s got to go with this because we’re looking for someone to come in and lift us (from) off the bench. We have those six. Who’s seven, eight, nine?”

On looking at Poythress’ performance in the year since his injury …
“I’m happy for him. Look, I have no thoughts of that injury and I hope he doesn’t. It’s just I’m looking at him saying ok what can we be? What’s the best version of you? And that’s all he needs to think about. I mean, this is a process with this team. This is a normal year, guys. This is not last year (where we said) let’s win every game by 20. Three guys didn’t play well? I played the other seven. I say that again: Three guys didn’t play well; I have the other seven. Three guys don’t play; now I’m playing guys that have never played before. We’ve got to figure this out together and guys need to be more consistent with their practices. We’ve had a couple of guys have bad shootarounds. I’ve been doing this 30 years. A bad shootaround leads to a bad start. Usually you sustain that. And that guy did. We’re learning every day.”

On limited action for Isaac Humphries versus EKU…
“I’m trying to get Skal going. I mean, I’ve got to leave him on the court and let him play through his mistakes. You know, part of this is his confidence, that he can hold his own. It has nothing to do with skills. But, when he’s doing things right, I’ve got to leave him in. We’ve got to give him some air and let him do some stuff.  You know, it’s painful to watch sometimes. I’m sitting here watching it and it’s painful, but it’s part of the growth of players.  It’s part of that. And again he’s different. People want to compare him to Karl’s (Anthony-Towns) path or Anthony’s (Davis) path. Anthony wasn’t averaging but about eight points a game that year, but we had a lot of other tough players. Terrence Jones was maybe one of the most underrated players that I’ve coached. That was a tough, skilled, fighter with a will to win. Win above anything else. He only thought about winning, and he did what he had to. Where? Who is that guy on this team? Who is that guy where, you know, we need a team full of those. But, like I said yesterday, they did great. We did individual drills. We talked about what we are trying to do. We are trying to zoom in on individuals and then bring the team together. We’ve got a lot of team stuff in and now we have to go back to, alright, how are we helping each of these kids get better? What are we doing too sure up what’s going to make them good?

On ASU’s offense under Coach Hurley compared to the offense Hurley ran at Buffalo last season …
“He’s got them to fight and battle. He’s letting them play and they space the court. A lot of pick-and-roll actions. Their fours and fives shoot balls. They’re just playing. To be honest, what’s their record right now? (Reporters says 6-2.) They should be 8-0. I’m just saying. They had Marquette beat. I’m just saying. They had Marquette beat. I watched the tape. They were up 10 with three, four minutes to go. Marquette should have never beat them. And then they lost to Sacramento State in the first game of the year, and I imagine he was ready to jump off a bridge. So, when I tell you that they should be 8-0, they should be 8-0. He’s done a good job. They’re juniors and seniors. They’re going to be really physical, they’re going to be gritty and they’re going to make us play defense. This is going to be a really hard game. But it’s what we need. We need to find out where are we and then take it from where we are and then to where we want to go, which is the next step. That’s all that I’m telling Skal. Every day just try and get better. Don’t worry about the big picture right now. When you look back in a month, you’ll say, ‘Wow, I’ve come a long way’. But he can’t worry about that. Neither can Jamal (Murray). Neither can Isaiah (Briscoe).”

On how this compares to his Buffalo team from a year ago, which UK played … 
“Some of the offense is the same, but this is a way better team. This is an NCAA Tournament team. They’re far advanced from us. This is a junior, senior team with a new coach, but the whole thing is that we’re going to guard in the half court, we’re going to give them one tough shot, we’re going to rebound like crazy, we’re going to play loose offensively. They’re going to play loose offensively, they’re going to play pick-and-roll, shoot 3s. I mean, they’re a good team.” 


Kentucky Student-Athletes

#13, Isaiah Briscoe, G

On what he would say his strengths and weaknesses are …
“My strength is my I.Q. I play hard. I play hard every possession, and my defense. My shot is getting better. I’ve been working with Coach KP (Kenny Payne), and once everything starts clicking, I’ll be fine.”

On how many shots he’s getting up every day …
“I’m not sure. I mean, me and KP are in here at least three times a week late at night working on my jump-shot.”

On how much he loves driving to the basket …
“I don’t know. Coach Cal is always saying, ‘If you play in a straight line, nobody in the country can guard you. So you just do that and continue to be the best version of you, and everything will fall into place.’”

On if he has Coach Calipari’s sayings down pat …
“Absolutely.” (laughter)

On if he’s worried about the team’s shooting at all …
“No, not really. But I’ll tell you one thing, once we do start making our shots, we’ll be even better.”

On if part of the reason for his down shooting is because of the defense sagging in on Skal Labissiere …
“Not really, and even if Skal was to get double-teamed, he’s a good enough player to get out of that double-team. So I wouldn’t say that’s the reason why.”

On if Calipari yells less, as much, or more than he thought he would …
“He yells a lot. Especially in the game. But as for me, I don’t look at the tone of what he’s saying. I just look at the message of what he’s trying to deliver.”

On if there are times that Calipari yells so much, it makes him want to laugh …
“Yes. Yes, and it happens a lot at practice too.”

On how his defense has improved for him …
“Dramatically. This is all a part of why I came to Kentucky. For the discipline. You know, I just want to be a great basketball player, and I feel like Coach Cal will push me to be just that.”

On who’s the best shooter on the team …
“Me. I mean, who did you think I was going to say?” (laughter)

On who the best maker is on the team …
“Best who?”

On who the best maker is because you said you’re the best shooter … 
“Oh, you got jokes? (laughter) I mean, Tyler (Ulis) is going through a slump, but I mean, he’s a great shooter. Jamal (Murray) can shoot. I mean, I think we’re all pretty good jump-shooters.”

On what he sees out of the post players’ game in practice that may not be translating as well in games …
“One thing that Coach always cares about is that he wants to make the practice harder. So once it carries over to the game, we’ll be on the court saying, ‘Oh, practice is harder than the game.’ So the game will come easier to us. But that’s the one thing he’s been focusing on is trying to make practice a little harder.”

On if he remembers ever playing with three exceptional guards before …
“Not really. But when you come to Kentucky, you have to check your ego at it. I actually enjoy playing with three guards.”

On if it helps him do things better at times …
“Absolutely, and I think that we complement each other’s game well. You can’t really key in on one guy because any night, any one of us can have a great game. So I think it’s more of a blessing to play with three great guards.”

On what kind of dimension Alex Poythress can give the team when he sees that effort …
“I mean he just has to be what he wants to be. Coach always preaches that he wants Alex to be an elite athlete. He had two great practices and he had a great game. If he continues to practice the way he’s been practicing, hopefully he’ll have more games like he did and we’ll just continue to be a better team.”

On if he’s seen Poythress gain more confidence over the last few games …
"Yeah, I’ve seen him gain more confidence, and I think he’s tired of Coach Cal yelling at him.”

On who Calipari yells at the most …
“I’m not going to single anybody out, but we all get our fair share of getting yelled at.”

On if certain guys can take it because they’ve been with him before …
“Yeah, and I think for the most part, you put pressure on them and see how they react to Coach getting on you. So for the main part, I think it’s more of he’s testing you to see if can handle it."

#23, Jamal Murray, G

On the magnitude of the adjustment from high school …
“It’s fine. It’s just getting used to the coaching style and different actions, defensive strategies, new coach, new system.”

On what the biggest difference has been …
“Probably playing with three guards. It’s been different. Obviously in high school I didn’t play with three guards, but here it’s just getting used to always having somebody that can control the point. We’re very versatile. It’s a lot different.”

On whether he’s used to being the point guard …
“Well, yeah. The three guards, we’ve all – like Isaiah (Briscoe), Tyler (Ulis) and I – we’ve all played point guard our whole life. We’re all used to it, but we’re all capable of doing the job.”

On whether it’s an opportunity to show different sides of themselves …
“I think the point guard (position) allows you to do the most, but there’s definitely a lot of ways that you can show your abilities in different positions on the court, different scenarios.”

On whether he has mastered the good shot-bad shot thing …
“We all take bad shots, but it’s nothing hard to change and just take better shots.”

On whether playing with two point guards has made it harder to find a rhythm …
“No, I wouldn’t say so. I would say we’re just still trying to figure out each other and the style we’re going to play. There’s a lot of different changes and we’re just trying to figure out this team.”

On how often he takes bad shots that go in …
“I’m not sure. I don’t count. But we all take bad shots and that’s part of just coming from high school, getting to do certain things, but it’s not that hard to change.”

On why he hasn’t gotten to the line more …
“I think I just need to be more aggressive and stuff. Instead of try to get around the defense in the paint, just try to go through them and just be a little bit stronger when I get down there.”

On the team’s shooting woes …
“We’re thinking too much about our misses. We’re putting too much pressure on ourselves to make the shot, I think. We have encouraging teammates and a coaching staff here that wants us to shoot the ball, but a lot of it is just putting pressure on making the shot because we’re missing so many right now.”

On how important it is to make those outside shots so opponents will respect it defensively …
“We just need to play freely and once we start hitting our shots you’ll see the change in the game and start opening up teams because of our shooting ability. Right now we’re not shooting that great, but we’ll pick it up for sure.”