Kentucky Basketball Previews Arkansas

Labissiere, Murray Video

Kentucky Men’s Basketball
UK-Arkansas Pregame Quotes
Assistant Coach John Robic
Joe Craft Center – Lexington, Ky.
Jan. 20, 2016


John Robic


On Tyler (Ulis) carrying the entire team and how to attempt to take some of that weight off him …
“Well, first of all, Tyler just wants to win. So he is doing what it takes to try to win. There are points in time even in practice that he needs to shoot the ball and passes on the shot because he doesn’t feel like he needs to shoot every ball. He’s so competitive. The last couple of days we’ve been scrimmaging he’s been so competitive. I think it’s a responsibility of everybody that’s on the floor to try to take that away from him. Whether it’s passing up an open shot to making an extra pass for an easier shot, I think it’s as a group they have to be held accountable for what they’re supposed to do – not only for them but for the betterment of the team.”

On if Ulis’ performance will eventually rub off on his teammates …
“I think it will. It did the last couple days. I’m sure it will today in practice here in a little while. That’s what we expect. That’s what we demand. It’s just taking some time but I think the competitive edge in everyone is starting to blossom.”

On if he can talk about the changes the coaching staff is pondering …
“No. I mean, I can’t (talk about them).”

On how to prepare the young players for SEC road games …
“I think the first time out to play on the road was a shock to them. Now they’re starting to sense when you go to Alabama and it’s sold out, you go to Auburn and it’s sold out, this game is sold out at Arkansas with another T-shirt giveaway, they understand now. The teams are excited to play Kentucky. They’re excited to play us but we have to have more excitement and more energy to them, especially going into their building.”

On any challenges with playing on Thursday night and then again Saturday afternoon …
“It’s a tough turnaround. The one good thing and the positive I think you have to look at is we have the early game on Thursday. At least it’s not an 8 o’clock start central time. With it being a 6 o’clock game there we’ll get back at a decent time. We should be able to get back probably by midnight at the latest, so it’s not too bad. The only kicker is that you’re coming back and playing Saturday afternoon. You’d like for it to be an evening game but that’s just the way that TV dictates.”

On problems with not holding onto leads that they should be able to pull out and turn into victories …
“Coach (Calipari) has stressed it for the last three days: It’s winning time. It’s either a winning play or not a winning play. We’ve been grading film that way as well, showing the players, ‘Was it a positive play? or was it a negative play?’ so that they see what you have to do. Now there are positive plays that we missed shots. That’s OK. It’s the ones that your negatives outweigh your positives. That’s when you’re going to lose a lead.”

On if he thinks the players are getting it (winning plays versus non-winning plays) …
“I think they’re getting it, yes. Will it carry over? We sure hope so. But I think that they’re starting to see it. When you see it on film I think that helps you even more than just going through it.”

On if he remembers anyone Skal Labissiere that came in with such high expectations and has had to be built back up …
“Yeah, Alex (Poythress) as a freshman. A lot of similarities, from the physical standpoint to just getting through it. And Alex I think would tell you the same thing. He has been a good shoulder for Skal to lean on because he has seen it. But you know what, he is making strides. He has been good the last two days in practice and hopefully it will carry over again into today.” 

On how much Arkansas traps …
“They are not going to change. They do it quite a bit. They do it more at home than they do on the road. We have played against teams that have pressed us and had success. Going on the road and doing it is a different story. We just have to be ready for pressure and be willing to attack it, have great spacing, and be strong with the ball. 

On Jamal Murray’s progress and development …
“He’s learning how to play winning basketball. If Coach was standing here right now, he would tell you the same thing. He is learning, and that’s a good sign. We know what he can do; he just has to do within the framework of the team for the betterment of the team, for the betterment of the outcome.”

On the 3-point defense at Auburn and the importance of defending Arkansas 3s will be …
“Well, Arkansas has (been) shooting the ball really well. It is probably one of their better shooting teams since Rotnei Clarke played there, the kid who transferred from, I believe, Butler. Anthlon Bell and (Dusty) Hannahs can really shoot the ball. If you look at their stats, they take the majority of their 3s, those two young men, but shoot it at a really high percentage. I would call them both elite shooters, both off the dribble and off the catch. Their teammates do a good job of finding them open. Going back to the Auburn game, you had (Tyler) Harris made three; he had made four going into that game. You had the point guard – last name is Canty, Kareem Canty – he banks one over the top of Derek Willis’ reach and goes in. That was a focal point and something that we failed at.”

On if the defensive plays are more negative or positive …
“Both. It’s both. It could be anything from a bad shot, to a passed up shot, to a bad pass, to not screening, not executing what we are looking for on the negative side of it. It goes on both sides of the ball.” 

On if it’s one more than the other (offense vs. defense) …
“No, not really. I think it is pretty evenly split.”

On how the rules on how physicality during the game are not being enforced the way they were expected to be …
“We’re letting them play. I think you see that a little bit as league play is starting to happen. I know there’s a lot of things to call out on the floor, but we’re letting our guys play in practice right now.”

On how they hope that impacts the team during the game …
“Hopefully it impacts us offensively by not turning the ball over or taking a bad shot, or just playing through bumps.”

On the play of Derek Willis …
“Good. Derek is in a great frame of mind. I mean he has carried over in the last two days and really has done what he did there. I’m happy for him. Can he continue? It seems like it, but today is a different day. He’s finally rebounding the ball with two hands. He’s playing way above the rim. He made very easy plays. He made a crazy play in practice yesterday, but he just said that he lost his mind. If he can simplify things, he’s 6-9 and can stretch the defense. You’re telling me that he can go in and get anywhere from six to seven, eight, nine, 10 rebounds. I know he had 12m I think, the other day, which we needed them. That’s a big boost.”

On comparing this team to 2013-14’s team …
“We’ve been on such a great run here that when you have a little peaks and valleys and you have a couple of valleys – I believe we’ve only lost four games so far – it’s somewhat unusual around here since we’ve been here, to be in January and have that. There’s no need to panic. This has been a process, and it’s been a process that we’re trying to really get through. It’s still a work in progress, if that makes any sense at all. I don’t think there’s a whole lot of comparisons that you could make right now. We just need to see where it ends up.”

On Dominique Hawkins’ status …
“He has participated in non-contact drills at this point.” 

On the team adapting to the size of the road environments …
“I think they’re getting more excited to play. They’re a little bit more focused and understand what they’re getting ready to walk into. You go from a big arena at Alabama to Auburn’s not as big, and now you’re going into Arkansas, which is I think probably the second biggest in our league. That will be a little different for them. But that’s good. They’re used to playing in Rupp Arena, which is the largest in the country. Besides having 18,000 to root against you, the size of it really shouldn’t matter.” 

On what hurt the team most during Auburn’s second-half comeback …
“Non-winning basketball plays, and we touched on it earlier, John (Clay), on both sides of the ball. That’s what we showed our team from the 12(-point lead) through the end of the game.  I believe it was like with 15 and a half minutes left in the game, if I’m not mistaken. We showed them. This is a good play. This is a bad play. Winning. Not winning.”

On if the breakdown is from a lack of experience or a low basketball IQ …
“I think it’s an accumulation of probably everything. It’s not on one certain individual or one certain play. Breakdowns both offensively and defensively.”

On if the staff is doing more coaching this season compared with last season …
“We’re not coaching any more or any less. This is what we do. It’s just with a different group of guys. We’re coaching each and every one of these kids and this team. We go into every game the same exact way and prepare the same exact way and nothing really changes no matter what game it is. I think as a staff and as a team we’re putting everything into this thing that we can.” 

Kentucky Student-Athletes


#1, Skal Labissiere, Forward


On UK assistant coach John Robic saying his play has improved in practice …
“Practice has been more physical lately. We’ve been competing and scrimmaging a lot more, going at each other. It’s been helping a whole lot.”

On if he likes the more physical practices …
“I like it because that’s what’s going to help me for games.”

On Robic saying forward Alex Poythress has been someone he can lean on …
“He’s been here four years so I’ve been fortunate to learn a lot from him. He talks to me whenever I need help. He walks me through things. He’s been a big help.”

On an example of how Poythress has helped him …
“Encouraging me, telling me to keep my head up, keep working. He’s been through some of the same things his freshman year.”

On what the toughest part of the adjustment has been …
“Toughest part, I’m not sure. Just the whole college thing I’d say. Coming from high school to college is definitely an adjustment. I’m not sure what was the biggest adjustment.”

On the biggest adjustment to playing on the road …
“Definitely getting used to the crowd, learning how to bring the same energy that we bring at home. I think that’s been the biggest adjustment for us.”

On what he hears from the crowd …
“Not just them yelling, it’s more so about us getting used to it as a team. At home, we’re all very comfortable playing at home. I feel like we have more energy when we play at home so we have to learn how to bring that same energy on the road.”

On changes he’s noticed in practice since the Auburn game …
“We’ve just been competing a lot more, going at each other a lot more. I’ve been going against Marcus (Lee), Isaac (Humphries), Tai (Wynyard). They’re all very physical guys, Alex (Poythress). So we’ve just been going at each other, making each other better.”

On if he felt any pressure earlier in the year …
“I did a little bit, but definitely now I’m just playing. I’m not worried about anything anymore so I’m just going to play basketball.”

On if he was worried at the beginning …
“I wasn’t worried a lot. I was too hard on myself – a little bit harder than I should have. I think I’m over that now.”

On if he thinks his early struggles may have reset expectations and now he doesn’t have to try to live up to them …
“A little bit.”

On him being a bit more chippy lately …
“I’m just trying to play with more emotion, I guess. Just play harder and tougher, I guess.”

On if he was like this in the past …
“That was actually my first time getting two technicals in back-to-back games. Playing basketball, I never got a tech in high school. It’s definitely different for me.”

On how much Tyler Ulis has dragged this team …
“Definitely. I’ve gotten to learn a lot from Tyler. He loves to win. We definitely, the rest of the team, we have to follow him as a leader, and definitely have that same drive to win every game like he does.”

On how Derek Willis’ performance at Auburn pushes the frontcourt …
“It helped us a lot. It helped us a lot. A guy like Derek Willis, we know he can do that every game if he wants to. He’s capable of doing it every game. That definitely pushes us to work harder to do the same thing as he does.”

On if Arkansas recruited him …
“They did.”

On how serious their recruitment was …
“I’m not sure how serious they were, but at the end of the day, I came here and I’m glad I came here.”

On Arkansas …
“Right now, we are just worried about ourselves. The past couple days we’ve been having great practices and we are about to go into practice today and work on ourselves, be more competitive, learning how to fight more and that’s the main point for us right now.”

On if the practices have gotten more physical …
“Definitely. Inside, the frontcourt players have been going at each other a lot more lately.”

On how much emphasis Coach Cal has put on making winning plays …
“A lot. We count every winning and losing play and make sure we make more winning plays than losing plays. I think that’s been one of the biggest issues for us: learning how to make winning plays late in games. We’ve been working on that a lot lately.”

On an example of a post player making a winning play …
“Running the floor, talking on defense, grabbing key rebounds, blocking key shots. Things like that.”

On if he feels like he’s close to breaking out …
“Yeah, definitely. I’ve been working a lot harder. My confidence is coming back up.”

On if he likes being eased back into things …
“Whatever he feels comfortable doing I’m just going to go with it. I trust coach. I think he’s done a great job with us so far. It’s really on us to accept what he has to say. I’m just going to go with whatever he does for me.”

On if there’s any possibility he returns for a sophomore season …
“Right now I’m just focusing on what we have to do right now; winning games, basketball games, worrying about the team.”

On the biggest thing he didn’t know or expect coming to Kentucky …
“Everything is going the way I expected it as far as the intensity here, the fanbase, the basketball. I’m just going to keep working hard and we’ll see where that leads to.”

#23, Jamal Murray, Guard


On what the focus has been since the last game …
“Just getting better every day and competing against each other. Trying to have a sense of urgency on defense and make winning plays on offense.”

On what examples are there of winning plays …
“Just knowing that every possession counts. Knowing that the shot you’re going to take, the pass you’re going to give, rebounding, diving on the floor, hustling. Just competing against each other.”

On if the only way to learn how to make winning plays is to be in those situations …
“Yeah that’s what we’re going through in practice. We’re scrimmaging, just playing against each other and compete and know what’s going to win us the game. Just figure out how we’re going to play this season.”

On if the mentality to compete is something players have or they don’t have …
“We’re going in trying to win every game, but so is the other team and they’re coming out harder and throwing the first punches at us. It just seems like we’re never ready for it at the start of the games. We just have to be consistent with our play and find a way to get better every day.”

On what it’s like as a freshman to learn how to play so many conference road games …
“It’s fun playing on the road. You have your own energy and everybody is against you. You have a little section in the crowd with your fans. You’re going against another team. It’s just a different feeling.”

On Coach John Robic saying he’s making winning plays and what adjustments he has made …
“Just slowing down knowing that if there’s a shot I can make, there’s always a better shot too. Just slowing down and being more efficient.”

On if he thinks he got away from that a little bit …
“Yeah. I didn’t shoot a very good percentage and there were a lot of shots that I could make, but they’re shots I shouldn’t have taken.”

On if that is easy or tough to change …
“It’s a process. I’m not going to say it’s hard or easy, but sometimes you just have so much confidence in your shot, you don’t know which one to take. So Coach and I just talk about shot selection and all that.”

On if he can put a finger on what the struggles are like blowing two big leads …
“We just have to stop the bleeding like Coach says. When we’re on a run, we can’t get lax and feel too comfortable with our lead. We have to know that we want to try and blow them out.”

On what impressed him about Kentucky reaching out to him on an international level when he was recruited …
“There’s talent everywhere. Not just in America, but in places in Canada that people don’t know about. Guys like Skal and Tai (Wynyard), in Australia in Isaac (Humphries). We have a lot of international players here and different languages. I’ve been in this position before playing with new guys with different cultures, different styles to the game. So it’s fun coming here and having a school that’s multicultural.”

On what he’s heard from coaches about international players …
“I’ve played in the international games, so I’ve seen all the different ways. Like the Pan Am Games and the American teams. It’s a lot of different rules and different styles, so it’s just adjusting to the style.”

On if the other players feel obligated to match the intensity that Tyler Ulis gives in games …
“Yeah. Just talking about that everybody has to play the way they’re capable of, and Tyler has been doing that and other guys haven’t. So I think it’s just collectively as a team, you have to pick up our slack and help each other out.”

On if he can feel Ulis’ frustration in other guys …
“We’re all in the same boat. You’ll see a play that I make and I’ll be like, ‘I should have made that play.’ Same thing for our other people. So it’s just going in there and trying to execute every time.”