Kentucky Basketball Previews Florida

Lee, Matthews Video

Kentucky Men’s Basketball
UK-Florida Pregame Quotes
John Calipari
Joe Craft Center – Lexington, Ky.
Feb. 5, 2016


John Calipari


On practice since the Tennessee loss …
“Very hard. It was very hard. We made it more physical. I really zeroed in on our defense. The only offense we really worried about was what we were running against our defense. I’m trying to get guys back to, you know, how we have to play.  Again, if this team gets like, whether it’s offense early or whether it’s defense now or if it’s rebounding, it will all come back to, ‘OK, what are you guys emphasizing in practice?  What are you getting done?’ It’s a young team. So, we went back to that. Today, you know, because we play tomorrow afternoon I probably can go about an hour and 20 today. I’m going to try and jam in as much as I can as far as, let’s get down these habits. We’ve gotta start creating better habits. Yesterday we didn’t do anything on Florida. It just wasn’t time. Now, I’ve watched tape. They’re really good. They’ve got good size. They have a 3-point shooting four. Their guards are good. Their defense is – they’re playing, they look like my old UMass teams. They’re giving you one tough shot. When you drive, you’ve got five guys near you and they’re rebounding with five guys. He’s (Mike White) doing a good job with that team. A really good job.”

On what they have to do better defensively …
“Well, we’re getting beat on the bounce right away. We’re stretching out too much when we don’t need to be. We’re not scrambling and rotating. I mean, ‘It’s not my man.’ What? So, all of that stuff, and it’s typical of when things start to break down you’re just concerned about your own man. Again, let’s talk, for 15 minutes we played. There’s 25 minutes and the world’s coming to an end. My point is, because we back up off of our defense, it led us to the Kansas game where if we guarded, we win. They couldn’t guard us. We couldn’t guard. We were just giving them baskets. And then, when they started coming after us and we couldn’t crowd the lane at all – things that we have to be able to do. Then we didn’t rebound (against Tennessee). It’s just frustrating when teams are getting three and four shots at a basket. Let me say this, the best rebounding team in our league offensively is Florida.”

On whether there has been some soul searching on this team …
“It means self-evaluating. You’ve gotta look at yourself. I mean, as a coach I’ve gotta look at myself and just say, ‘OK, what are we doing? How are we doing it? Is there a better way of doing it?’ You’ve gotta ask questions and sometimes you’ve gotta ask yourself a different question than you did last week. So, as I look at this and they look at this, I come back to, ‘OK, I’ve gotta zero in on what we have to have to win.’ And then the other side of it, for me, is challenging these guys, holding the bar high and doing it in a way that gets something out of it. And that means you’re trying different buttons different ways. This is a game-to-game thing for us. I’ve gotta worry about Florida. I’m not worried about the last game. I’m not worried about next game. Let’s just play well this game. If that’s not good enough, we move on to the next game.”

On if the officials have called the games tighter the last couple of games …
“I don’t know. I know our fans watched the tape three times, so they’ll probably give you a good opinion.”

On the difference for Tyler Ulis this season compared with last season …
“He’s a better player this year than he was a year ago. I think the thing that he’s gotta figure out is this may be a 15-assist game because of how they play. Other games may be a 30-point scoring game because of how they play. That he’s gotta figure out. He’s not an issue. He and I had a great conversation today, ‘Tell me what you think. What are you seeing? What about this guy? What about that guy? How do we help this? How do we help that. Give me some ideas.’ I said, ‘How’s the team?’ He said, ‘We’re good.’ He said, ‘I’m good and as long as I’m good, I’ll get these guys right.’ So, it’s nice to know that you have a guy that has that kind of mentality.”

On if it will be more demanding …
"Not in a verbal sense. Yesterday was a rough-house practice. Marcus Lee was really good yesterday. I don’t know. Don’t ask ask me. ‘Why wasn’t he into the game?’ I don’t know. But he was really, really good yesterday to the point of like the old Marcus Lee from earlier this year. Will he be that tomorrow? That’s the hard thing about what we’re trying to do with coaching. If he really does his thing, it kind of puts everything in a spot that we’re good with. If you’re on the side scrambling, who’s next? How do we do this? It just makes it hard. That’s the challenge of this when teams change. I’m not looking at this other than, I’m blessed to be here and have this opportunity. I’m not like woe is me. Ain’t no way. It’s just figure it out and accept the challenge of this and know that we can beat anyone in the country. And, Jerry, we can lose to anybody in the country."

On Jamal Murray’s shot selection …
“It’s getting better. I’m working on him every day. I told him, ‘I’m not changing. You have to understand what I’m saying.’ I stopped him 10 times, both on defense and offense. I asked Tyler to give me some ideas today. He gave me a couple. I’m not going to talk to you about them. Maybe this will make it simple for him. Go straight line like they do, but he has never played that way. When you’re asking a guy to do stuff that will change who he is as a player but he’s never done it, if it gets rough, then they revert back to what they know best. We’re working every day. It’s the same thing with all of the other guys. We have to figure out whether it’s Dominique (Hawkins) or Charles (Matthews). Just keep working with them.”

On Mike White’s style versus former head coach Billy Donovan …
“The funny thing is they run a lot of stuff. He probably went in and said, ‘You know what? A lot of this stuff is really good and worked. If it’s good for those players.’ And he knows Billy was a really good coach. A lot of the stuff is some of the same thing and actions. Defensively and rebounding, the stuff he’s doing is old school. They’re doing a little phantom press, but the rest of the stuff is in the half-court. (Florida) is giving you one tough shot. If you think you’re driving it, then you’re driving it on five. It you think you’re posting it, swinging the ball and driving, then you’re doing it on five. They all rebound. He’s doing a good job. I think now they’re buying in. They’re building their confidence. We’re playing a team that’s playing as well as they’ve played all year.”

On the counter to a team that defends like that …
“You have to make extra passes, screen them more, and I hate to say this, but you have to make some shots. Not some 3s, but some 15-footers. You have to get your drives off of handoffs and pin-downs and different things while they’re still playing. Every bounce of the ball they get closer to the lane. Now you try to go and they have five guys in there, each with a foot in the lane."

On Skal Labissiere grabbing a few rebounds last game …
“He’s getting better. He’s getting better. He’s going to have opportunities, and get in there and fight. Look, we can teach, we can challenge, we can raise the bar; at the end of the day you’ve gotta go in there and perform. I can’t do it for you. I can’t fight for you. I can’t battle for you. I can cover for you; I can say it’s my fault. But at the end of the day you’ve got to get in there and you’ve got do it, and he’s getting closer.”

On what the locker room was like after the Tennessee loss …
“I think they were all really mad about that. It was really silent on the plane, and I think they were all mad at ‘How in the world, 21 points?’ And again, I can say there are four or five plays in a row, losing plays that ‘I’m just going to make this.’ ‘Why did you do this? Why wouldn’t you do this?’ ‘Well, I can make that.’ ‘Yeah, you can make that 2 out of 10. We cannot win with that kind of shot. Did you have a chance to get fouled?’ ‘No, I faded away.’ ‘What happened on this simple cross screen? How did it—‘ ‘I fell asleep.’ ‘You can’t.’ That’s the stuff that, possession by possession, they’re learning. And I know they want to win and I know they want to play well. They’re a great group of kids, but I’ve got to keep teaching them. It’s very tiring. You notice I’m back to exercising because I’m trying to make sure you don’t fall me under the desk in a week. Every day is a new challenge to just keep dragging. I’m getting on my staff to be enthusiastic, to add some energy, and then telling them to stop because I want the team to have the energy, not the staff. It’s got to be them. It’s a process. All we’re trying to do is, ‘How do we get better?’ I can’t tell you. The way Florida’s playing, they’re playing really good basketball. We can only control where we are, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

On if Isaiah Briscoe has shown his value of late …
“He didn’t play very well against Tennessee. He didn’t defend. It was one of his worst performances. But all in all, he’s guarded, he’s rebounded. He’s the one guy that shows toughness around the basket. He’ll have our other big guys there and he’ll grab the ball from them and lay it in. You’re like, ‘How did he get that? He’s 6-3, 6-2.’ He’s just got a toughness about him. He wants to win. Now we’ve got to get him to do the same thing: winning basketball plays. ‘Why did you throw that left-handed?’ ‘Because I can make that.’ No, you can’t. One out of 10 times. But if you shot it the other way, you’ll make it five out of 10, six out of 10.’ You can’t drive late in the game and try to get fouled. You avoid the foul and make the pass or make the layup. You don’t go in there late in the game and ‘I’m gonna get fouled.’ What? ‘I can make those.’ ‘I know – 35 percent of the time. We can’t win that game.’ It’s all what I’m trying to get these guys to accept and self-evaluate. ‘What am I? Where am I right now? Where do I want to go with this? OK. How do I get myself to that? What do I do extra?’ I mean, these guys are doing the Breakfast Club. These guys are, you know, it’s just that we don’t have the margin of error we’ve had in the past and I’ve got to accept it and we’ve all got to accept it that we don’t have that margin. We’ve got to play a heck of a game to try to win.”

On if they need to have Briscoe off the court in late-game situations because of his foul shooting …
“Yeah, if they’re trying to foul him, yes, absolutely. Or run up the court. Run. Get off the court. Run. Just outrun the guy. ‘He’s trying to foul me.’ ‘Run faster than him. Don’t get fouled.’ ”

Kentucky Student-Athletes


#00, Marcus Lee, Forward


On how the basketball world is …
“Basketball is going good right now. We’re getting back to who we truly are and back to our defensive ethics. We kind of slipped from that. That’s kind of something that we’re getting back to in practice is being tough on defense. That’s what I’m liking.”

On if the team has done some “soul searching” as Coach Cal put it …
“Definitely. That’s how it’s been at practice. We’ve been going at each other and we’ve all been embracing what we’ve all been doing. There’s a whole lot of yelling, screaming at people to give more to the team. That’s not just coming from the coaches. That’s coming from the players, coming from leaders, trying to get more from each player.”

On how hard is it to get over Tuesday’s loss …
“Honestly, what Cal told us is give it 24 hours of grief and after this, you get over it and try to fix it.” 

On if he thinks he’s over it …
“I mean, it’s still a loss and I’m still an athlete, so it still takes time. But it’s still something you have to learn by.”

On if soul searching is part mental and what do you do …
“I still feel like this game is still 80 percent mental. You have to find a way that helps you best get away from it mentally.”

On the players of Florida’s frontline …
“They play very strong and that’s something I really like about them is their strong players. They don’t really worry about anything else except for what they need to do. Right now, we’re just trying to work on trying to get us better each day.”

On how the team addresses the fouling issue …
“It’s just us trying to deal with it. We’re not going to change our aggression or how we play defense or how we get things done. It’s just how they want to go about it that day and if it’s us being too aggressive, which I don’t really see the case of us being too aggressive, we’ll make adjustments down the game and how it works. But it changes day to day.”

On if the refs are calling it tighter than they used to …
“I think it just depends on the day for the ref. Some days it’s more tighter. Some days they let some stuff go.”

On if it’s crew to crew …
“I agree because you can’t have each ref do the exact same thing. Some refs have different techniques. And that’s how basketball is, just getting some stuff done and figuring it out quicker.”

On what the mood of the team is …
“Emotionally I think we’re ready to be the aggressors now, and I’ve seen that in practice. A loss is like those, you see players kind of regretting practice and kind of just hesitating and not really excited for it. It’s been the total opposite. We’ve all come into practice trying to get better. Our practice was through the roof the other day. That’s just the way I saw it and that’s the way you get over games like that the best.”

On if there’s any separation between the losses at Kansas and Tennessee …
“A loss is a loss no matter what, especially in an athlete’s point of view. You don’t want to lose ever, so that’s probably the worst feeling in the world. But when you’re up by that much, it takes a different route for you. You have to think of how you did it because that’s not something most teams can do. Like it takes a special kind of team to go up 21 and end up losing the game.”

On if he’s saying the team is special …
“We’re definitely special, without a doubt. I think it’s taken something like that for us to realize we need to play great every second and we can’t take any moments off.”

On how much tougher is it on the road …
“Personally, I think it’s the crowd. I love having the crowd behind me. On away games, you do something against them, it’s total silence. I think that’s what really fuels most players is when you have a good player and you do something really well. You get more fuel off the other team, but when the other team is going off and they’re getting the momentum, you hear them and your energy just drops instantly. You have to learn how to get over that.”

On how much the team feeds off Tyler Ulis …
“Since Tyler is our point guard, he does coordinate most of our doings. He understands a lot of it and he’s the one at the very top of our march. Since he’s the one willing to do and he’s always there and he’s always acceptable to it, it’s easy to just get behind him and follow him easily.”

On impression did Ulis make on him when he first met him and did he doubt him …
“Oh no chance because the first time I met him, he tried to fight DeMarcus Cousins. So that went out the window real quick when he tried to fight the biggest person I’ve ever met. That totally went out the window.”

On how Ulis can log all these minutes and not show wear and tear …

“That I don’t know how he does because us bigs, we get tired quick. We start getting gassed after six minutes, so I don’t know how he keeps going and going at that pace all game. And he does it at practice where he’ll go two hours and not feel anything. I wish I could do that.”

#4, Charles Matthews, Guard


On the mood of the team …
“Just continuing to get better. We don’t like losing at all. We know it’s a learning process so we’re just trying to continue to grow.”

On what coach Cal has been focusing on since the loss …
“Really strengthening our defense. We’ve grown tremendously on the offensive end, but we can’t get away from our defensive strategies, so we have to continue to be a defensive-first team.”

On what he’s seen from Florida on film …
“We haven’t watched any film of Florida yet.”

On if he thought they had turned a corner after their previous performances, and what their mindset was going into the Tennessee game …
“Same mindset we had going into every game. We want to come out and compete and get the win. That one got out of our hands and we don’t want that to happen again.”

On if they’ve been stressing anything specifically on defense …
“Not really. Just taking pride in our defense. Have to be able to lock down teams and put them away.”

On the biggest loss he can remember …
“I think every loss is big. I don’t like losing at all, so I don’t think one game carries more weight than another. I look at every loss as a big loss.”

On what Coach Cal has tried to teach them about winning plays in practice …
“Just valuing the ball, valuing each possession. Just gotta take each possession play by play and give it our hardest effort.”

On if that was the biggest reason the Tennessee game got away …
“I mean, you have several reasons, but we just didn’t accomplish the mission to go out there and win.”

On what he’s working on, personally …
“Just becoming more consistent, find my niche on the team and continue in it and thrive in it.”

On playing tough defense without getting into foul trouble …

“Yeah, that can be tough at times. That’s why you have to be smart as well with your approach to it. Just fight early on, don’t make lazy fouls or anything like that.”

On if Tyler Ulis doesn’t get tired …
“Yeah, he’s a great player. I’m pretty sure he does get tired at times, but he knows how to fight through it so that makes him even more special.”

On how Ulis has played this year …
“Oh, he’s been doing great. His game has been showing and he’s been carrying the team all season long.”

On what he’s seen from Ulis’ competitive nature over the years …
“I don’t even remember, honestly. Like, I can’t even say about that. He’s really competitive. That’s what makes him special as well, he’s a competitor.”

On how competitive Ulis is …
“Yeah, he’s really competitive. That’s what makes him special as well. He’s a competitor.”

On soul searching after the UT loss …
“We’ve been moving on but we still just don’t want that to happen again. So we’re just trying to improve.”

On getting back to defense …
“Yeah. We have to play great defense. That’s the only way we’re going to win games.”

On whether he can contribute defensively …
“Yeah. I feel I can help on that end of the floor as well.”

On whether practice has been different …
“Yesterday was a more difficult practice, but it was nothing that we can’t handle, nothing that we’re not used to, increasing the intensity.”

On foul trouble …
“We just gotta be able to play aggressive, physical defense without fouling. That’s really it.”

On whether officials are calling games tighter …
“You could say that, but we can only worry about things we can control. We can control our effort and preparation. We don’t know what the official is going to call and that’s out of our hands, so we can’t use that as an excuse.”

On how hard it is to get over the UT loss …
“It’s hard, but at the end of the day you gotta look at it as it’s just a long season. Our season doesn’t end from one loss and a win wouldn’t have made a championship for us either. So we still have to move on from it.”

On practice this week …
“I feel we made some strides yesterday. We all came together as a team and we helped each other get through it.”

On what the emphasis has been …
“Defense, really.”

On whether Coach Cal is louder than usual …
“Same old Coach. Just stressing defense more now.”

On what can be done about foul trouble …

“We just have to be able to play aggressive without fouling and that’s really it. That’s what I look at it as.”

On whether Tyler Ulis is still the x-factor for the team …
“I feel we go as far as he leads us. He’s doing a great job of that.”

On whether he can remember a tougher loss than UT …
“As I said previously, I look at all losses as tough. Nobody plans on losing so we all take losses pretty hard, each and every one of them.”

On what Coach Cal’s message has been …
“We just gotta play better defense and we can’t give games away like that.”