Kentucky Basketball Previews Missouri

Briscoe, Lee Video

Kentucky Men’s Basketball
UK-Missouri Pregame Quotes
Assistant Coach Tony Barbee
Joe Craft Center – Lexington, Ky.
Jan. 26, 2016


Tony Barbee


On improvements the team has made regarding ball security …
“We’ve been pretty good with our ball security all year long. When you have guards like Isaiah (Briscoe), Tyler (Ulis) and Jamal (Murray) out there handling the ball, turnovers haven’t been much of a concern for us this year. We’re a hard team to press in that way and create turnovers. When we start pressing the ball offensively is when we turn the ball over ourselves. But for the most part we’ve been good handling the ball all year.”

On what has led to the shift in defensive intensity over the past few games …
“Just a renewed focus on it in practice. We just talked about getting back to our roots. We wanted to kind of change the direction we’re headed especially coming out of that Auburn game. It was a renewed sense of focus. Our sense of urgency plays back on defense because that’s where we take pride in. It creates a lot of offense for us.”

On the challenge Missouri presents …
“They present a big challenge. If you look at their last three games, they’re playing very well. They led at Texas A&M late in the second half. They led a lot of the game at South Carolina and played them close, the team that’s been leading the league for most of the year. And they played Georgia well at home. So you look at the last three games, they’ll mix up their defenses man and they’ve been playing a lot of zone lately. They have some guards; Wes Clark is one of the better guards in the league, you’ve got senior center (Ryan) Rosburg who presents a challenge inside, and then their freshman (Kevin) Puryear has been playing well. It’s going to be a difficult game like all games are in the league.”

On how well his players can appreciate Missouri’s record …
“Obviously it’s a challenge with younger players. The consistency of not worrying who your opponent is but just preparing to play your best. We lean on our veteran players to bring it every night. I think Tyler is the guy who brings it every night and plays with a sense of urgency. We’ll just have to get our freshmen to catch up to speed. It doesn’t matter who you play; with what we wear across our chest in Kentucky, everybody is going to bring their best.”

On Dominique Hawkins’ status … 
“He kind of tweaked his ankle again yesterday. I haven’t seen him today so we’ll see how he goes today. He said was feeling better last night, so we’ll see how he progresses today in practice.”

On if there’s been another player like Tyler Ulis in his time coaching …
“No, especially given his size in the so-called disadvantage that it brings for any player. We always say it’s not how big you; it’s how big you play. Tyler is one of those guys that looks in the mirror and he sees a guy that’s about 6-10 and 280 pounds. That’s what he thinks he is and that’s how he plays. He doesn’t see that as a disadvantage in any way, and that’s a good trait to have. We wish more players had that.”

On what makes it difficult for young guards like Jamal Murray to judge situations well …
“Not only did it work, you were expected to do it at all times. Now when you’re one of many, understanding when to do it – time, score. Those things for a talented high-school player sometimes don’t come into your train of thought. But on this level, it’s what the game is all about, especially at the guard position. You’ve got to know, when you’re an elite scorer like he is, sometimes in your mind you see it visually. It’s, ‘I can score anytime,’ but understanding when it’s that time to go, when it’s that time to press, and when it’s that time to move the ball a little bit and get a better shot. It’s difficult to understand, but he’s learning quickly.”

On his experience as an SEC head coach and getting more excited to play Kentucky than other teams …
“It’s no question it is. When you prepare for Kentucky, this program has been on top of the league for a long time. Every team like Cal has always joked when he’d come play us or anybody in the league it’s T-shirt night, it’s hat night, it’s banner night, it’s towel night. It’s a big game for everybody in this league. Everybody wants to be the best, everybody wants to be on top, and to do that obviously you’ve got to beat the program that’s been the flagship of this conference for a long time.”

On if Missouri presents a better matchup for Skal Labissiere …
“It’s possible. They don’t have the—in terms of style of offense, it wasn’t more so individual matchup, but in terms of the style of offense for matchup for Skal. So this should be a game where he can be more impactful.”

On Derek Willis’ play the past few games …
“It’s made a huge difference for us as a team. And the biggest change isn’t that Derek has gotten the opportunity; the biggest change is Derek has changed his mental approach to the game. That’s been the biggest change. And then Coach, and as a staff, we saw it in practice. Now all of the sudden Derek deserves an opportunity to play because of his mental approach. He would admit that he’s been a little laissez faire-type attitude and approach to practice. We’ve been on him about it and for some reason it clicked about a month ago. He must have just told himself, ‘I’ve got to change for this to work.’ Everything Coach asked him to do from two-handed rebounding to playing tougher, there’s no question what he can do for our offense: being a stretch four and really stretching out the floor. When you’ve got dynamic scoring and driving guards like we do, if you’re playing with two bigs that clog the lane that people don’t have to guard it makes it hard then to create those driving opportunities. That’s obviously what Derek’s done for this team is open up that lane for our guards. But at the same time Derek made the change. He knew the expectations and he finally just bought into them.”

On whether the staff is nervous about younger players overlooking Missouri for the Kansas game … 
“Yeah, you can, but that’s why you rely on your veterans. In practice there’s been no talk about the next game after, but it’s sort of inevitable for younger guys to look ahead. We’ve got to focus on Missouri. It’s the next game and the biggest game on the schedule.”

On how players adjust at the collegiate level to never taking possessions off …
“It’s more so about the players. You’re talking freshmen, which consistency is always harder to find in freshmen whether we’re talking game to game or practice to practice or possession to possession. Again, it usually goes back to those guys being so talented in high school that you can take every other possession off or every third possession off and still be OK. At this level, you just can’t. The players are too good and the coaches are too good.”

On the defense of late …
“It’s always been an emphasis and it’s always been an emphasis with Coach Cal. I know that it’s always been one of the biggest thing he’s always emphasized is that we have to limit not only on how many you make but how many you shoot. We want to drive teams off of that 3-point line and play at the basket over our length at the rim because of the big advantage here at Kentucky. There’s been a renewed sense and renewed emphasis here on the defensive end of the floor because that’s where the changes happen. Guarding the 3-point line has been a big key. It’s been a focus from day one. Maybe the guys are finally paying attentions to it.”

Kentucky Student-Athletes


#00, Marcus Lee, Forward


On how he has been the last few weeks …
“It’s been a rough couple of weeks for myself personally. Just trying to get back on track, get myself mentally ready to help my team.”

On what the key to that is …
“I think it’s just going hard at practice, and once you’re confident in practice and being able to be dominant in practice, then the games come easier.”

On the questionable foul calls he’s been getting in games …
“Yeah, fouls have been very crazy lately, especially for me. But I guess that’s the way they’re calling it now and that’s something I have to adjust to. That’s what I’ve been doing and trying to work on: fouling less. I know that if I stay in the game, we’ll do better and I’ll feel more confident.”

On Coach Cal saying the players have to ask different questions of themselves and what question does he have to ask himself …
“I think that’s kind of true. Instead of asking why they’re fouling or why they’re calling the fouls, or why it’s not going my way, I can ask a different question. Like how can I fix it, or just try to step back and figure out what’s really going on.”

On how does the team feed off of Tyler Ulis’ energy …

“Tyler is so competitive that it doesn’t really matter what he’s playing. So when he really gets into the game or into practice, you have to either kind of match it or he’s going to go after you.”

On what has led to the fouls becoming more of an issue recently …
“It’s become more of an issue just because it’s –it’s been an issue for me especially because I’m one that I feel like I have to be on the court for energy. I can’t do what I do from the bench. I can’t help my team from the bench. So that’s something that I really need to stay focused on.”

On if it’s tough to strike a balance between bringing energy and trying not to foul …

“Definitely, because those are two things that kind of collide, having so much energy and learning when to back up and kind of play conservative. That’s been something I’ve been really trying to figure out.”

On if he was ever in the position as a freshman where he might have overlooked some opponents …
“I feel like I wasn’t as a freshman because my freshman year was a little different. But this year they know exactly that we have to come and be ready for each game because each team could beat us at any moment. So I feel like our team kind of knows that already that we have to be ready and kind of stick with just the first game and just stay with that.” 

On the change in defense for the team …
“I mean, especially in practice we try to stay competitive and get into each other. Those last couple of weeks, we kind of backed up in practice and kind of wasn’t very competitive. That’s something that we really stressed this week is to stay competitive and go at each other.”

On if that changes the mindset going into games …
“Definitely, because it makes you – It puts you in a competitive mindset the whole time and once you get in the game, it’s just drilled into your head that it just happens.”

On how that change came about …
“We just had the time. The last couple of weeks, we’ve had game after game where we didn’t have the time to do all that battling. We couldn’t pull all that on our bodies. Now that we have the space and time to practice for a long amount of time, we can go back to playing five-on-five in practice and getting after each other.”

On the play of Derek Willis and if that adds pressure to him to get better …
“Actually, I love that Derek is playing well. When we first started when we had a couple of bigs in, it took a toll on me and Alex (Poythress), especially because we were the only bigs doing a lot. So now we have Derek coming in and he’s doing really great the last couple of games. So it helps all of us out.”

On if he’s seen a change in Willis in practice …
“Yeah, I definitely see a little change in Derek. I think he’s just mentally more ready to take advantage of everything, and since it’s right there, he’s being more aggressive offensively, more aggressive on defense. He’s feeling very confident right now.”

#13, Isaiah Briscoe, Guard


On the team’s renewed focus on defense …
“The main part is just talking. You can never talk too much on defense, and Coach thinks that when we’re talking, that’s when we’re at our best.”

On UK committing just 13 turnovers over the last two games …
“Just taking care of the ball better and just trying to get the other team to force more turnovers than us so we can play in transition.”

On if he feels like the team is gelling more …
“Yes, I think we are because of the way we’re talking and the way we’re competing in practice.”

On if it’s tough to get guys to talk more …
“Yeah, it is, because we’re all coming from different places where we all were the man wherever we came from. Just trying to get everybody to come together and just talk together as a team was one of the big things that we tried to get accomplished. I think that when we do do that our defense is better, our offense is better and we’re playing much better.”

On if they’ve had more fun since the Auburn game … 
“I mean, we’ve always been having fun playing basketball because that’s what we love to do, but yeah, I think so.”

On how Tyler Ulis got the team to talk more …
“Well, not only Tyler, but like I said, it was the coaches too, just trying to get us to talk more. Like you said, once we talk more our defense is much better.”

On what sort of talk is being said …
“Just switching, boxing out, shooter, I got no help, things like that.”

On if he was doing that sort of thing in high school …
“Me? No.”

On Derek Willis, who’s normally quieter, talking and if that’s just something he has to do to contribute …
“Yeah, and on this team that’s everybody’s main goal right now is talk, and if you want to play and be out on the court you have to be vocal.”

On Willis’ play of late …
“I like it. Derek, he’s been balling.”

On what Willis has been doing well …
“Blocking shots, rebounding, running in transition, making shots. Everything he’s known how to do.”

On if Willis has been any different in practice …
“I would say, and maybe because it was that one game that got his confidence going and he’s been rolling ever since.”

On if the Auburn loss served as a wake-up call of some sort …
“I mean, I think every loss is a wake-up call, but yeah. It was a tough environment to play in. We got Auburn’s best game. After that game I think it was a wake-up call.”

On if he has trouble not looking ahead to Kansas …
“Yeah, it’s going to be a big game, but we have to take care of business tomorrow first. We’re taking it day by day, game by game. We’ll see what happens tomorrow after the game, and on Thursday and Friday we’ll prepare for Kansas.”

On what he expected playing on this level would be like …
“It’s been everything that I expected, high intensity, loud arenas and everything like that. It’s been everything that I expected.”