Kentucky Basketball Previews Tennessee

Briscoe, Matthews Video

Kentucky Men’s Basketball
UK-Tennessee Pregame Quotes
John Calipari
Joe Craft Center – Lexington, Ky.
Feb. 17, 2016


John Calipari


On the team coming together …
“They’re becoming empowered. The guys that listen to anything I say in this group know every year that I’m talking about empowering the team and it being about them. They’re getting there. I think you’re seeing each guy flow into a role that suits him, and that’s what this is about.”

On if NCAA Tournament seeding is more important this year because it’s a wide-open year …
“It’s always important. The history (shows) the higher seeds win more than the lower seeds. It’s just how it is. And very rarely, every 10 years, you’ll have a No. 10 seed or No. 11 seed pop through – every 10 years. And you can say, ‘Well, is this one of those years?’ We won’t know till the stuff starts, but I will tell you that it’s starting to group. The disappointing thing for us is, in our league if you lose a road game, it’s like devastating. It was only a couple of weeks ago we lost at Auburn. And Auburn hasn’t won a whole lot since then, but so? OK, we lost a road game. And we’re fine. I just hope like a game like South Carolina played (Tuesday at Missouri), they just played bad. These kids, they’re not machines they’re, not computers. They play bad at times and you lose a game. And it happens in every single league, except our league it becomes like this big issue, which is just disappointing. But I think at the end of the day we’ll get five to six teams in and then we’ll have teams advance like we always do.” 

On pushing to improve NCAA Tournament seeding now with a few weeks left in the season …
“For all of us. You know, when we walk into the conference tournament that’s all I talk about. It’s about seeding more than anything else. My concern right now, and I’m focused on this team, we’ve got three weeks left. The season has blown by. There have been ups and downs, but the greatest thing is you see the progress. You see that guys are doing it. And we’re still not where we need to be, but we’re moving in that direction.“

On Alex Poythress …
“He did some stuff yesterday. I don’t know exactly what he did, but I saw him stretch and I heard he went out on the court and did some stuff. So he won’t play, I doubt this week.“

On if Poythress is on track for his original return prognosis of a few weeks ….
“I don’t know. You’d have to talk to (athletic trainer) Chris (Simmons), but you know, when a guy gets hurt for me sometimes I forget their name. I’m like focused on the guys that are playing and just OK. And then when he comes back, ‘Hey man, what’s your name, by the way?’ “

On UK shooting well from the perimeter recently …
“We’ve been doing stuff in practice to get them to in transition to let balls go. We’ve done that. The main thing is what we’re doing on defense: scrambling it up and playing better schemes and playing a little bit different. Doing the things we’re doing, I think that’s helped us and that’s gotten us easy baskets and transition baskets and jump shots that are open. Guys are making them. We’ve got a good shooting team. We do. I think Derek Willis being a stretch four changes what we do and how teams have to play us. So that makes us different.”

On if making shots helping defense …
“Yeah, probably. You miss one-footers, you miss free throws, it’s deflating. So when you’re making shots and guys are playing well – but you know this team plays off Tyler Ulis. It’s just obvious. Everybody sees it and knows it. (They) say, ‘Oh, they’re playing confident.’ Well, he’s building everybody’s confidence. That’s what he does. He’s shooting the ball better. He’s getting guys balls where they can make plays. He’s controlling the tempo. We play fast when he wants to play fast. We scrum up the game when he wants to scrum it up. He’s helping. I would like to see (us) throw the ball down in the post a little bit more, see if any of these guys can give us anything down in there. Maybe throw it to Isaac (Humphries), maybe throw it to Skal (Labissiere) a little bit more and see. As we move on in the season, it would be nice to get a couple easy baskets by throwing it in there.”

On who steps up when Tyler Ulis has an off game …
“Probably the other guards. They’ll step up and probably a frontline guy. They’d cover for him if he was not playing well. But here’s the biggest thing: He’s playing way better than he was a month ago. You can’t say well he was playing this well earlier in the year. No, he wasn’t. He is way better as a player right now. One of the things he’s figured out, there are games that we walk into and I say it’s a 15-assist game because they’re going to crowd the lane. You’re not going to go split it and have nothing there. You’re going to be an assist guy. Last game he had 12 assists and he still scored because he had shots and he knocked down shots. He’s way better as a player and he’s way better as a leader than he was a month or two ago.”

On finishing games defensively …
“I mean, everyone has taken on that responsibility. You know when you have a new team like we do, one, the stuff we are asking them to do is very hard. They’d rather do something else because it’s easier, and defensively is one of those. ‘I’d rather let someone else defend and I’ll kind of mess around over here and hope my guy doesn’t get the ball.’ Well, they’ve all taken on the challenge now of defending and rebounding. But again, I told you guys a couple of weeks ago, we’re going game to game. We’re worried about Tennessee. We’re not worried about anyone after that. We’re worried about what we’re doing in this game and how we’ll play. This team beat us last time. We had a nice lead and they came back and basically just ran us over. Beat us by 30 in a 25-minute stretch. So we’ve got our hands full in what we’re doing. And again, how we’re preparing we’re just trying to say we’re not backing up. Let’s keep going forward.”

On what has clicked for Jamal Murray over the past few games…
“Well, he’s getting the ball by the man and he’s not messing around with it as much, which means he’s not turning it over as much. His shot selection has gotten better week by week by week. He’s getting to the rim instead of settling for all jump shots, step-backs and fades. When he has shots, he takes them. His decision-making as a basketball player has gotten better and better.”

On Murray taking a backseat to Ulis …
“It’s not really a backseat. The kid is probably one of the leading scorers in the country. That’s a heck of a backseat. Can I jump in there with you? He’s playing a lot like Eric Bledsoe played, when he played with John Wall. I can remember Eric hitting 32 against Wake Forest in the NCAA Tournament, just going crazy. I remember 27-28 down on the road at Florida. They play off each other. One game one does it, the other game the other does it. He’s still playing in pick-and-rolls. He’s playing as a scoring guard, which is helping him. The whole thing is not the position; it’s your decision-making. And that’s what’s improving for him and making him a better player and us a better team.”

On how much blowing a 21-point lead to Tennessee the first time got guys’ attention …
“That’s so long ago I can’t even remember what happened. Stuff happens. You don’t get a big lead and lose, but sometimes you do. Somebody gets hot. Somebody misses free throws. A play here, a play there, all of a sudden it’s six and it’s a different game on the road. But we’re by that. We’re worried about this game. Rick’s (Barnes) is doing a great job like he always does. They’ve taken on his personality. They’re defending. They’re tough. They’re packing it in defensively. They’re playing you, but everyone else is in the lane. They’re rebounding like crazy. They’ve got some guards that can score. They’re scoring – even with their size – they’re scoring around the basket. Playing man, playing some zone. Will press you a little bit. He’s doing a heck of a job with his team.”

On how Ulis’ performance this year compare with other point guards he’s had in the past …
“Your point guard is always important. I mean, it’s always (important). I’ve had some really, really good ones, and they’re important. It’s like anything else: There are 25 teams in the country, right now if something happens to that player, their team, they’re not the same. They’re done. And so, his importance to this team is obvious. I think he’s playing like a player of the year in the nation. And a lot of it will be how we finish and how we do, but when you look at what he’s done and how he’s doing it and how our team just now coming together and him being the leader and the things he’s doing with the Breakfast Club and all the other stuff, he should be a candidate for player of the year.”

On Jamal Murray having the definition of settling for a shot change for him because of how well he’s shot it lately …
“He has the green light. He has to respect that. He knows what a good shot is. He knows the kind of shot we don’t want him to take: a bailout 3 when he can create. Look, when you’re bleeding, you have to stop the bleeding. You can’t take a bailout shot because you will not get fouled. A bailout shot has about a 25 percent chance of going in, especially when you’re bleeding. So to stop the bleeding you’ve gotta create a shot that you can either make or get fouled, or do it for your teammate. You cannot shoot a bailout 3. And that’s the only thing. He has the ultimate greenlight – and he does. Early in the year he didn’t handle it as well, and that’s why everybody said shot selection, decision making, duh duh duh duh. Now he respects it and he’s doing fine.”

On what did Marcus Lee do to stay out of foul trouble …
“He was really active. He was really alert. He was playing before the ball hit the rim. He wasn’t waiting for stuff to happen and then try to react to it. He was the initiator, and some of the other games he’s not. He’s on his heels. But he’s doing good. He’s doing good.”

On if a zone can stop the bleeding during runs …
“Yeah, yeah. And we work on the zone. Tony (Barbee) has coached a lot more zone than I have, but we work on it. We work on it every day, and when we get in foul trouble, we went to it. And even the kids said, ‘Let’s go zone. They’re trying to foul out our whole team.’ So they went zone and all of a sudden it slowed them down in their tracks. So yeah, we have that. I just, the history for me, when they go zone, we cannot make a shot, and when we go zone, they make every shot. I don’t know why that is, but I’ve done this 30 years and that’s just a feeling.”

UK Student-Athletes


#13, Isaiah Briscoe, freshman guard


On how well they are shooting right now …
“As a team I think we’re shooting well. We’re getting a lot more open shots and the guards are rebounding and pushing in transition. That’s when we’re at our best.”

On what caused them to turn it on …
“We do a 3-point drill every day in practice just to get used to rebounding and pushing the ball and just looking for the shooters.”

On whether they think much about the loss at Tennessee …
“I think we let one get away from us. Give credit to Tennessee. They played a great game at home and we’ll get our chance to get back at them tomorrow.”

On whether he believes in revenge …
“Not really.”

On what he has been working on to improve …
“Just staying in shape and just working out before practice, as you can see. I’m sweating. Me and KP (Kenny Payne) were just in there shooting. Every day before practice just trying to become a better shooter.”

On whether he shoots more now than in the beginning of the season …
“Um, yeah. You could say so, yeah.”

On how many shots he takes …
“I don’t count. I just work out.”

On the difference defensively …
“Just talking on defense and being more vocal. Just playing for one another instead of playing for yourself.”

On rebounding from the first position on free throws …
“Oh yeah. Coach puts me down there.”

On why Calipari wants him there …
“He knows I’ll box out and I’ll fight to get a rebound.”

On whether everyone feels like they’re growing as a team …
“Yeah, I think so. And it feels good. I’m having way more fun than I was at the beginning of the year. I was having fun in the beginning of the year, but now it’s just amazing. This is why I came to Kentucky. We’re clicking on the court, we’re talking, smiling and we’re just playing basketball.”

On when he first started to feel that way …
“Like I said, I had fun in the beginning of the year. But these past couple games I think that we’ve just been clicking, and top-notch. We’ve just been carrying the momentum game to game.”

On how hot Jamal Murray is …
“Extremely.”

On whether he bothers to offensive rebound when Murray shoots …
“No, I still go crash every once in a while. But sometimes when he shoots the ball I just think that’s it’s automatic. So I just go back on defense.”

On whether the South Carolina game was more physical …
“I don’t think their guards were physical. I’m a guard. But the big men, I guess they were physical. I mean, I’m not really for sure.”

On whether other facets of the game are helped when they shoot well …
“Yeah. Like I said, when shots are going and we’re playing defense, everybody’s energy level is higher. And then starting with Tyler, our point guard and our floor leader, he’s giving 110 percent, everybody else just follows after him.”

On whether he has ever had a coach get ejected so quickly …
“No. I wasn’t expecting that. I’m sure the team wasn’t expecting that. I didn’t hear Coach Cal say anything to the ref, but the ref did what he had to do and before Coach left we told him, ‘Coach, we got this. Don’t worry about it. You always have our back. You always put us first. We got your back on this one.’ I think the next timeout or whatever, we said, ‘Yo, we gotta go beat this team by 30. They threw our Coach out the game. Let’s go beat them by 30.’ ”

#4, Charles Matthews, freshman guard


On what the team has done defensively to improve …
“Just been scrambling a lot more. Helping each other out. That’s covering for each and everyone’s mistakes. We know that we have each other’s backs now, so we can press up on the ball more.”

On how much of an adjustment is it to learn team defense …
“It takes time, but we’re slowly starting to figure stuff out as the season progresses and we’re getting better day by day.”

On if the bench has improved lately …
“Yeah, I mean, Jamal (Murray) and Tyler (Ulis) get a lot of the talk, but it’s deservingly so. They do great things out there. But we just all try to come in and help the team the best way we can be. Coach (Cal) doesn’t ask too much of nobody on this team. He just strictly continues to say to be the best version of you, and when he says that, it instills confidence in us and we go out there and try to help the team win.”

On what the best version of him looks like …
“I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve been my best yet. I’m trying to continue to strive to be my best.”

On what specific things does Coach Cal want him to do …
“Really just bring energy, be a great defender, a greater rebounder, and then be a consistent scoring threat.”

On how much urgency is there to play the best basketball in the late portion of the season …
“I wouldn’t say an urgency. I just feel like it’s we want to continue to get better day by day. That’s just how we’re approaching it.”

On if there’s anything extra with Tennessee coming up to Rupp since the loss in Knoxville …
“I mean, that game didn’t end our season. So of course, you know, you hate to lose to anybody, but I guess we’ll see how the game plays out once it starts.”

On how much the Tennessee loss kick-started everything else …
“Just really valuing each possession and understanding that once we get the lead, we have to be able to put teams away. That’s just what we’re trying to be capable of doing.”

On how much confidence the South Carolina win gives the team …
“That brings a lot of confidence. That’s a game that we knew it was going to be a tough environment and they were a very good team, very physical team. We just went out there and played with great composure and was able to win.”

On how much is Tyler Ulis coaching the team …
“I mean, he’s like the coach on the floor. When Cal can’t get to us on the floor, we just really look at Tyler for his assistance. That’s how that goes really.”

On how tough the two-day turnaround will be with Tennessee and Texas A&M …
“I don’t know, we haven’t done it yet. I won’t know until it comes here.”

On anything specifically they’ve done defensively recently …
“Just pressuring the ball a lot more and help more. That’s about it.”

On how much has he seen Tyler Ulis grow …
“Tremendous. I don’t think I’ve seen him make a leap over one season like the way he’s done last season to this season. But he’s continuing to progress in my eyes.”

On what the difference is between the surge of play after the Tennessee loss to the surge after the Auburn loss …
“In the Tennessee loss – Auburn was just like we were going back and forth on them. But Tennessee, we really gave up a 20-point lead. That was ridiculous. That was something that we just never want to happen again, and we just take each loss serious and just continue to get better moving on.”

On if Coach Cal really stresses to not give up now more than ever …
“He’s been stressing that: to never give up. So Cal hasn’t changed since the beginning of the season to the end of the season. He’s still the same old Cal, still demanding the best of us. You can tip your hat off to him because you know he’s still going to coach you to the best of his abilities.”

On if they’ve had to change up the schemes since Alex Poythress went down …
“No. We still stay true to ourselves. He always says next man up when anything happens, so that’s how we just carry everything on.”

On if he put more focus on rebounding …
“No, just doing whatever the team needs me to do. Alex went down, he’s a big pivotal part of us down there, so I just wanted to help out.”

On how hot Jamal Murray has been lately …
“Very hot. He’s been knocking down shots consistently and playing great.”

On if he’s ever seen a guy be on that kind of hot streak …
“No, not like this. He’s on fire, so hats off to my man.”

On how he sees Murray handling playing backseat to Ulis …
“We never look at it like that. Honestly, I don’t think he pays attention to it. I know I don’t. I don’t think that’s why we play the game, for the attention and whatnot. We just play for the love of the game and just continue to try to get better, and I think that’s the same approach that Jamal takes.”