Kentucky-Duke Postgame Quotes

Head Coach John Calipari


Opening statement …
“It was a good win. Good win. Two young teams trying to figure each other out. And it was a good win.”

On guard play …
“I haven’t looked at the stats yet. I know Tyler had (no turnovers). But I like—there’s a couple things that were an issue for us. What Duke was doing on drives is just throwing it over our big – whether they made it or not – and offensive rebounding the ball. Our guards were not going in there and cracking down and really taking that guy out. The second thing, when you think about it, there were 50-50 balls and we just got those balls jerked from us and many of those became fouls. So the grit we needed to play with on defense was not quite there. But, again, our guard play was good. I thought we controlled the tempo at the end of the game. We did what we need to to kind of grind the game out and make them guard in the half-court. Put them in pick-and-rolls and try to create opportunities. But we have good guards. I thought Jamal settled a couple times where he didn’t have to, settled for tougher shots than he really needed to take. But he’s learning.”

On why Tyler Ulis is so effective even though he’s small …
“One, he believes in himself. Two, he’s a skilled player with a great feel for the game and you see his leadership on the court. You just feel it. When he’s off the court, you know we’re not the same. And I said, he’s learning to lead off the court now, doing great stuff. Even the play where it was a pick-and-roll and he switched and stole it. Come on. You gotta have a feel for the game and a feel for what’s about to happen. He’s kind of like a baseball player that watches the ball and he can see the seams. The game’s happening slower for him. We have a couple other guys that their minds are racing. And when your mind races, you can’t really—you’re always behind the action. You can’t react.”

On whether Alex Poythress looked like his old self …
“I thought he and Marcus Lee were tremendous today. Now, early in the game they got pushed and shoved. But what I want Alex to be—I don’t want him to be a bully. I want him to be an elite athlete. See, a bully is easier. You can stay on the floor and just push around and a be a lug. I want him to be an elite athlete going after every ball, rebounding above the rim. You know he hit his tooth like on the rim. You hit your tooth on the rim? So why don’t you do that all the time? That’s hard. I know it’s hard, but, again, it’s trying to get these guys to understand, the best version of you is when you’re the elite athlete that you are. But I was on both of those guys. I was on Skal. Fight, man. Like the rebounds at the end. We’re up 15; let’s end this. And he goes and gives them a chance. A team like that can shoot 3s and all of a sudden you look and it’s four, you’re missing free throws, they foul and it goes to overtime and you lose a game like this for what reason? You didn’t want to come up with a rebound where you had inside position? Those are the things this team’s still learning.”

On Poythress’ offense …
“He’s trying to bully. You gotta be an athlete. You gotta go by people. You can’t try to go through them. But again, he’s coming off an ACL, guys. And I’m hard on him, but I’m allowed to be. You guys are not allowed to be. And I’m hard on him. I’m expecting him to—my son, who had an ACL, called me yesterday and said, ‘You gotta leave Karl alone, Dad. He’s just…” Did I say Karl(-Anthony) Towns? Did he have a double-double yesterday? But he said, ‘You gotta leave Alex alone. I had that injury. I know how that is.’ ”

On Alex Poythress’ offensive production …
“He’s still trying to bully. You can’t bully. You have to be an athlete. You have to go by people. You can’t go through. But, again, he’s coming off an ACL, guys. And I’m hard on him, but I’m allowed to be. You guys are not allowed. I’m hard on him. I’m expecting more than he’s – my son, who had an ACL, called me yesterday and says, ‘you have to leave Karl alone, Dad.’ Did I just say Karl? Did he have a double-double yesterday? But he said, ‘You have to leave Alex alone. I had that injury. I know how that is.’ ”

On if tonight’s performance was worrisome from Skal Labissiere …
“No, he’s going to be fine. He’s going to be fine. It’s all new to him.”

On how good his team can become …
“If we learn to fight every possession, play the guy before he catches the ball, be alert defensively and stay in a stance and really bounce and play off one another we’re going to be really good. If we don’t, we’ll be an average team. We’ll be an average team. I like our guards, I like our wings, I like our ability to shoot the ball. I like our bigs, I think we have length. How about Isaac (Humphries) today? Isaac was fine. He’s 17 years old. He’s 17. He has no idea he’s not supposed to be in that game.”

On how much Isaiah Briscoe’s defense was a factor in Grayson Allen’s performance …
“I don’t know. I’ll watch the tape and find it. I do know he ran a gap late and gave Allen a 3 in the corner. If it wasn’t Allen it may have been (Matt) Jones. He ran a gap which we weren’t doing this game. We were going to make them drive into us, and the kid stepped back and shot a 3 and I looked at him like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ Their handoffs hurt us at elbows. Their pin downs hurt us. We didn’t really cover and three guys just left the elbows open. They exploited some stuff. I thought maybe they’d play some zone, and didn’t.”

On players maybe getting carried away about beating Duke …
“Why would you think our guys even think this is any different than any other game?”

(Reporter: I’m wondering why you’re picking out things, saying “we didn’t do this, we didn’t do that.”)
“This is one game. If we lose to Wright State, you people in Kentucky will think I should be fired. So, you’re really happy with me today, ‘Cal’s the best. He’s unbelievable.’ You lose to Wright State, ‘Let’s get him – the game has passed him by. He’s too old.’ This thing at Kentucky is a different deal. It’s nice to win. We’ll enjoy this on the plane ride home and then we’re going to get ready for Wright State. We did not approach this game any different than we did NJIT. And if you ask the guys they’ll tell you. It was the exact same preparation that we had for NJIT and that we had for Albany. Nothing changed.”

On the comfort it gives him to have three playmakers on the floor at one time …
“That’s why it makes us good. You know what’s amazing is last year we had 7-foot, 7-foot, 6-10. This year we’re 5-9, 6-2, 6-5. Last year, ‘Why did you throw it to the post every time?’ 7-foot, 7-foot, 6-10. ‘Why are you driving it every time?’ 5-9, 6-1 – we’re just a different team. We’re playing different. The whole idea today, other than when we were grinding it up, was to put it on the floor and just move that ball, get some good spacing. We went to dribble-drive, I’m back to teaching that like I did at the other school. I’m doing that now. Why are you laughing Hoops? (Reporter: I love you, John.)”

Question inaudible …
“They have to get more confidence in their ability to just go after and play and not think as much. Skal just needs more time on the court. He’s going to be fine. Skal is one of the best players in the country. He wasn’t tonight, but he is. He did some good stuff tonight. I mean, he wasn’t like awful. The one fadeaway jumper and the foul – I was like, ‘Why’d you fade? Just shoot it.’ He’s just a little nervous out there. He’s going to be fine. Great kid.”

On Derek Willis’ performance …
“Struggled some. He struggled defensively, didn’t rebound. They grabbed the rebound from him, threw it out, 3. Struggled a little bit defensively, but that’s ok. We’re still working on the rotation, and I told him after, from Charles (Matthews) to Derek ‘Someone’s has to be able to help me. I can’t play these guys 40 minutes a game.’ But then I reminded them in 1996 I played my guards 39 minutes each. So I will. I rather not, but I will. So you other three have got to help us so we can get these kids off the floor some.”

On Marcus Lee’s performance …
“He was great. I thought he was great. Now, early in the game now, he got pushed around like, ‘What the, what?’ Then he fought back. Did some good stuff today.”

On when the moment was he saw the team notice they were being pushed around …
“I don’t know. I just know early on I said, ‘We can’t win this game this way.’ I’ll tell ya, the big play was at the end of the half when we trapped and came up with the ball because then we started with the ball in the second half. It was kind of – Not only did they didn’t score, but we scored and we got the ball to start the half. That was a big play in the game and I think they started – I just walked in after and I said, ‘You guys, we’ve got a good team. Just go out and do the things we do, but you have to fight.’ I told them at halftime to fight. Fight doesn’t mean to swing. Fight means I’m going to play my man before he catches it. And I’m going to start working to get open before I catch it. I’m not just going to stand there. I’m going to be alert. If a ball is hitting the rim as I see it going to the rim, I’m going to start working for position before it even gets to the rim. That’s fighting. Duke fought. They fought. I didn’t think we did.”

On if this is the game they start to catch on to what he’s been saying …
“Yeah they’d say, ‘We beat Duke by 11 and you tell us we didn’t fight.’ So I don’t know. We’ll see. I don’t know yet. One guy that makes us pretty gritty is Isaiah. He cramped up. He’s over on the side like, ‘What do you want? I’m cramping all the way up on my hip.’ I’m like you have to be kidding me.

On players having foul trouble …
“My staff said after – I said, ‘What do you think?’ They said, ‘We’re deeper than we thought.’ If you go to Isaac, that means you have four bigs. You’ve got Derek and you’ve got three, four guards and all of a sudden – the issue becomes if they’re not playing a whole lot, and then all of a sudden you need them for 20 minutes, can they do it? I don’t know. We coach every player in our program like they’re a starter. There ain’t no we’re coaching these four and – we coach every player like they’re starters. Trying to get each guy better.”

#3 Tyler Ulis


On if the team feels improved after today …
“Yeah, some of our bigger guys got into foul trouble. Marcus fouled out, Skal fouled out. Me and Jamal (Murray) had to step up. It was me and Jamal’s day. Charles came in, got a big play for us. So I feel like our backcourt took care of it.

On being in attack mode early on …
“Yeah, with the team we saw, they spread the court and that’s what we like. Big guards who can dribble the ball and penetrate defense. Having that with me, Jamal and Isaiah, we just kind of take turns. When you’re feeling it, you just let it be know, ‘Give me the ball.’ ”

On what he likes playing in front of Chicago …
“I just see it as another game. It doesn’t matter about coming home or where we’re playing. I just come out there and just try to do what we need to do to win.”

On the plan defending Grayson Allen …
“Just try to stop his drive. I feel like we executed that pretty well. He’s a great player, he tries to get to the basket, he’s good at drawing fouls. I feel like we did a great job getting over screens. Isaac did a great job walling up. It was just a team defensive strategy.”

On if he was aware of his turnover count …
“No I wasn’t.”

On not having any …
“Oh ok. (Laughter) That’s good because I had five one game before.”

On what’s different about his game now that he’s a starter …
“Just more minutes and there’s younger guys on the team, so I have to try to lead by example vocally because I have more experience than them. Jamal came in and did his job. He didn’t look like a freshman out there.”

On what a win like this says about the team …
“We’re going to be trouble in a fast-paced game like that because whoever rebounds, me, Isaiah or Jamal, those three guys rebound really well. I’m not, I’m really small. We get out, pushing the break, and very unselfish with each other. We understand we all have different types of game and can do a lot of great things. We play well with each other.”

On Lee and Poythress stopping Duke’s run …
“Very big. Because at the beginning, (Marshall) Plumlee, he got some rebounds early and Alex came in and just did what he does. What he did last year. He did a great job coming in there and getting rebounds. Coach said he got his tooth caught on the net. So he’s out there trying to be an athlete and getting things done.”

On the guards’ personalities …
“Yeah, we’re all pretty different, but we have a lot of fun together hanging out outside of practice and stuff like that. Even in practice, when Coach is yelling at us we try to make jokes in there. We all get along pretty well.”

On the alley-oop to Lee …
“He was open for a while and I was kind of timid to throw, but I threw it up to him. He went up and got it and dunked it backwards. That was a big play for us. Got the team going and got some energy in the gym.”

On whether they said anything to Labissiere about his off night …
“No, not really. He understands this is new to him. He’s a freshman. He’s ready to fight. He had a rough game, foul trouble. I don’t feel like he played that bad. He just got in early foul trouble and just had to sit for a while. Never really got in the flow of the game.

#23 Jamal Murray


On the fast-break layups …
“Yeah we just like to push the ball and get easy baskets. Get into the halfcourt sets. Everybody else trying to find me and then everybody else.”

On how he and Tyler Ulis have been able to build such chemistry …
“We have good chemistry and play off each other. Pick our spots offensively. We just kind of take turns. Between us and Isaiah, we just try to help our team win and put us in the best position.”

On the steals he and Ulis got …
“I was playing with passion and making every catch tough for them. We all react well and anticipate moves. That’s why we forced turnovers and got us that run.”