Kentucky-Missouri Postgame Quotes

Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Rupp Arena
Lexington, Ky.
Kentucky 88, Missouri 54

John Calipari

COACH CALIPARI: Here's the crazy thing. No, it wasn't by default, he went and grabbed them. And I just said after the game, I said, Derek (Willis), you've taken minutes from people in this room, do you want to give anybody back minutes? And he's even being honest. He said, Coach, I just want to win. He's playing desperate. He's rebounding with two hands. He was a double-double. And basically, he's put a couple guys on bench. And they're good players, but this is about performance. Now, it's good though because now they got to fight to get minutes back, which means our practices will be better or they will give up. They got a choice. You can give up or fight.

And so I think we'll have even better practices. Tyler (Ulis) was ridiculous, Isaiah (Briscoe) was good, Jamal (Murray) wasn't as good, but he rebounded. He missed a front end one-and-one and he missed a layup in the open court. He tried something crazy which he does occasionally.

And Skal (Labissiere) jumped in on a free throw, which he would have made, he made it, it would have been a one-and-one he would have made two. You're talking eight points, six. That's my good math. Two 3s.

Q. When you're talking about Jamal (Murray) though, I look and see that he got nine rebounds and it seemed like he did hustle and do some other things, that maybe he wasn't scoring, but it does seem like he's all over the game?
COACH CALIPARI: He did. It may have been his best game all around. May have been his best. Two assists, he didn't have a turnover. Two steals. Nine rebounds. It's one of his better games.

Our team, we're playing desperate now. We're playing with an attitude. Refuse to lose. Now Alex (Poythress) didn't today. Instead of saying I'm getting 25 today, Alex didn't. I don't know why. Is he coming out today? Okay. Can't ask him until Friday. I have no idea.

But Marcus Lee, not enough energy. So, let's go with Skal. Now the issue with Skal and again, I probably screwed him up to this point, because now you're seeing I'm letting him play different, and I'm putting him in different spots, and he looks more confident. But he had no rebounds today. He had five blocks. The blocks left him in the game.

But let me say this, we have to go play a Kansas team that's an inside-out game, that's how they play. What if he can't rebound in that game? Can I leave him in the game? You know I can't. That's what I just said to him. (Missouri head coach) Kim (Anderson), we're playing a team. If you can't guard their big guy, and you can't get a rebound, I can't leave you in the game. I love you, come and stay with me tonight, but you can't play in that game.

So, we're trying to hold these guys accountable as they grow and become more confident. But we're getting better as a team. I'm going to be honest with you, a big part of it is putting Derek Willis in the role that he's in has changed us. It's just changed our team.

Now you have all guys that can play basketball. If you can't shoot, dribble, or pass, and you have two or three on the court at a time, you can't -- it doesn't look good. It's not -- now all of a sudden Derek gives us that, another stretch guy that you got to go play with Tyler, with Jamal, let's -- it let's Isaiah do his thing, it posts up Alex where he should be, it puts us all in the right spots.

We need Dom (Dominique Hawkins) back. I'm -- Dom is going -- if Dom does what I think, there will be a couple other guys in positions where they're not going to get many minutes.

Q. You zeroed in on the rebounds there, obviously glaring for Skal, but when's getting that confidence back, hitting those jump shots, and you talked a lot about blocking shots, how different does that make it?
COACH CALIPARI: It makes our team different. When he blocks shots, you can't go in there and he goes and blocks one. But I'm going to say it again. You must rebound and attempt to guard a post player. The guy can't just turn and score on you. All right? Think of the games we have coming up. You ask me why Vandy didn't you play him more? Because of that. They had a moose in the post and they had a 3-point shooting big. And I didn't think he could guard either guy.

The way we were playing with Alex doing what he was doing, Derek doing his thing. I just said, we'll stay with where we are. Because at the end of the day, as much as I'm for each of these kids, I have a job here which is put this team in the best position to win basketball games.

Q. How happy were you to see Isaiah shoot those pull-up jumpers just inside the free-throw line, and also for him to go 5-6 from the free-throw line?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, he's been working and it's funny because he and I think if you remember back when we had Michael Kidd and he did the breakfast club and he was dragging guys with him. Tyler and Jamal or Tyler and Isaiah have started a breakfast club, and so they have been working out in the mornings.

There's some times where we coaches, we we're working out in the morning, we're working out in the afternoon, well, that's okay when they're not in school. But you have to have guys that want to do that, because if you do it with school, you're wearing them out.

If they're doing it on their selves, they're building their own confidence. So those guys have been doing that and they did it this week and it looked like it helped both of them.

Q. You talk about finding that role for Derek Willis, that stretch-four type role --
COACH CALIPARI: He's rebounding, too. We can call it a stretch four. We got guys that are still trying to grab rebounds with one hand. They never bring them in and then they give you this one, my fault. No. No, it's my fault for having you in. Not your fault. He's going after every ball with two hands. You look at his last -- since I put him in the lineup, I think he's averaging double digit rebounds. And he's stretching the team out, which gives us room to drive. Look, today, they did not play Charles Matthews, and they did not play Isaiah. Now you put one more guy out there that can't shoot, now what's that look like? Now you got three guys in the lane. Not playing, you can't, or leaning toward other guys. He's made us a different team.

Q. My follow-up on that in the past you've played him at more of a 3 role where did you get the idea to put him under the basket and play that 4?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, he, one, I think it's easier for him to guard the position. Just got to fight. And it gave us -- I really think Isaiah, as he gets better and better and he and Jamal play more to win than just play, really understand shot selection every time down and playing to win basketball games. You have to get those two are really good. Isaiah is the best defensive guard and rebounding guard in the country. Jamal is a big guard. He's still not playing big, but is he a big guard. And then you got Tyler. Tyler's, he's basically coaching the team. I mean, he's making comments at halftime or telling, where are they playing, how are they playing this, and he'll go tell his teammates, and he's on the board. So he's -- they're beginning to be empowered, they're not there yet, because we got guys like Skal that are still learning. I still got to coach Jamal and Isaiah how to win basketball games. Alex isn't coming every game. So we're still not quite to where it's, go guys, you got it. Just let me sit over here and watch you.

Q. We talked a lot about Tyler's on the offensive end, why aren't teams able to take advantage of his height on the defensive end?
COACH CALIPARI: Because there's just -- no one really posts up point guards any more. They just don't. And he is a pit bull. I mean, if you try to post him, he's, he's guarding 6'-10" guys in there. He'll front you and fight you and push you. He's not going to make it easy. He's not going to just stand there and say, okay, you're going to score on me.

I also think we're doing a great job of helping, coming off the weak side, doubling when we have to, and scrambling. We did a lot of that today. And I told him afterwards, that was one of our best games. Like, you just faced our best team. I didn't want him to think anything like, because it was a three-point game when they played Texas A&M at Texas A&M, not a week ago. They beat Auburn's brains in. They beat Auburn by like 25. So, they got us as, they got the buzz saw today. We played well.

Q. How different is your feeling and maybe outlook on this team than it was that Saturday at Auburn?
COACH CALIPARI: I was fine. You guys, look, I knew we were getting better. And just somebody said what do you feel about that? If we hadn't lost that game, we, I may not have been able to get this team to think more desperate. To play with the refuse to lose attitude. It may not have happened. So, there's, you go through a season, there are ups and down, I've done this 30 years now. My whole job is are we playing our best in March? That's what I do. That's my mentality, I don't want to beat them up, I don't want to bury them with practices, three and four hour practices. I'm trying to figure them out.

The hard thing here, coaching here, is every team's a new team. I mean, I'm not coaching the same team. My seventh year and this is the seventh different team I've coached. And they're all like, okay, I got my same guys back.

That makes it more difficult because you're trying -- like Skal -- I probably screwed Skal up, I'm trying to make him Karl (Anthony-) Towns. He's not Karl Towns. Can't play like Karl Towns. He probably shoots better than Karl Towns. Karl will love hearing that, but he's not Karl. Karl had a nasty beast streak in him. And it's, he's in the -- here's the thing, he averaged more rebounds and points in the NBA than he averaged here. He let us down here.

Q. No knowing what's gone on with the Missouri program in the last few weeks, Kim's got a young team, losses are adding up, how difficult is it for him to handle a situation like that and keep looking forward?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, one, you understand his background, a championship level coach. And he's not 35. He and I are a little bit older. So we have been through all this. He'll be fine. And he knows, they got to get a guy here and there, they're going to have get some guys. But what you'll see his teams -- I'm telling you, Texas A&M, you can say, well, they lost to Texas A&M, everybody's lost to Texas A&M and they played Texas A&M better than anybody other than Arkansas today. He went in with a game plan and those guys stuck to it and they had a chance to win. They, you can't judge this game. This, we played as well as we can play. And we did it the entire time. So, and that's what I said to him after, don't judge on this game, now, because that's as good as we are.

Kentucky Student-Athletes

#1, Skal Labissiere, F

On how comfortable he is now compared to the beginning of the season…
“I’m feeling a lot more comfortable, playing hard. We have been pushing each other at practice; therefore my confidence went up a little bit. I feel a lot more comfortable out there.”

On Cal trying to make him play like Karl-Anthony Towns…
“I think at the beginning of the year I had a good start, things didn’t go the way I wanted them to go. I just have to bounce back and I think that’s what I’m doing now. Whatever Coach Cal has for me to do, that’s what I am going to do.”

On how his performance energizes the team and the fans…
“I want to do whatever I can to help my team win. Bring energy off the bench and get my team going. Whatever I have to do I am going to do it.”

On everything finally coming together as a team…
“You can see in the last couple of games we have played, we played with more energy. Everyone is playing their roles now. ”

#13, Isaiah Briscoe, PG

On working out in the mornings …
“Yeah, I’ve been working on my shot just with Rob, the strength and conditioning coach. We have just been getting up everyday at eight just going to work out before classes.“

On how hard the team kept playing, even when the lead grew …
“Oh yeah. You know, refuse to lose. That’s the motto we go by now and every time we go to the locker room coach always says just refuse to lose.”  

On how Coach Cal talked about if they hadn’t lost the Auburn game, they wouldn’t be playing as desperately …
“I mean, we would never know, because we lost the game. We just keep going, taking it game by game.”

On if he feels as if the team is playing desperately …
“Yeah, I think so. It starts on the defensive end.”

#35, Derek Willis, F

On being the spark to the team …
“I don’t think that’s it. I think it’s a lot of Tyler’s (Ulis) doing. There are a lot of great things. I would say the credit probably goes to him.”

On feeling most confident while shooting at this point in his career …
“I always felt that I was a confident shooter. There are always times when you go through rough patches. Right now I’m pretty good I would say.”

On Coach Calipari asking him if he wanted to give minutes back to his teammates …
“It doesn’t matter to me honestly. It’s whoever is going to help the team win and I don’t care if I play five or 40 minutes. I just want to win, so that’s it.”

On having a laissez-faire attitude in the past …
“I guess I could agree with that. Now it’s a little different. My dad made a difference. A lot of where you want to be and you start looking at life in different ways. I wasn’t really being competitive with that. I talked to some friends a lot of older people. Competitiveness doesn’t just transition with basketball. It’s with everyday life. ”

Missouri Head Coach Kim Anderson

Opening Statement…
“They played great. We didn’t play very well. It was a similar performance I think to when we came in here last year. I thought the beginning of the game was obviously a difference. They completely dominated it. We had no answer. We had no answer for anybody for a long time. I think you have to give them credit. They played great. Certainly they seem to be playing better and better. We’re still young. I think we were shell-shocked early on but at least we hung in there. We hung in there and we played. We got better in the second half.”

On how the game changes when Skal Labissiere plays the way that makes the most sense for him (shoots jump shots and blocks shots on defense)…
“That makes a huge difference. That’s another weapon that they have. He played really well tonight. You talked about (Derek) Willis, you mentioned Willis’ jump shots and we knew that. We practiced that going in. I just think our guys got sped up. We talked about that. But Skal certainly was a factor and is obviously one of the best players in the country. Unfortunately for us he kind of really started to find himself tonight.”

On how efficient Kentucky was in terms of getting down the court and scoring points…
“I thought they were very efficient. Part of that was we were inefficient. I thought they really, really executed well. They did a great job. Obviously, I just think (Tyler) Ulis controls the game. He just controls it. He just takes over the game. Not just scoring but playmaking. Tonight he made shots. He makes them anyways but I just think he controls the basketball. He’s a major weapon.”

On Derek Willis finding and accepting his role and how that affects the game…
“We watched a lot of tape on him. You go back and you see, and I don’t know if this has happened in the last three games, it seems to me it has to kind of understand what their strengths are. We didn’t do a good job on Willis. We finally started switching stuff and made things a little more difficult on him. You know, when you have a guy that size that can also shoot, that creates problems. I think he is definitely going to be a big factor.”

On if it’s difficult to keep players mentally in the game with so many losses…
“We just go one game at a time. Obviously this is a disappointing performance. Not because we got beat by 34 points but for me it’s disappointing because we didn’t start off better. I don’t want to say we didn’t compete but I just think we got run over by a truck early in the game and it took us a while to get back up. You have to give them credit. They played well and we didn’t. Our youth shows sometimes and when it does, we get to going off like we’re going to score 16 points in one possession, and you’re not. But this game from the start I thought they played with an incredible amount of energy. It reminded me a lot of last year’s game, I’ll be honest with you, when we came in here. I just thought that for whatever reason they were really, really energized.”

On if it felt like déjà vu from last year and what he said to his players in the first two timeouts…
“It did feel like last year just from the standpoint of the energy that they brought. I called timeouts to try to get them to settle down a little bit. If it were just you and me talking, I would probably use some different words. I think that we have young guys. I know that I use that term a lot but they’ve never been in an environment like this and they certainly know that they’ve never been in an environment like this. As the game wore on we started talking about ‘hey, let’s learn from this, let’s try to get better, let’s try to win these four minutes, let’s try to do this, let’s try to do that, let’s try to create a game.’ I think we finally started to but obviously it was too late.”

On how much better Kentucky is when they are hitting 3-pointers and if they came into the game thinking they were going to play zone…
“We were going to play more zone. But their zone offense is really hard for our guys to cover in a short period of time. We had a couple of days to prepare. You look at it statistically and you say ‘well, where is their weak spot?’ Obviously (Jamal) Murray is a great shooter and I think Willis was an X-factor tonight. I thought he shot the ball very well. But when they’re playing like they played tonight, they’re really good. I’m not going to make any predictions but they have certainly improved. Or maybe got more defined in the past few weeks.” 

Missouri Student-Athletes

#24, Kevin Puryear, F

On UK’s start and how they responded… 
“We settled down just a little bit. Of course it wasn’t enough to get back in the game, but I think just taking a deep breath because their pressure was a little bit too much for us and they definitely sped us up. So we just had to talk ourselves out of it.”

On Derek Willis’ play tonight… 
“We knew coming into the game that he (Willis) was a shooter and we did a poor job of executing on defense.”

On Coach Anderson’s messages in the early timeouts…
“Just to relax and keep us from getting ourselves in a deeper hole. Trying to keep us composed and just to not get rattled.”