Kentucky Basketball Previews Ole Miss

Matthews, Willis Video

Kentucky Men’s Basketball
UK-Ole Miss Pregame Quotes
John Calipari
Joe Craft Center – Lexington, Ky.
Jan. 1, 2016


John Calipari

On if the outcome of last year’s game might have gone differently had Stefan Moody not cramped up …
“Possibly. They played well. But the other guard played well when you watch the tape. Both played well. They made some great shots and they fought. We started the game – it looked like it was going to be a runaway, and then all of a sudden they just wouldn’t go away. But every game we’ve played against Mississippi has been that way. Whether it’s down there or here, they’re dogfights, and this one will be the same.”

On what’s different about Ole Miss since they moved Moody to point guard …
“One, they haven’t lost. He is a scoring point guard, but he is also averaging four assists a game, so he’s not afraid to pass it. He doesn’t turn it over. He has more assists than turnovers, so he’s good. But their big guys are good. They have a four man that can really shoot the ball. They play different. You can’t trap big to big. You can’t play pick-and-rolls like you normally do. They do a lot of picking with the four and spacing. They’ve got an athletic three man that just crashes the boards and is driving and is coming at the rim that you’ve got to be prepared to guard. They’re playing a 2-3 (zone). They’re playing a 1-3-1 trap. They’re spreading out the court in a 2-2-1. They’re man to man and they’re getting after it. They play. It’s a great first game for us to really see, OK, where truly are we.”

On Camp Cal …
“It’s been great. I mean, I like it. I might be the only guy in the gym that likes it. You have time. Like, one of the sessions we’re shooting free throws 10 at a time, trying to have 20 different times the team has to make 10 in a row as a group. When we do we’re done, and then the guys who didn’t make 10 in a row have to stay until they do. We can go over situations better. We can zero in on an offense and just get better at that. You can really work on fundamentals. You have time. You start doing three sessions a day, it’s, you know. It would be like having three-and-a-half-hour practices, and it’s just not something I’m comfortable with when they’ve got classes and all the things they’ve got going on when you’re in school. But they’re not in school right now, and I’m telling them, ‘You’re sleeping, you’re eating – after you play basketball you’re doing those things.’ And that’s what we get down to. Now I don’t know what will happen in this game. Maybe I wore them out. We’ll see. But it’s been really productive. Individual players are getting better, and our team has a better idea of how we’re trying to play.”

On how Camp Cal has helped them mentally …
“Well, they haven’t broken down so they’ve survived it. We’re going twice today. Not going three times (because) we play tomorrow. I told them, ‘And then Sunday, we start up again.’ Sunday, Monday. I think we play Tuesday. I think. This is a time for us just to work on each other. The great enthusiasm right now – they’re fighting better. But this is a physical team we’re about to play. It’ll be a dogfight in a lot of different places.”

On if more 3-point shots are a bigger part of what they’re trying to do …
“No. Just making more. How about that? We’ve got a lot of shooters. We just didn’t have any makers until last game. We are what we are. The way my teams have played, if you give us 3s we take them. We’re not going to win and lose by shooting 3s. It’s not how we play. But this team should be a good 3-point shooting team. Some of the stuff that we’ve done in the three days before Louisville and since has really gotten them to loosen up offensively playing that way. And then some offensive drills that we’re doing to get guys to know that you can get shots off. When a guy is in the lane, he can’t block it. So we’re doing stuff to really simulate they’re running at you but they cannot block it. We’re not taking those shots sometimes. We bounce it. Like, ‘Why didn’t you shoot that?’ ‘I couldn’t get it off.’ ‘Oh yeah you could.’ So we’re simulating stuff. And it’s not their fault; it’s my fault. It’s stuff that we hadn’t done. Screening better. Screening and pick-and-roll better. Screening to get people – our guards – free better. But we’ve zeroed in on it. It’s not their fault. It’s all new to these guys.”

On how Skal Labissiere has handled coming off the bench … 
”He’s fine. He’s gotten better. He’s gotten better. Now he’s got to go do it in the games. What he’s doing in practice, go do in the game. So he’s gotten better.”

On what specifically Labissiere has gotten better at …
“Finishing, rebounding, fighting, going after balls. Now go in the game and do the same thing. So he’ll have an opportunity.”

On how Isaiah Briscoe is after turning his ankle prior to the Louisville game …
“He’s been good. Yeah, he’s back in.”

On expecting UK’s veterans to make a lot of big plays like they did vs. Louisville … 
“I hope so. And then our young kids become a little more efficient. I remember John Wall – ‘Every play you make you can’t have in your mind that you’re going to be on SportsCenter’s Top 10 because you end up turning the ball over a lot.’ I said, ‘You make one really good play. That’ll be on SportsCenter.’ The next game he went 1 for 9 and that one play was on SportsCenter Top Five. And that’s how it is. When you’re talented just play. We’re getting guys out. Now what I’m doing in practice (is) every time they try to make a very easy play difficult: (whistle) I stop. ‘Why did you do that? All you had to do was this, but you chose to cuff it, come in the middle and throw that one (gestures behind back pass). Why did you do that?’ Because that’s what they’ve done their whole lives. Every play is show time. You can’t win that way. My veterans know it because they’ve been coached by me. The young ones are still doing it. They’re trying to make the most difficult plays. But they’re getting better. That’s why this time of the year for us – it doesn’t mean they’re going to go out and play great. It means that we’re now on the path that I want this team on.”

On Tai Wynyard …
“He’s been really good to be honest with you. Now it’s like what happens with Skal? What happens with Isaac (Humphries)? Does he get that opportunity? And I told the guys. The hard thing is like a guy like EJ (Floreal). EJ has gotten so much better. He’s not even the same player, but he’s behind guys that – you’re way better, but they’re really good. So Mychal Mulder is in that position because of Dom (Hawkins) now. The two bigs are like that because of our bigs and Skal being in there. But if Skal doesn’t perform they’re going to get a chance.”

On what he likes from what he’s seen of Wynard so far …
“He is a bull. He’s a moose physically around the goal, and he’s got good skills around the goal. He’s got a good feel to where to get it up. He’s a good free-throw shooter. I’ve been pleasantly surprised.”

On if he’s bring Labissiere off the bench to take some pressure off him …
“No, I’m not that smart, Jerry. You know that. You write that all the time so I’m just trying to – what’s the best thing for our team? The way we were starting. The way he was playing. Then these other guys are going to come in and now fight for your spot. But I didn’t make it a big issue. I just said, it is what it is right now. And now he’s, you know, he’s fighting. He’s better in practice and he’s just got to do it in the game. The issue that I’ve said, and I keep coming back to, is stay in the moment. You can’t worry about four months from now. And you can’t put on yourself the, ‘Well, I’ve got to be a pro in four months.’ It may not be possible. It may take you two years. Aww. There’s no crying on the yacht. It takes you two years. What? What is going on? So, I just, like I said, I’m into coaching every one of these guys. Trying to get them better. Trying to get our team better. I’m trying to stay right now. I keep telling the guys: ‘You don’t know if you’re gonna win or lose until you win or lose. You have no idea so why worry about it? Just stay right now. Let’s just try to get better. And when you walk out of the building did I get better today. And if I got better I’m in good shape. That’s all we can worry about.’ “

On balancing Jamal Murray’s creativity with turnovers …
“Making easy plays. Make easy plays. If you look at every play that he turns over it’s because there was a guy open, but he could not throw it to him yet. I’ve got to do this first, then I’m going to throw this pass that’s going to go under the guy’s armpit, through his leg and it’ll skim off the back of his neck to my guy. I mean, he’s just got to play just simple basketball. The other thing is catch-and-shoot balls, which he’s been doing. He’s looked really good. He’s looked good, but again, these guys are 18. They’ve gotta go into the games now and do it in front of 25,000 fans, national television audience. It’s not easy being here. And when you’re not playing as well as you should then it even becomes harder. But everybody knew that coming here. And every one of these players knew this was going to be hard. They never realized it would be this hard, but none of them do. We’ll see how it goes. We’ve got a tough game. I’m anxious for us to get in the league. Our league is playing. We’re having to go on the road two of our first three. All three of these teams are capable of beating us. I think that for all of our league, I think every game is going to be within eight points. There’s no – we’re not that team. I mean, we’re just not. Texas A&M, maybe they have a dominating kind of play. When Vandy gets the big kid back maybe they’ll be able to dominate play. We are what we are. We’re an energy team. We are a team that has to fight and play with great enthusiasm and make easy plays. And then it’ll be an eight-point game. One way or another and with five minutes to go you’re like in a dogfight. That’s what I see throughout this league.”

Kentucky Student-Athletes


#35, Derek Willis, Forward

On how things are going …
“I’d say coming together good. The past three days have been really good. Got a lot of conditioning in. We’ve been in the gym I would say the majority of our day. Just starting to get ready for conference play, really. That’s about it.”

On the difference in SEC play …
“I would say that they’re generally—they’re more close. The point difference is probably going to be between eight and 10 points and everybody’s more prepared. We’ve had the whole week to work on ourselves and kind of go through Ole Miss’ stuff. It’ll be good. It’ll be a good game.”

On Stefan Moody …
“I don’t think we expected him to go off (last year) like he did. This year I would say we’d be more prepared. I know he’s going to come in the building and try to do what he did last year again. It should be fine.”

On what he remembers about the Ole Miss game last year …
“I just remember that little kid going off. That’s about it. He was hitting crazy 3s. I think he cramped up, if that’s the same guy. I think that was him. We won though, right? That’s what I thought. I thought we won.”

On it being an overtime game …
“Overtime? We got into overtime with them? Oh my gosh. I don’t remember that either. That one kid, he did his thing and I guess we came out and ended up winning. I don’t know how. Probably didn’t deserve to win, honestly. But we won.”

On the rotation and needing more scoring off the bench …
“I would say just like the whole energy thing too. I feel like when we start bringing different people in the energy changes and it kind of gives people that break they need and let them come out and do their thing. Because I feel like that second time they do come back in, it’s like they’re ready to go. It’s like they’re comfortable and they kind of got their feet under them a little bit.”

On needing to go after rebounds with two hands …
“Yeah. It’s just like—it’s one of those habits you just have. You’re up there and—for me, I guess back in high school you go up and no one’s up there with you. So that whole two-hand thing really doesn’t matter. But now it’s like everyone’s going up for the ball and stuff and I just snatch the ball away from people. It’s big. Rebounds are really important and he also is keying on defense too for me. Just keep the guy in front of you and you have shot blockers and it’s all he can ask.”

On how difference conference play is …
“The games, I feel like they’re tighter. I feel like they kind of mean more. That’s really generally about it, honestly.”

On whether the outcome against Ole Miss would have been different had Moody not cramped up …
“Yeah, he cramped up and came out. It could have. I think Jerry (Tipton) said we went into overtime and I think we ended up winning. But yeah, it could have changed it. We could have lost the game.”

On how aware they will be of Moody …
“He’s playing really well. I don’t think—I think last year we didn’t expect him to do all that and I think this year we’ll be more prepared, kind of keying on him and stuff and other players as well. They do good things for them.”

On the ankle he hurt before the Ohio State game …
“Oh yeah. It was—well my whole body’s like hurt actually right now. I think I got some knee problems. My back’s messed up. I twisted an ankle again yesterday. I can’t stay healthy right now, but other than that I’m just playing and trying to at least be somewhat productive.”

On what it meant to play in the UL game …
“It was good. It was kind of weird. Once I got in the game, my thoughts were just running wild. Like, ‘This is weird.’ Eight, 10 years ago, you’re watching this game and now it’s like you’re playing in it. It was cool. It was a cool experience. I guess like Louisville kind surprised me as well. They were better than I thought they were.”

On needing to play through pain …
“Yeah. It’s just how it goes. Generally the players that do play a game, they’re not going to be a hundred percent all the time. You’re going to have your little bumps and scrapes and you’re just going to have to play through it.”

On it being cool that he and Dominique Hawkins both played well against U of L …
“Yeah, it was kind of cool. I remember I came out the game and I know Dom, I think he was sitting near me. I just bumped him. I was like, ‘Dude, you’re playing crazy good right now. You’re knocking your shots down, playing good defense.’ I can’t remember who they put him on. Might have been Damion Lee or (Trey Lewis) and he played really good. And he’s playing even better in practice, honestly. He’s shooting lights out and he’s been doing good ever since his little hand injury. I’m happy for him.”

#4, Charles Matthews, Guard


On what the team has been working on since the last game …
“Just trying to keep growing. Each practice now, we just continue to learn. Get better and better and get a feel of how we need to play and how we need to come together for one another.”

On how he thinks the team has improved in the last week …
“I think we got much better. So we can practice very competitive and get better and better.”

On if they have been doing a lot of scrimmaging …
“Yeah, we’ve been playing against each other a lot. A lot of individual work as well. So we’re all growing collectively as a team.”

On how hard Camp Cal has been …
“It’s alright. Of course there are going to be times when your body will feel like it can’t go. But that’s when your mind has to step in and say, ‘We’re ready to go.’ It’s been difficult, but we’re basketball players, so we can get to work and there’s nothing too hard.”

On what Coach Calipari has told them is going to be different about league play …
“Just letting us know that possessions are going to matter. Games become nail biters basically. Really just have to take care of the basketball more and just value possession more.”

On what the mental toll has been for the team this week …
“It’s not too difficult. We just come here to get better. Coach Cal tells us that you come here to work. So you have to compete and just go work each and every day in practice.”

On if he feels like the team is bonding more …
“Yeah, I feel the closest in the coming months with this team now. I feel like we’re making strides, but we have to take everything one day at a time, one game at a time.”

On if Coach Calipari has talked to him about rotations and where does he see himself fitting in …
“No, we haven’t really discussed that too much. We just try to stay within the team concept and just, like I said, get better and come to work every day.”

On how aware he is of Stefan Moody for Ole Miss since he leads the league in scoring …
“He does? I didn’t know he led the league in scoring. I’m not kind of surprised though. He’s a tough shot maker. That’s what I have to say about him. He’s a good player. We just have to come in and be ready to battle with him.”

On if he saw any of last year’s game against Ole Miss …
“Yeah, I saw it.”

On if he was watching it on TV …
“Yeah. I saw all the games on TV. He had a hell of a game last year and he started cramping up as well. He played great.”

On what the team learned about themselves in the Louisville game …
“That we have to come out with intensity. Can’t be complacent. Just have to come out and play high in each possession.”

On if that was the hardest game the team has played this season …
“Possibly. We came out on fire and we were still good when it was a tight game. We played with a good intensity that game.”

On what he thought made the team crank up the intensity and keep it up …
“Right after the loss against Ohio State. We were tired of losing. It’s not a good feeling at all. We don’t really want losing to be a part of us.”