Kentucky-Cincinnati Postgame Quotes

March 21, 2015

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Kentucky Postgame Quotes

COACH CALIPARI: It was a good win for our team. I thought Cincinnati played well. They didn't back away. They came right at us. I always like it when my team shoots 37, 36, 35 percent and wins in double digits. It shows them they don't have to make shots to win. You can miss them all. No, you can't miss them all. You can miss most of them, and you can still win games if you defend your rebound and you play that way, make your free throws, and they did.

Q. Talk a deep breath, and if you could just indulge me and talk to me for a minute about what Cleveland people can expect next week when Big Blue comes rolling up I-71 and the connection that you guys have with your fans, which in that part of the country we don't have a lot of big college basketball.

COACH CALIPARI: Our fans, I just use one term to kind of define -- they define themselves, but they're crazy. They come -- our building seats 25,000, and many of the people that will be in Cleveland could not get tickets to our building. So they go to every tournament game. I mean, we had 10,000 people at the early rounds of our conference tournament because they couldn't get tickets to our rounds. They were like watching the other teams just to be able to say they were a part of it. I would say all the restaurant/bar owners are going to be very happy because, if they can't get into the games, they're going to be sitting right there. I don't think they drink, but they will be there watching those games. You would say, well, they can't get all the tickets. They somehow figure out how to get tickets. I have no idea how they do it. There will be a lot of blue in Cleveland, no question.

Q. This game to me, it seemed it was about toughness. For any one of you all, how do you feel you responded to Cincinnati's physicality?

Aaron Harrison: I think we responded pretty well. We knew it was going to be a tough game like that and an emotional game. So we just had to match their intensity and match their aggressiveness.

Trey Lyles: Like Aaron said, we were ready for it. Coach prepared us for it. We went out there, and we matched their intensity and matched their physicalness.

Tyler Ulis: Like they both said, Coach repaired us for that. We knew how it would come out, and we just had to play through it.

Q. Aaron, it was really close there with about three minutes to go in the first half, and then you finish on a 10-0 run. Coach Davis told us that he felt that was a key point in the game because two or three of those turnovers really deflated them. How important, in retrospect, were the last three minutes of the first half?

Aaron Harrison: It was really important. We knew we had to make a run because it was a back and forth game until then. We just got together, the staff and the players, and we just knew we had to make a run and we had to make big plays, and that's what we did.

Q. Another Willie (Cauley-Stein) dunk, just seems common nature for him now. What was your guys' response after this? Was it something new for you guys that he hadn't done before, or was it just the same old thing?

Aaron Harrison: No, nothing new for us. I think we all -- when he does it, we all scream like we did it. We're just used to it.

Trey Lyles: Same thing Aaron said, but hopefully after that, we just wanted him to get going from having a big play like that.

Tyler Ulis: It's nothing knew to us. We expect that from him. Just gets us really into the game and hypes up the game more.

Q. My question is for any of the players and even Coach Cal, coming into the game, what do the scouting reports say about UC's big men, like Octavius Ellis and Gary Clark and Coreontae DeBerry?

Trey Lyles: They just told us they were going to be physical, they were going to push, like get physical with us and try to back us down inside. Shoot layups, and offensive rebound is a big part of their game.

COACH CALIPARI: We knew they were a great offensive rebounding bunch, and we talked to them about it, that they create angles. We wanted them to try to score over the top of us because, if you give them an angle, they get to the rim and score baskets. I thought our kids did a pretty good job against them.

Q. You all expected a physical game. I mean, you expected this to be a tougher game, but when you look at some of the other physical games, was this probably the hardest one throughout that you all have had to deal with?

Aaron Harrison: Yeah, maybe so. They were just -- we were ready for the physicality, I think, and the big guys really fought hard, and Trey (Lyles) fought hard as well.

Trey Lyles: Like Aaron said, we've had it all season. So we were prepared for it. That's what every team is planning to go against us. So we just went out there and matched their intensity and their physicalness.

Q. For the freshman, a year ago you were in high school. Now you're playing in front of 20,000 Kentucky fans in Louisville. What was the experience like in your first tournament venue?

Trey Lyles: It was a great experience. It's almost like a home game with all the Kentucky fans that are here supporting us. It was exciting, and just happy to be a part of it.

Tyler Ulis: Like he said, it was a great experience. I'm happy to be here. It's a dream come true. Can't wait to keep going.

Q. Do you guys ever play like a road game with the way your fans travel? I guess conference games you do, right? Is that about it?

Aaron Harrison: I mean, sometimes but hardly ever. Our fans travel everywhere we go.

Trey Lyles: Just like Aaron said, hardly ever. Wherever we go, there's a lot of fans there.

Tyler Ulis: Like they both said, they travel everywhere we go, and we've had a couple where they pack the crowd on us.

Q. You said at the beginning of the season this team needed to get a punch in the mouth. Being in the tournament, sort of a second season starting, is this the punch in the mouth this team needed?

COACH CALIPARI: Well, I just want to stay on the course we're on, which I keep saying they're not going to do it on their terms. If you want to do something unique and special, you all -- we shouldn't be saying the things that we've been saying from the beginning of the year right now. But this team has a will to win. They have a heart. The good news is there's enough guys that, if two or three aren't playing well, we can still survive. What they learned today is we don't have to shoot the ball well, and we can still survive. You just want them going into every game saying, it doesn't matter what happens. We can still win. And that's the mentality I want them in. But I got a great, great group. They handle things that are coming at them. People play them physical. No one's going to surrender. They're not going to surrender. So if you have to fight, you got to fight. I mean, I'm not going to lose going down not swinging. That means the games get physical. We had many physical games like this. This wasn't like the most physical -- I mean, I could go through your league and tell you there were physical games. But they're learning each time out. I still have the youngest team in the field, and I would say one of the ways is try to get after them physically and see if you can rattle them. They have handled all this stuff with class. They've done a great job. They don't respond. They just have an even keel about them, which is kind of nice.

Q. For all the talk about what Cincinnati was able to do physically, I mean, you all kind of exerted your will as well. Did the way they did it in a game like this make you happy? Or what impressed you the most?

COACH CALIPARI: I keep talking about Trey Lyles. We're training him as a 3, but he's a 4. He can step out and shoot, he can make free throws, he's good with the ball, but he's 6'10". So when we put him next to the basket, I thought he was really good. I thought Karl (Anthony Towns) did some good stuff, and in the second half, Willie did it. In the last game, Willie went 1 for 6 from two feet. Today he missed a couple, and I said, we're not having that. Turn and try to dunk the ball. He came back in the second half, and I thought he made baskets, and he got that dunk. But our guard play is solid right now. I think from Andrew (Harrison) to Tyler to Aaron -- Devin's (Booker) not making shots right now. We told him after the game, hey, you've got to keep shooting because there's going to be a game we need him to make shots or we can't win. It just didn't happen to be this one or the first one. You can miss all these ones. It doesn't matter. The next one's coming up, we may need you to make some shots. We play around the goal pretty good.

Q. Coach Cal, Coach Davis talked about the freethrow line being the difference in the game. What do you feel the difference was in this game?

COACH CALIPARI: We made some big plays when we needed to to get a gap. We are a terrific free-throw shooting team, so he may be right in that regard because we really do shoot free throws well. The last five games, including this game, we're at like 76 percent. So if you foul us, the free-throw line's going to make a difference in the game. But I thought we made -- like Aaron made that big three in front of us, and Andrew made a big drive, an and one, and those are the gaps that we need. Then our defense comes into play. I mean, we're big. We're 7 foot. I don't know how many blocks we had today, but we're a long team.

Q. Is foul avoidance one of the things -- I mean, you guys can hit shots, but is this a natural kind of margin that you have often?

COACH CALIPARI: There's all kinds of ways of doing this sport, coaching this game. We're trying to teach not to foul. There's two ways we don't want to get beat, from the three-point line and free throws. We don't want to get beat that way. If you're going to beat us, beat us some other way. We try to drive people off the three-point line, and this is no secret. Every coach knows what I'm doing. We don't want to give up 3s, and we don't want to foul. So we're playing to end the half with six fouls because now you're never in the bonus. That's how we play. That's how we coach. Now, that's not how everybody coaches, and there's all kinds of ways of doing this. It's just what we do. Play the percentages. I was asked coming off the court about they're playing, they're slowing down this game. Eventually, you've got to shoot the ball against two 7- footers. What I don't want to do is trap and scramble and give up 3s and layups. Why would I do that when I've got a great defensive team? I could do that. I did have to say, are we winning this game or losing this game? There's literally all kinds of ways of doing this. That's what we do. Where we speed teams up if we think we need to. Let me say this, in this tournament -- and I've coached in many -- you're never pressing the best teams into submission. You'd better play halfcourt defense. You can press bad teams into submission. A good team's too well coached. You can't just press them and trap and scramble. They're going to end up shooting layups and free throws or dunks. So we will press to get into people's legs. We will trap at times, but I want us to play without fouling, play great solid defense, give them one tough shot, not a three. Don't let them get to the three-point line. Drive them off the three. That's what we're doing.

Q. There's a couple times where Andrew and Aaron both drove the lane and finished kind of with authority. Can you speak to their development from the time they got here? Not just flailing, hoping a foul is called.

COACH CALIPARI: Andrew had one in the first half, and I took him out. They're getting so much better. Everything about their games in the last year. They've been with us two years. It's ridiculous how much they both improved. They're both winning players now. They're both winning players. They both are not afraid to make game-winning shots because they're not afraid to miss game-winning shots. They'll make free throws. They're both defending better. Now, Aaron gave up a layup at the end of the game. He just stopped playing. Andrew gave up a three during the game where he just stopped on a guy, where the guy moves and gets a three. Reality is those are few and far between. Those two right now are playing as well as any guards in the country, and they're 6'6". They're 220. They're good athletes. They're really skilled, both left and right. You can't say force them left. Guy will go left. You can't say force him right. He'll go right. They're both really skilled. Again, I don't think they get the credit. They carried us to the final game last year, those two. You watch the tapes. Those two carried us to where we were. Struggled a little bit in the final game. We never would have gotten into the final game without those two. Now they're starting to do the same thing again. It says something about who they are as players in their heart to win and their will to win.

Q. Coach, you said Ulis is like the spoon in the milkshake. He mixes them all up. He seemed to do everything today, get the ball to whoever needed it, five assists today. What has impressed you about his game?

COACH CALIPARI: The greatest thing about Tyler is he'll do whatever needs to be done. He wants to play with Andrew, and he has no problem with Andrew being the point. I'll play off the ball. I mean, that's what makes him unique. He's not worried about me and let me have this and this is mine. He's not like that. If I said, "Who do you want in with you?" He'll say, "Andrew." That's the first, Andrew. I won't get it out of my mouth, and that's what he'll say. So today a big play, Andrew drives, throws it to him for a three, bang. He and Andrew are like chest bumping. That's what you want to see in this. This thing for these guys, they just won -- I told them today after the game. You just won 36. Never done before in college basketball. 50 years from now, you'll probably look back and say wow. 50 years from now. The parity and the balance and all the other things in college basketball makes this ridiculous. You have guys like Tyler who probably don't realize what they're doing because they're so young. They're 18 and 19 years old. But I'm having fun. I'm a little under the weather yesterday and today, but I'm having fun seeing these guys go. They are working through stuff, like things are happening in the game, and they're working through it themselves. That's what you want. You want them to feel empowered.

Cincinnati Postgame Quotes

COACH DAVIS: First of all, I want to say I'm just as proud of our guys and the fight they had in them tonight than I was last night when they beat Purdue -- or the night before last, when they beat Purdue. We got off the bus today, every guy that walked into that locker room expected to beat Kentucky, and that's not just talk, that's the truth. They didn't go out and play with fear. Had we finished a little better down the stretch with some point-blank shots that we had, had we made some free throws, we'd have made it very, very interesting. But I'm so proud of these guys because of what they've done this whole entire year. In a very difficult situation when we lost our leader, these guys rallied. They're a young team with really one guy with starting experience back, five or six new guys, two sophomores, one of which played a lot and one of which played very little. For them to accomplish what they've accomplished this year has been no short feat. I'm one of the luckiest coaches in the world to have the chance to have coached them this year because they're not only really good players, they're also great kids, represent the University of Cincinnati, in an outstanding way. And the great thing we've got -- I hate it for Jermaine (Sanders) because he won't be back with us, but we've got everybody else back. Next year it's our plan to be a much higher seed, and come into this tournament and be one of the favorites in this tournament because of who we have returning and the grit and the determination that these guys have shown. Again, I'm extremely proud of them. I hope that the fans out there appreciate their effort and what they did today. Again, we came to this arena to win today, expecting to win, not just play close or have some moral victory. We're not into moral victories at Cincinnati. We're into beating whoever we show up to play, and that was what we thought when we walked on the floor today.

Q. For both players, part of the game plan was to be as physical and tough with them as you could be. How do you think they responded to that?

SHAQ THOMAS: I think we did a good job in the first half, and I think we were in the game, and we just made a couple mental errors that we need to fix. I think we played real physical with them, and we're going to be back here next year.

JERMAINE SANDERS: I don't think they handled our physicality very well throughout the game. Mental lapses that happened on the offensive end was why we lost the game. It wasn't nothing that they did.

Q. I'm curious, everybody seems to be running man-to-man versus running a zone. What do you all feel that that works better than running a 1-3-1 or a 2-3 or something like that. It just confuses me. I'm a former coach. I'm just curious, running manto- man, does that prove to be more difficult or no?

SHAQ THOMAS: The game plan was keep them out of the paint, pretty much. It's like a matchup zone we play. Pretty much just try to keep them out of the paint and don't let them get lobs and stuff like that.

Q. What was it like, especially in the second half, just trying to get off a shot against that defense?

SHAQ THOMAS: It was pretty tough. They got a lot of 7-footers, so our shot blockers. I think if we execute a little bit more, it would be smart on the offensive end. We'll be ready for next year. We've got a lot of young guys. I think we're going to be good.

JERMAINE SANDERS: I don't think it was tough at all. We got point blank shots that we just missed. It wasn't anything they did defensively that made it tough for us to score. We got shots we wanted, but it just didn't go down. Sometimes it happens like that.

Q. This question is for Jermaine. As a senior, what does it feel like to go out at such a big stage in such a big game?

JERMAINE SANDERS: It hurts that we lost the game, but I'm glad that we gave our best effort. We didn't ever let down, and we kept our guard up the whole game. I'm proud of the guys and the way they played. I know next year, with the group of guys we've got, they're going to make a good run in the tournament next year.

Q. For both Jermaine and Shaq, do you think Kentucky can go unbeaten? Or do you think future opponents should look at what you guys did today and take some lessons from it?

SHAQ THOMAS: I definitely think they're beatable. It's just you have to execute for 40 minutes and you can't let up for 40 minutes because, as soon as the crowd gets into it, they obviously feed off of that. I think they're not unbeatable, but we're going to see coming up.

JERMAINE SANDERS: I think they're a very beatable team. You just can't give them anything easy. They feed off of transition buckets and easy like layups and things like that. So you just can't give them anything easy. Make it tough for their big guys to score around the rim.

Q. Did you gentlemen sense that Kentucky was rattled and feed off of that if you did? And do you think Kentucky took you lightly?

SHAQ THOMAS: I think through the first half they were a little rattled. They went on a little run, a 7-0 run, and I think that kind of changed the game right there. I think they were definitely a little rattled.

JERMAINE SANDERS: I think that we rattled them with our physicality. I don't think they were ready for it. Usually, they go against teams that back down, and I think that we were ready for the fight from beginning to end. That kind of got them a little rattled. I think they held their composure well and overcame it.

Q. Coach, do you expect to be a head coach somewhere next year?

COACH DAVIS: We'll see what happens. If I get a heck of an opportunity, it will have to be a really good opportunity in order for me to leave, I will consider it, but I can tell you I'll be just as happy if I come back and be the associate head coach to Mick Cronin next year. I got the best of both worlds. If something comes along, great, I'll look at it. If not, I'm happy as can be to be at Cincinnati and be alongside Mick.

Q. Coach Davis, in the first half, it seemed like we played about 17 minutes of great basketball, and then we let up a little bit. Was the (Willie) Cauley- Stein dunk, do you think, a big momentum swing in the game?

COACH DAVIS: I think our turnovers, we had a couple of turnovers in a row, that was the big momentum swing in the game. They had a few dunks. Not what they normally have, but I think the turnovers deflated us more than the dunk did. We knew that they're big, they're going to get a dunk or two. We got a dunk or two. But I don't think the dunk deflated us as much as the two turnovers that we had during that stretch and that cost us, it cost us because we were right there, and we could have kept a little more pressure on them going into halftime.

Q. Coach, I'm sorry if you've been asked before, but did you talk to your team about the physicality coming into this game and how you guys need to be that over a physical team?

COACH DAVIS: The Bearcats are always physical. That's how we play. We don't play dirty, but we use our bodies, and we play very, very physical. I've been telling them they've got to play physical from the moment I took over, and Mick has been telling them we've got to play physical from the day we put this group together, in the very first practice, because that's how we play. We're not going to give you an inch. If you don't play that way, you've got no chance to win. If you're going to run up against somebody that plays physical and you're not ready to meet that every time out, then you're not going to win. Obviously, their size is a problem. So we knew we had to get bodies on bodies and try to block them out. We outrebounded them and held them to 37 percent. The difference in the game is they shot 28 free throws, and we shot 14. That was the difference in the game. We outrebounded them. We held them to 37 percent. And they shot 28 free throws, and we shot 20. We shot four or five of those late in the game too. So physically, we matched them. We hung with them. But, again, the difference in the game is the free-throw line.