Kentucky Faces Alabama in Tuscaloosa

Jan. 15, 2015

Kentucky travels to Tuscaloosa, Ala. to face the Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday, January 17. Tip is set for 4 p.m. and the game will be carried by ESPN.

Gameday
Gameday Information
Kentucky at Alabama
Saturday, Jan. 17 - 4:00 p.m. ET
Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Game Notes: UK Get Acrobat Reader | UA Get Acrobat Reader
Coverage
TV: ESPN
Radio: UK Sports Network
Live Video via WatchESPN
Live Audio
Live Stats
Text Updates
UK Team Stats UA
76.5 Points 70.2
50.6 Opp. Points 62.1
.456 FG% .449
.310 Opp. FG% .407
.345 3-FG% .300
.262 Opp. 3-FG% .317
.681 FT% .736
42.4 Rebs 33.6
32.6 Opp. Rebs. 16.3
16.3 Assists 12.2
11.4 Turnovers 12.2
8.3 Blocks 3.8
7.8 Steals 7.6

Cat Scratches: Johnson back to doing it the hard way

Dakari Johnson started his season with a bang.

He scored in double figures in six of his first eight games, showing off a leaner physique and improved conditioning.

He flew up and down the floor, played through contact inside and rarely took the path of least resistance, but fell into a trap soon after.

"It's hard," John Calipari said. "It's hard to play the right way. You try to go back to see if I can do it that other way. It's much easier."

Johnson, of course, would learn the easier way just doesn't work.

"And then what happens is, your confidence gets down," Calipari said.

His production suffered as well, especially in a two-point, four-turnover outing at Louisville. The 7-foot Johnson routinely yielded the advantage his size gives him by bringing the ball low and shooting off balance then and in games soon after and the difference was plain to see.

That version of Johnson, however, was long gone on Tuesday against Missouri. ... Read the full story

This Week's News:

Return of the Platoons Leads to Win Over Mizzou

  • Dominique Hawkins earned his third career start on the "Blue" platoon and Trey Lyles rejoined the "White" platoon in helping lead UK to a 86-37 defensive charge against visiting Missouri on Tuesday.
    • With 16 consecutive victories to begin the season, UK is off to the fourth-best start in program history, tying the 1933-34 team for that honor.
  • Leading 12-10, Kentucky took control by closing the opening half with a 32-8 run, going to intermission ahead 44-18.
    • UK never trailed in the game.
  • The 49-point win marked Kentucky's largest margin of victory against a Southeastern Conference opponent since a 62-point margin against Vanderbilt, 106- 44, on March 5, 2003.
  • The 37 points scored by Missouri are the fewest by an SEC opponent since a 50-36 win over Mississippi State on Jan. 31, 1987.
    • It also marked the lowest scoring output by the Tigers since 1950.
    • The 37 points were the second fewest by an opponent in the John Calipari era and during the 2014-15 season.
  • UK held Missouri to below 20 points in both halves, marking the second time this season Kentucky has achieved the feat (also vs. Montana State).
    • UK has now held an opponent to 20 or fewer points in 12 halves this season.
  • Missouri was limited to 27.1 percent from the field, the ninth opponent this season held to less than 30-percent shooting.
  • Missouri was held to 5.6 percent on 3-point shots (1 of 18), the lowest percentage this season by a Kentucky opponent.
  • UK made 8 of 18 shots (44.4 percent) from 3-point territory. Over the last six games, Kentucky has shot 43.8 percent on 3-pointers (53 of 121).
  • Kentucky shot a season-best 80 percent from the foul line, hitting 24 of 30.
  • UK is 50-0 in the John Calipari era when holding opponents to 55 or fewer points, including 12 times this season.
  • Aaron Harrison led all scorers with 16 points, including five made 3-pointers, while reigning SEC Freshman of the Week Devin Booker registered a perfect shooting day. Booker made both of his field-goal and free-throw attempts and scored seven points.
    • Booker has hit 17-22 (77.3) percent from long range in UK's last six games and is 8-11 (72.7) percent against league foes.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns logged his second-career double- double with 12 points and 10 rebounds while also chipping in with five blocks.
  • Hawkins scored six points, three assists, a career- high two steals and a rebound in a season-best 20 minutes of action.

Booker Tabbed SEC Freshman of the Week

  • Riding a torrid shooting streak from behind the arc, guard Devin Booker was named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week for the second time this season.
  • Booker averaged 15.5 points on 50.0-percent shooting while leading top-ranked Kentucky to overtime wins over Ole Miss and Texas A&M to open the SEC season.
  • The Grand Rapids, Mich., native made 9 of 18 shots overall, including 7 of 10 from behind the 3-point line. The SEC leader in 3-point field-goal percentage has made at least one 3-pointer in a career-long five consecutive games and has hit 16 of 21 (76.2 percent) during that stretch.

Media Opportunity - January 15, 2015

Head Coach John Calipari

On Dakari Johnson's recent play ...
"Shooting it with the wrong hand, shooting it like that instead of shooting it like that (gestures). Not jumping, not shooting it quick. It's hard to play the right way. You try to go back to see if I can do it that other way. It's much easier, and then what happens is your confidence gets down. And it's not just him; we had a lot of guys. You go through that. What we're asking them to do is really hard. (Players are like), `I got to be able to do this an easier way. There's got to be an easier way than this.' And they try now. They try and they try and it doesn't work and their eyes get really big. And then they figure out you know what, I've got to do this this way."

On why Johnson is playing better recently ...
"He's just better in practice. I told them you can almost watch guys in practice and say if he plays like that, watch what happens. But it's hard. It's hard to run really hard every time. Outrun your guy like Karl(-Anthony) Towns fought. This game is going to be different now because these guys are really physical. They disrupt your offense. You have to be strong with the ball. They will trap our post. Got to play off of that. They're playing much faster than they have played in the past. They've lost four games, and the games they have lost - Wichita State, Iowa State, Xavier and South Carolina - all on the road. They could have won all of them so we know how good they are."

On if he was surprised by Tim Floyd's comments ...
"No. Tim and I are friends. We had talked, but part of the issue here is we just can't play road games. We can't play a couple of road games and our neutral games we play - financially - are like almost a home game. So you just can't (go on the road) - not when you seat 25,000. So to plug in another road game, I get it. If they'd like to play us, I mean, I'm fine with it. Tim knows I'm fine. We can try to work something in the schedule if they want to come here, but I just don't think we can play. And I don't blame the school. I don't blame them."

On Johnson being crowded when he gets the ball ...
"They have to. They're not going to surrender. I keep coming back to, `Well, why are they playing like this?' They're not surrendering, so they body to body on him and they just try to lay on him whether they are fouls or not. It's up for grabs whether they're allowed to do that, but their choice is to give him a basket. And then they will crowd him. They'll sit on his lap. This team will trap from a guard in the middle of the court and try to take away stuff to see if he can pass weak side. So he and Karl either get the ball to the rim quick or you're going to end up being a passer."

On Aaron Harrison's improved off-ball defense ...
"He's getting better. I think Dom (Hawkins) being on the ball helped that group. More pressure on the ball leads to more opportunities to be playmakers off the ball. That was good."

On teams top-10 teams that are losing ...
"I don't know what you mean by what's happening in the top 10. What's happening in the top 10? I mean, you won't believe this, but when's the last time there has been teams not losing? When two teams play, one has to lose. What is funny is that our overtime wins are (viewed as) L's. You win a tough game and you need tough games. I told the guys. They know. I told them right after the game, `I don't expect you to play like it's March,' and we're not. Offensively we're still not. We still have guys not playing the way they need to play for us to really be special. They're not. I tell them, `You can come out and defend and play with energy. When you don't, it just looks bad for you. That's what looks bad. It's not your decision making.' It's, `Why isn't he playing like the other guys?' They're able to do that and it's just hard. They're not machines and they just have to buy into, `I have one thing I have to do and that is that I'm going to go out here and compete like crazy.' Can't dictate how the other team is going to play. This team is shooting 22 3s a game playing faster than they played, so you're not just going to hold someone to 50 points in this kind of game. You have to play good offensively too."

On comments between him and Dick Vitale ...
"I just tweeted out something because when I walked in Eric (Lindsey) said, `The people that know you two know how close you are. The people that don't think you're throwing stones.' I said, `Really?' Then I just said, `Look. He and I have known each other for a long time. He's been great to me. Anytime he's asked me to do anything for him I have. He was a heck of a coach. At Detroit he beat Michigan. I mean, he was a heck of a coach, and like some people in our profession, he made a mistake and went to the NBA. It's more than just him and I. There's some others out there that made that same mistake. But if he would have stayed at Detroit and got the Michigan job, you would have seen what a good coach he was. Great motivator. But yeah, that made me laugh. I should have smiled. I thought I smiled. Sometimes you know how you think you're smiling and you're not smiling. `Yes I am!' But he came in prior to the game. He said, `You know I don't agree with you.' I said, `You don't agree with anything I do.' Somebody looked at me and said, `Did you have someone listening to the TV of what he was saying?' And I go, `No, I talked to him prior to the game. I knew what he was going to say.' "

On if getting fired in the NBA was the best thing that ever happened to him ...
"I look at it and say it made me a better coach. It made me better at my craft. It made me better for my players. So I don't regret doing what I did. I don't look back that way. I think that everything that's happened - I've been blessed, the things that have happened to me over my life. I became, when they fired me - the Nets - the highest-paid amateur golfer in the world. I did."

On if it helped his golf game ...
"It did. It did. I had two hips then."

On if he will keep the same rotations Saturday as he did Tuesday ...
"I might. I might. We will see."

On what he means by platoons and if he means something different than five in, five out ...
"No. No, if a guy doesn't do what he's supposed to he's coming out. I mean, I'm coaching a game. If Marcus Lee rebounds with one hand, he's out. He loses those minutes. A guy jogs the court, he's out. Karl Towns does a step-back 3 and tiptoes, he's out. He is out. So I don't know if you want to call it whatever you call it, but we're still five in, five out. The harder one was when it was nine, where you're platooning four at a time and you're keeping one in. So you're four come in, one stays. Who do you pick who stays? It jumbles there. But the five and five, no, it's not communism."

On whether the platoon system rotations are based on punishment or reward ...
"Uh, yeah, maybe. Usually for a group. So if a group does well, they'll stay in longer. So you give up more than six points, you're out. You give up under six points or under, you can stay another minute. But I'll be honest with you. As you look at them, they start dying after four-and-a-half, five (minutes). They get to five minutes, they're winded. I mean, it's hard to play the way we're playing when you look at what they're doing. I don't know why everybody's so caught up in exactly what `platoon' is. There are people, like, caught up in it. I don't know if it's - I don't know what it is. I have a feeling, but. ..."

On if people are caught up in the "platoon" thing because it's Kentucky basketball ...
"I guess."

On if analysts are talking about the platoons so much because they've never had the opportunity to do it ...
"That's what I'm saying. I mean, I'm just trying to do what the team needs and what's good for these kids. The greatest thing is everybody kind of - you get protected on top of your opportunity to play and play well because of your efficiency. But you also get protected. You're not out there long enough to look like, `Oh my God, look at him!' You're not out there long enough to do that. And if you do start playing, then the next group comes in, you get your head together, you go back and you play better. The ego stuff is minutes and shots. That's all ego. I just want to know if guys are playing. Got a great bunch of young kids. It's hard what we're doing. But we're going into this one - it's a hard game. We haven't won down there. Have we? Well, I took a team at Memphis down there and we won. But we haven't won since I've been here, I don't believe, have we?"

On who did Alex Poythress' surgery ...
"I don't know exactly who did it. He's back and he's doing well. Swelling. He's trying to get the swelling down so he can get into the rehab."

#2, Aaron Harrison, So., G

On if he's seen Alabama play ...
"Oh yeah, I've seen them a little bit on TV and I know they're a really good team. They have a good record this year so it'll be a good game."

On how they go into this game ...
"Just continue to build off the last one we had, continue to play hard and keep our motor defensively."

On going back to the platoon system ...
"Yeah, he (Coach Cal) said to get our energy back. It was working for our energy and us playing as a team so I think that's what (Coach Cal's) looking for."

On if he can see a difference in the way they play with the platoon system ...
"We can feel it. Just the energy we had as a team was different."

On the play of Dakari Johnson ...
"Dakari's playing great. He's a great player. He's changed so much from last year. I've never seen someone change as much as he has over a year. He just works so hard and I'm really proud of him and happy for him."

On how Johnson has changed ...
"His work ethic is crazy now. He's lost a lot of weight. He works hard and always tries to work the hardest on the team."

On if they have anything to prove on the road this year ...
"You always have something to prove as a basketball team and as a basketball player. Yeah, I guess we have something to prove just to go out and we just want to play hard every night."

On if UK's close wins, compared to other top-10 teams' defeats, says anything about the Cats ...
"I don't know. Maybe we got lucky on the close wins, but I think it does say something about our team that even though we don't play well we still find ways to win and that's what great teams do."

On it being an attitude to find ways to win ...
"Oh yeah, I think it's an attitude. You all just have to come together and be able to know you're going to win the game and have the confidence in each other to have each other make plays."

On if last year's run in the tournament helped them acquire that attitude ...
"Yeah, I think we're just prepared more. We know we're going to take blows and teams are going to go on runs. We just have to stay the course and keep fighting."

On the difference between now and this time last year in how they handle close situations ...
"Yeah, of course. Once you go through something you learn from it. We just learned from it, got better at it."

On how they feel about the conference games right now ...
"Yeah, just basically winning, really. Just trying to win games, playing harder and playing more together as a team."

On differences in his game ...
"Just playing with more energy defensively, really."

On people saying the platoon system won't work despite the players enjoying it ...
"I mean, it's kind of funny to hear people say it doesn't work because we know it works and it's kind of exciting to prove people wrong. We just enjoy playing with each other and playing in the team system."

On if it changed their mindset when Coach Cal said if a platoon allows six points they will be subbed out ...
"I think that got us back to our defensive swagger that we had before."

On the fine line between playing hard and playing really hard ...
"Oh yeah, definitely, you just have to know that you have to give the extra effort not to give up a basket here and a basket there, and that adds up. That's where good defensive teams do well."

On whether it's natural to slack off after winning so many games ...
"I don't think you slack off because you win so many games. I think you just get a little comfortable. You can never be comfortable in the game of basketball."

On whether he enjoys playing defense ...
"Yeah, I definitely like it. I like stopping teams and I love when Willie (Cauley-Stein) or Karl (-Anthony Towns) or anybody else blocks a shot or we get a steal. It's just fun. It's part of basketball."

On his clutch steals and whether that's a new dimension to his game ...
"Yeah, definitely. Just off-the-ball defense and being a playmaker defensively."

On what has changed there ...
"I think it comes just to a lot of things, just being focused more defensively. I think that's the biggest thing."

On Dakari Johnson's slump and why he broke out of it ...
"I think it's really hard for him to find guys to play against because he is so big and strong. It's kind of tough to play against smaller guys when you are that size. I think he just figured out how to get around smaller guys and finish over them. Once he figured that out, he's kind of unstoppable in the post."

On whether he was getting the Julius Randle treatment with double teams ...
"Yeah, of course. Because he can score the ball easily on one guy. So you have to bring another defender or else he's going to score."

On how Dominique Hawkins starting changes what he does ...
"I mean, no, not really. Just gotta help Dominique out on small things like that. Like in-game situations, just kind of coach him and help him through the game. But other than that, nothing really."

On what Hawkins' energy does for his teammates ...
"We're just so proud of (him), and especially me. I'm really proud of him and I'm excited for him when I do see him play and play well. That just makes me happy."

On why this team is different from last year on the road ...
"You just gotta know that you never can give in and if you keep fighting anything can happen. So we just gotta fight and try to get the win and we won those close games."

On how much they can improve defensively ...
"A lot better. We still have some kinks to work out and still communicate a lot more, but we're working on it and we'll get better."

On whether he can see it in opponents' eyes when they are shutting them down ...
"Yeah, it's kind of--I knew it would be tough to score on a team like us. You just kind of feel bad for the other team when they can't really score, but not really."

On whether Cal has said he's sticking with the 10-man platoon ...
"I mean, you just have to go from week to week. You can't just say something's permanent because you never know what happens. Basketball's a crazy sport so you stick with what's working right now and just see what happens."

On what he knows about Alabama ...
"I know they're a big, athletic team that's a good defensive team as well and really have to play hard against them. They play really hard."

On whether he expects another t-shirt night ...
"I mean, yeah, probably so. It should be a great game, great atmosphere and a fun game."

On whether this group welcomes road trips more ...
"I mean, I don't know if we bond more than last year. I'm not sure about that, but I think we just have a different mindset, just a more defensive mindset."

#44, Dakari Johnson, So., F

On what he did differently against Missouri ...
"(I) just came out trying to be aggressive, just try to bring energy to the game (and) try to bring my shot up quicker."

 On what happened in that stretch of games ...
"I'm not sure. During the game of basketball you're going to have slumps every once in a while, so I just tried to do my best to come out with energy and just pick it up."

 On what Cal said to him ...
"He just said, he had meetings with us, he just told each and every one of us to come off the bench and be energetic. For our group, we're kind of like the energy guys, and (he) just wanted us to continue that."

On getting the ball in the post and being swarmed by smaller guys ...
"It's expected. We're used to teams doubling down and going on the inside. As long as we're shooting it well that's going to open it up."

On if he lost his confidence ...
"No, I didn't lose my confidence."

On if he started to feel like Julius Randle last year ...
"Not really. I just try to do my best to help my team--crashing the glass, whatever I can do to affect the game."

On what Cal wants him to do to beat the defense ...
"Just make quicker moves, don't hold the ball too long, and work the defense they've set up."

On if there are drills he can do to get better ...
"We work on that all the time. The managers will have a pad and you have to make quick moves against them, so we work on that all of the time."

On how much time he spends on free throws ...
"A lot of time - before, after practice. During the break we had, we would come in and just shoot a hundred free throws."

On hitting free throws at the end of a game giving him confidence ...
"Yeah it did. I just went to the line and I knew, like if I followed my same routine, they would go in, so going up there with confidence is a big thing."

On his favorite move in the post ...
"Hook to the lane, but recently teams have been taking that away, so probably coming back baseline."

On how much he heard about his long jumper ...
"They want me to do that (shoot long jumpers) because I've been working on it a lot, so just incorporating that into the game, but that's just something I've been trying to work on to add to my game."

On changing his footwork ...
"It's a lot, especially at practice when you have to step in to your shot, just be prepared."

On what went through his mind when he took the long jumper against Ole Miss ...
"I don't know. I was open so I just decided to do it, but I guess it wasn't a good time to shoot it."

On if Cal has said any more about the 10-man rotation ...
"He didn't tell us anything. Actually, before the game, that's the only time. We kind of heard about it. He said he was going to make that switch, put everybody back in our group and start Dom(inique Hawkins) into the other one. Dom did a great job stepping into that role."

On his work ethic ...
"I just go in and try to go as hard as I can each and every time I step onto the court."

On if he knows much about Alabama ...
"Not really. I'm sure we'll go over their stats today and just start preparing for them. They're a really good team. They have a lot of players back from last year, so we'll probably start watching video and tape today."

On what's different about this team's mentality going on the road compared to last year's ...
"I mean we have some guys (who have) been on the road before. Last year we were all freshmen. We really weren't used to that. I guess we're kind of used to that now."

On how surprised he was with two overtime games to start league play ...
"It's a real big surprise, but we need games like that, close games, and it just showed that we can step up at those times."

On what it says about the freshmen stepping up in the road games ...
"That they have a lot of confidence and they want to win and they have a great competitive spirit about them."

On dropping weight ...
"I've been working on my body all summer so I can sustain that throughout the season, just keep on staying in the same diet, the same regiment that I've been staying on."

On if he ever wants the weight back ...
"No, I don't want that (laughter)."

On how much lighter he is ...
"I feel like I'm way lighter. I feel like I'm moving better. I try to work on my perimeter defense too. I just move my feet and stuff like that."

On what he's eating ...
"No fried foods. Mainly grilled food. When they bring dinner to the lodge its grilled stuff, and a lot of salad, a lot of water."

On the attitude to find a way to win ...
"This team has a lot of winners on it, so if we fall behind we know we just have to compete, play our hardest and step up. If the (other) team's just having a great day, hats off to them. We're going to compete the best we can."

On how much the end of last season helped in close games ...
"It helped a lot. We're used to close games. We're used to playing away from home court. I think we're more used to it and more familiar with it."

On if it says something that this team is finding ways to win on days when they're not playing great ...
"We're kind of just finding ways to win. We have a lot of winners on this team, a lot of competitors. When the game is close we have a lot of guys who can step up and make big plays and big shots."