Wildcats Conclude Homestand Against Mississippi State
Feb. 26, 2013
Kentucky will conclude its three-game homestand with a matchup against Mississippi State on Wednesday, riding an emotionally-charged overtime victory over Missouri on Saturday. The Wildcats came back from a halftime deficit for the second time this season to force the game into overtime. UK would go on to out-score the Tigers 15-8 in the extra period for the dramatic win. UK got tremendous performances from a bevy of players including a season-high 24-point performance from senior Julius Mays. Freshman Alex Poythress chipped in 21 points and classmate Archie Goodwin contributed 18 second-half points. Freshman Willie Cauley-Stein logged 12 rebounds and a career-high seven blocks, while sophomore Ryan Harrow notched 15 points and a team-high six assists. UK is 88-20 all-time against Mississippi State, including winning the last four meetings.
|Kentucky vs. Mississippi State
Weds., Feb. 27 - 8:00 p.m. ET
Game Notes: UK | MSU
Gameday Live: Online video, audio, blog and stats
TV: SEC Network
Radio: UK IMG
Scouting Mississippi State
Mississippi State is 7-19 and 2-12 in Southeastern Conference action under first-year head coach Rick Ray. The Bulldogs are led in scoring by Craig Sword who logs 9.8 per game. The Bulldogs have four players with more than 30 steals on the season paced by 43 from Fred Thomas.
Media Opportunity - Feb. 26, 2013
Head Coach John Calipari
On what Julius Mays has meant to this team …
"He's a wonderful young man. He made a statement to his teammates, 'what makes you and drives you, what is it for you?' He came back and said, 'I'm my mother's only son and I refuse to fail.' Whoa, these guys were kind of like, 'what?' You know what he's done here now, because he's playing so well, but not only that because of the type of person he's taking on that role of holding people accountable. Now he's seeing the faces I see and the excuses I hear. He's hearing the same stuff, but it's coming from him now holding guys responsible. It's been fun to see him try to or develop over this and thank goodness he's on this team because holding it together has been a job that he's done."
On reinventing himself this season …
"You have to just keep trying stuff. When this is all over I tell them, 'You're sitting in seats that every player in the country wants to sit in.' Don't look back five years from now and have regrets that you didn't give everything and sacrifice and do all the work. You're in a seat that every player in the country wants to sit in. For me as a coach, I don't want to look back on this season and say I didn't try everything. I didn't give everything that I could give and try different things and outside the box and listen to different people and try that. So when it's all said and done, I live with no regrets and so right now that's what we've been doing. What's working right now may not work a week from now, we'll try something different."
On Kentucky's "down" season compared to Mississippi State …
"Well we know that, no we know, we're good. The issue has been the last seven or eight years, we've won 30 games. Well that's never been done in the history of our sport, but we think it's the norm like you are supposed to win 30. Then everyone with us now all the fans and media, you are supposed to win 30. Well people don't win 30. We just had a heck of a run. The other side of this is when you watch them (Mississippi State), I just watched them play Alabama at Alabama, six days ago. It was a four-point game with five minutes to go, at Alabama. I just watched their game with LSU and it was a two or three bucket game at the end of the half. LSU made some 3s and turned them over and spread it out and it ended up being a 12-point game. This team is capable and if we don't have the maturity to understand one week ago where were we? One week ago we were in coffins. People were trying to nail them shut. Now all of a sudden we're like ok wow. Well you can go right back to where you were if you don't have maturity or toughness. You just don't have that mental toughness to come every day and battle and we'll see. You don't have to say one word. We are going to watch how you play and if you do what you're supposed to, people can make their judgments."
If he's surprised by how quickly it has clicked for this team …
"Nope, two years ago, if you remember we lost six. We were Missouri. We were Missouri. We lost all those close games. We couldn't get over the hump late. We won our last three or four, went to the tournament, played just okay and then played Florida and played a heck of a game and then went to the NCAA tournament and then all of a sudden the season changed. That was all about the same time as now. So no, I'm not surprised. Even then, you say we started clicking, we just kept going. We had the maturity to say, 'let's take advantage of this now.' Let's see if we have that maturity to take advantage of the position we're now in versus the position we were in seven days ago, eight days ago whatever that was."
On the toughness they showed against Missouri …
"I'm still, you don't know what's happening before the game with this group. I mean, you know the great thing is now they are eliminating and they have been eliminating every cop out and excuse they can use. There are none left. You just have to go battle. You are talented enough. You are good enough. We have enough guys. What excuse or cop out can you use now? You just have to go play. We are telling them, 'hey shoot the ball. Worry about missing later. Worry about what happens if you miss later.' We are doing all the stuff to get them to ball. At the end of the day, you have to step in the ring and look at the other guy and say, 'let's go.' Or you can walk in the ring, 'it's really slippery in here and wet, can we start again? My manager is yelling at me too much I don't feel right.' When you're in the ring, you've got to battle. The Missouri game was a great lesson that they can do this, and they have it in them, which I kept saying. So was the Vandy game. Vandy goes and wins the next game by 40, by 40 on the road."
On the team's development …
"(It's) Just beginning. The reason there was a lack of trust for each other, was the mentality that if I'm not playing well I can't play. I can't give anything. If I miss two shots my head goes down, I jog back. If a guy scores on me I'm so embarrassed that I'll jog back and act like it doesn't matter today. I'm not going to help my team because I'm worried about my guy scoring on me. That is the mentality that young kids, you have to break them of that, and you have to get them to understand that the other way is much more fun to play. If everybody plays that way you're protected. Instead of play for yourself you play for the other guys. They all do the same the game's easier. It's hard … They've gotten better. We are on the cusp of doing what we're wanting to do. We just keep practicing. Yesterday I told them I'm not backing up. I haven't backed up one bit. I don't care what we did in that game. What's the next game? Now are we going to establish how we play, or are we going to be immature and revert back to where we were because that's how you want to play, because you think it's easier. Every day's a lesson."
On how Nerlens Noel is doing …
"His surgery is scheduled. I don't have the date exactly, but it is scheduled. It will be done. He will have a couple of weeks of intensive stuff. (Rajon) Rondo is going through it. I'm telling you what Rondo said, it's the toughest, most painful thing he's ever been through in his life. So to say well five months later I'll be ready … you'd better be on it. Just Rondo said it. 'The toughest and most painful thing I've ever been through in my life.' If you're tough enough to go through it, those guys who do end up coming back in most cases stronger than they were. There's no slacking off, there's no 'I'm not going to go hard today.' No, it's you've got five months of work, and I've told him (Noel) that. I think he's up for it. It's not something just because a lot of these surgeries happen. The ones that don't work out are because the rehab didn't work. That's because the guy didn't put in the time and the sacrifice and the sweat equity that you've got to put in to make that work. I think he will though."
On the possibility of people who have had similar injuries speaking with Noel …
"I haven't at this point. He hasn't had the surgery. He hasn't started on the rehab yet, but I will at some point. Derek Anderson talked (to him), knows what he went through. He's in a good frame of mind. (His) Mom was here this weekend. She was great. They know we've really dotted i's and crossed t's, and made sure one way or another he was in good shape. She appreciated it."
On worrying about postseason …
"Let me say this, bell curve okay. People with F's are going to get in and pass the class because it's a bell curve. Your F just has to be better than his F. You have 15 teams that would not be last year's tournament. Now guys can go check and look, but simple eye test. There would be 15 teams that wouldn't have been in. None of that matters. 'Well you've got to win all your games.' Here's a great one 'they have to beat Missouri to get in.' Okay, you beat Missouri then what do they say. 'Well they still have to prove themselves.' What are you going to do, get upset and listen to all that? I don't. All I know is if our team gets better and does what they're supposed to we have the talent to not only play in that tournament, but to advance. We have to prove ourselves every night out. Even more than any team in the country we have to prove ourselves every time out. No one has gone through what we went through: losing an entire team; playing all freshmen; having your point guard out; having your big guy out two weeks; losing the best player and the heart of your team and trying to keep going. No one. And we're still standing, so I'm happy. Now it's where do we go from here? Thanks."
#5 Jared Polson, Guard, Jr.
On how Mississippi State's loss to Vanderbilt affects the players' mindset …
"Honestly we can't let that play on our mind. We know, I mean if a team starts hitting shots then it's a totally different ball game. They probably had their worst game against Vandy (Vanderbilt). So who knows what they could do. A lot of teams come into Rupp (Arena) and go off, especially in Rupp. So we know we can't look past them at all."
On the team playing with emotion …
"I think it helped out with Missouri. Hopefully we can keep that emotion going."
On what kind of changes he (Polson) sees in his freshmen teammates …
"I mean everyone is changing in their own way. A lot of them are more mature. Archie's (Goodwin) taking better shots. As you can see right now he's always in the gym, first one out. Alex (Poythress) had a great game Saturday. He is really going now. All of them are changing in their own way, but they are all just becoming more mature."
On their thoughts on the NCAA tournament …
"I mean we know we are playing for the NCAA tournament, but we really have to focus on just getting better. Coach Cal tells us every day it doesn't matter who we are playing we have to focus on getting better."
#33, Kyle Wiltjer, F, Soph.
On the team's growing confidence from winning …
"It has been good for us to get a good win in the last game. We are just working every day in practice to keep getting better."
On a post-Nerlens Noel identity as a team …
"We changed a few things, but other than that just finding our identity like you said and just keep getting better without him. That's what we have done and guys have stepped up. We are proud of everyone and want to just keep going in the right direction."
On the impact Julius Mays makes on the team …
"He has great leadership. He has been in college basketball for a while so he has that experience. He has just helped lead the guys and he is very vocal so he really helps us."
On post-Noel strategy …
"We just went back to the basics. Just playing basketball, we have a lot of open sets now just playing. Also we really picked up our defense as of late. With those things we are going to have to play a little differently because we don't have our shot blocking presence. I think we are doing a great job adjusting."