SEC Champions Celebrate Senior Night
Feb. 29, 2012
Kentucky won its 45th SEC Championship outright Saturday on the heels of an 83-74 win over Vanderbilt.
|Kentucky vs. Georgia
Thurs., Mar. 1 - 9:00 p.m. ET
Game Notes: UK | UGA
Radio: UK IMG
Live video via WatchESPN
Freshman Anthony Davis led the way with his 13th double-double of the season, scoring a career and game-high 28 points to go along with a game-high 11 rebounds. He also added five blocked shots and two steals.
Freshman Marquis Teague added 16 points while dishing out six assists and grabbing four rebounds. Terrence Jones also scored in double-figures with 12 points to go along with six rebounds and two blocks.
Located in Athens, Ga. (441 miles south of Lexington), Georgia enters Thursday night's game off a 76-62 upset of 12th ranked Florida in Athens. Although, the Bulldogs have dropped three of their last five.
Georgia has a pair of players averaging in double-figures, led by Gerald Robinson's team-leading 14.3 ppg. average. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope's is also averaging double-digits, 13.9 ppg. Donte' Williams is Georgia's leading rebounder at 5.4 rpg.
Mark Fox is in his third season as head coach in Athens where he has tallied a 48-34 record. The native of Kansas arrived at Georgia after five successful seasons in a same capacity at the University of Nevada, which played in the postseason in each of those five years.
During Fox's five-year tenure as head coach, Nevada won at least 21 games each season, won or shared four-straight Western Athletic Conference titles and played in three-consecutive NCAA Tournaments. He was named the WAC Don Haskins Coach of the Year three times.
He has amassed a 171-72 career record.
Having won 13 of the last 17 match-ups, Kentucky owns a 114-25 (.820) advantage in the Georgia series. The Wildcats' .820 winning percentage against the Bulldogs is UK's third-highest winning percentage (.884 vs. Ole Miss; .835 vs. Auburn) against an SEC opponent that was in the league prior to the 1992 expansion.
Kentucky is 55-5 against Georgia in Lexington.
Pre-Georgia Media Opportunity - Feb. 29, 2012
Transcript and video will be posted as soon as they're available.
Head Coach John Calipari
On the seniors ...
"You have two players and people who have come to this program in different circumstances. Darius (Miller)'s case, rough freshman year, new coach comes in with a bunch of new players, adapts, changes his game, accepts new players and then responds and gets better every year. He will be an NBA player, no doubt in my mind. There is no college player that has played with more NBA players than him. Eloy (Vargas) comes here and again, plays on a team with some pretty good players and has been waiting his turn. Like I've told you before, I've had scouts come to me like, `is this another Josh (Harrellson)?' we're not getting to see him because he is playing behind the spider-man (Anthony Davis) there. My hope is he gets the opportunity to go to Portsmouth and show himself and at the end of this year as we finish it out, including this game Thursday, that he shows people, hey I'm Swen Nater, played behind (Bill) Walton, all the sudden has an 11-year career. When I said he'd be a professional, he will be a professional, it may not be the NBA and it may be the NBA. Someone is going to like his size and what he does. They are both going to graduate which is neat. They have both done the work they need to do and they have stayed out of trouble. Last night I get a call at 11:20 and Eloy Vargas is on the treadmill, last night at 11:20. He is waiting for his opportunity, that's hard now, it's easy to be out there playing, it's hard when you are standing there waiting for your opportunity and working hard every day."
On what he tells scouts when they ask about Eloy ...
"What I say is, you have a 6'10, 6'11 player who can rebound and run the court and is more skilled than you think. You look in the NBA, how many big guys are there, they have 30 teams. You look at all these teams in Europe, if he chooses to do this he will continue to play."
On Darius Miller late in games ...
"It's not been calming, he's just changed. I got on him because he was 1-13 on free throws after someone calls a timeout and he has to go shoot a free throw. I told him, you know why, because you sit there and think too much then you go out there and almost shoot an air ball. Well the last game there was a timeout and he made one and he said, `did you notice I made that free throw after the timeout.' When you let him know, he responds and he has responded for this team. Like I said, we have six starters and he has started some of the games and if he's not the sixth man of the year you have to show me who it will be. He's awfully good."
On how much Eloy will play against Georgia ...
"I'm going to try to play him as many minutes as I can which is what I always do with the seniors on senior night."
On Darius being a "glue" guy ...
"It means he does everything the team needs him to do, he completes everybody. He's not competing, he's completing. He'll do, if he needs to rebound, defend, he'll play some guard, and he'll play some forward, whatever position we ask him, he just completes everybody."
On what he saw from Darius when he became the coach at UK ...
"Well when I first got here, of the all the players that I watched and this is before the freshman class came in, he had a better feel for the dribble drive than anybody there and I was pleasantly surprised. Then I said, `how much did he play?' `Two minutes a game.' What? So obviously there were two different styles of play. I liked what I saw and obviously he has just gotten mentally and physically tougher. All these kids are on different time tables. Just because a young man stays three years, four years doesn't mean the guy that's one or two years (is better). No, they are just on different time tables. When you talk about us having three guys in that `Rise' game and no other school had more than one, I hope that's every year. Which means, not only are they leaving to go to the league, they are performing, Josh Harrellson. When you look at that and a guy like Darius, it has taken him some time but at the end of the day he is going to be in the position he wants to be in."
On Darius Miller getting an opportunity to play more ...
"There is no such thing in any program that I have coached that says it is my turn. It doesn't matter if you are a sophomore, junior or senior. There is no such thing that says it is my turn. Either you play or he plays. There is no real emotion about it. We are trying to put the best team on the floor and the best players on the floor. You like to reward, but at the end of the day, it is about performance and you know, it's like he was playing in front of guys my first year here and then some guys were playing in front of him. That's just how it goes. There is no `my turn'. If you have that kind of program, you don't have that competitive fire within; you're not going to reach the height of your team in my opinion."
On Darius Miller playing better off the bench ...
"It didn't matter if it was he or Doron (Lamb). And it still doesn't matter. If Doron is in, and he's not playing, then he's out. If Terrence (Jones) is not playing, he will go in at the four and we will go small. My point guard threw it away two times in 2:30, then you're out. Then he went in, and Doron moved to point. This is about performance and it is day-to-day. We talked today about this team in general. I told (assistant coach) John Robic, how many bad practice days have we had? We have probably had over 100 practice days. Maybe one or two, and it's hard for me to remember. How many games did we just play flat this year? I don't really remember any. These kids are not machines and they are not computers. They are trying. They know they are up against it every game they play. Someone is going to come out and try to blow their brains out. I'm really proud of all of these guys. Leadership on this team, you think about it, whether it's Darius (Miller) coming off the bench or Eloy (Vargas) not playing a whole lot. They haven't affected us, except in a positive way. They have both been positive in how they have done this. I really want them to do well."
On Anthony Davis being a Player of the Year candidate ...
"I think there are some other worthy candidates too, but I am going to be biased and at the end of the year, he is going to take 200 shots less than all of those guys that they are considering; 200 shots less, yet probably has more of an impact on any of these games. And that's not taking away anything from anybody else because, you know, those other guys are just as deserving. He has had a special year. What he has done defensively for us, what he has done offensively for us, and he has done it in a way where he is not selfish in anyway. He has taken 200 less shots. That's a big number now. You're talking about averaging five more points a game, maybe six. The best thing for my team is to pass it more and get it less, and he is fine with that."
On what will go through his mind as his last home game winds down ...
"I can imagine it'll be emotional for me. I've been here for, like you said, a while. I had a lot of good memories, met a lot of great people, great coaching staff. I can imagine it being emotional for me."
On what it has been like to be the one constant player for four years ...
"It's been a lot of fun. I've met a lot of great guys, a lot of great players that I've had the chance to play with. I still talk to everybody to this day. I feel like they're my brothers. It's been a great experience and I can say I'm blessed to be a part of something like that."
On what it will be like having his last game in Rupp Arena ...
"I think it will be a lot of fun. I'm happy I get to experience it with some guys like these that I'm really close with. Like I said, it might be a little emotional for me. I don't know. It should be a lot of fun. Hopefully we have a great game and come out with a win."
On whether he knows why he excels towards the end of games ...
"Honestly, I don't know. I feel like the whole team does a great job of focusing in on it at the end of the game, trying to make big plays for us to win. We all focus on the same thing, which is winning. I think we do a great job when it's crunch time."
On what he thinks about being referred to as the "glue guy" for the team ...
"I'm happy with that, especially to be on a team with this much talent. I have great teammates and for them to say that about me, I'm happy about it. I'm grateful to be talked about in that way. It's a great honor."
On the lows and the highs of his career at UK ...
"My freshman year was kind of rough, as you all know, going to the NIT and stuff like that. I feel like we had a pretty good team. We had pretty good talent on the team, but like you said we were kind of disappointed with how we finished out. The past couple of years it's been a great experience. We've had a really good team. Like I said really great teammates and a great coaching staff. If we can finish out this last game on a win, I'd be extremely happy."
On whether he was worried about what would happen to him when Coach Calipari got hired ...
"I think all of us were, the guys that were here and they guys that planned on staying. I think we were all worried about what was going to happen. We had been pretty close so we were wondering if we were going to get split up. Like I said, I'm happy I got to stay and he chose me to stay so it's been a great experience so far."
On what it's been like to be a Kentucky Wildcat ...
"Well it's been great to be here in this program and being in Kentucky. It's the best program in the world right now in college. So being a part of this program has been tremendous."
On if he might possibly be another Josh Harrellson ...
"Well I think it's a compliment for me in that this is my first time hearing him say that about me and what I'm doing - like trying to be focused and trying to play my best and do the right thing on the court and off the court and in practice trying to get better."
On if it ever gets frustrating not getting much playing time ...
"Nah, I'm good because every time we win, everybody wins. It's Kentucky and this is a family. It's not about self, it's about us."
On the best thing about being a part of this program ...
"Being in front of Coach Cal, teaching me how to be a better player and a better person, and me pushing myself like before I came over here; I rarely saw how hard you had to work to be on the court, so I think I've learned a lot from being here and being a part of this program."
On how he thinks Kentucky fans will remember him ...
"I don't know how they're going to remember, but I know I was part of the Final Four, so they will probably remember me, so that'll be nice."
On what the rest of the season holds ...
"This is where the fun begins now. You don't know what's going to happen. This is going to be a long season. We've got about five more weeks left and you don't know what can happen. Somebody can get in foul trouble and I can maybe come out and do the right thing and make a play for the team and we can come out with a win."