Kentucky, West Virginia Battle for Elite Eight Berth
Kentucky and West Virginia meet on Thursday, March 26 with a berth in the Elite Eight on the line. The game will be carried by CBS and tip will be approximately 9:45 p.m. ET.
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NCAA Tournament Central
Kentucky vs. West Virginia
Thursday, March 26 - 9:45 p.m. ET
Game Notes: UK | WVU
| TV: CBS |
Radio: UK Sports Network
Live Audio (Westwood One)
It may seem just like yesterday for some Big Blue faithful.
Kentucky was riding high, a No. 1 seed in the East Regional Finals looking to make it back to the Final Four for the first time since 1998. The only team standing in the way was the No. 2 seed in that region, West Virginia.
Played in a cold, wet and dreary Syracuse, N.Y., the Wildcats missed their first 20 3s against the Mountaineers, finishing just 4 of 32, and lost 73-66.
"To even be in the game 0-20, I must have had a hell of a team, which I did," UK head coach John Calipari said Wednesday.
Asked if he could take any lessons from that 2010 game, Huggins replied nonchalantly.
"If Cal promises to miss his first 20 3s like they did in 2010 that would help," he said, "if we could get him to do that." ... read the full story
Cat Scratches: Stakes no higher, but WVU talk adds fuel to Cats' fire
Kentucky vs. West Virginia. Calipari vs. Huggins. Size vs. full-court press.
Thursday's Sweet 16 matchup between the Wildcats and Mountaineers had plenty of storylines to begin with. Then West Virginia's locker room opened to the media.
"I give them their props," West Virginia's Daxter Miles told Brett Dawson of CatsIllustrated.com. "Salute them to getting to 36-0. But tomorrow they're gonna be 36-1."
The chatter would continue, with Miles - a freshman guard - not only saying "nobody is invincible," but also saying "they don't play that hard" of the Wildcats ahead of a Sweet 16 matchup. The top-seeded Cats (36-0) weren't there to hear it, but they surely heard about it soon after when their own locker room opened.
Karl-Anthony Towns mostly nodded quietly.
"I mean, everyone has an opinion," Towns said. "Just take it as you get, I guess. We've always been criticized for everything. So it's OK." ... read the full story
Cat Scratches: `Press Virginia' the latest strategy to break Kentucky
The theories and strategies of how to beat Kentucky have been thrown out all year dating back to August when the Wildcats were handling pro teams in the Bahamas.
You've got to spread them out, you need to hit a bunch of 3s, you need to score in transition, a physical team is one that can get the Wildcats out of their game, they said.
"They gotta run out (of strategies) eventually," junior forward Willie Cauley-Stein said prior to the Cats' round of 32 game versus Cincinnati. "They try everything. You got to though. You can't get mad at it. I would do the same thing."
Cincinnati's physical style of ball was the latest to go toe to toe with undefeated Kentucky. Like the 35 teams before the Bearcats, it proved to not be enough, though despite UK leading by 19 points with just over one minute left in the game, some believe the Bearcats actually exposed vulnerability in Kentucky.
Next up is No. 20/21 ranked and No. 5 seeded West Virginia, affectionately known as "Press Virginia" due to its full-court pressure defense applied on nearly every possession following both a made or missed basket. ... read the full story
Cat Scratches: Friends Calipari, Huggins put history aside for Sweet 16
Bob Huggins owed one to John Calipari.
The two coaches share a close bond, so after Calipari came to a fundraiser for the cancer center at West Virginia, Huggins had to repay the favor when Calipari asked him to speak at a clinic in Kentucky.
Huggins went in blind, knowing only that plenty of UK fans would be in attendance. So consider his surprise when he asked Calipari what he should discuss with the crowd.
"He says, '1-3-1, everybody wants to know how to beat the 1-3-1,' " Huggins said. " 'They know I didn't figure it out so they want everybody to do it.' "
It hadn't been long since West Virginia's quirky zone defense had flummoxed UK into 4-of-32 3-point shooting and an Elite Eight loss in 2010 and the wounds were still fairly fresh. Calipari just didn't much care.
"You've got to have a lot of self-assurance to, you know, bring somebody in to talk about a 1-3-1," Huggins said. "... But that's Cal. He's been a very dear friend." ... read the full story
Cat Scratches: West Virginia awaits UK as storylines loom
Kentucky and West Virginia haven't met in the regular season since 2008. They haven't met at one of the two schools' campuses since 1992.
On Thursday night, they'll meet in the NCAA Tournament for the third time in six years.
It's odd that it's worked out that way, but perhaps it's also quite predictable at the same time due to the two teams' close proximity, their recent history of close games and head coaches' friendship.
"Cal called me about three weeks ago and said, 'You know they're going to put us in the same bracket don't you?' " West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said following his team's 69-59 third-round victory over Maryland on Sunday night. ... read the full story
This Week's News:
Kentucky's NCAA Tournament History
- UK is making its nation-leading 54th all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
- Kentucky is 118-47 (.715) all-time in NCAA Tournament games.
- Since 1992, the Wildcats are 117-32 (.785) in postseason play (SEC, NIT and NCAA).
- Kentucky is making its 12th appearance as a No. 1 seed. The Cats were a one seed in the 2012 tournament en route to its eighth national championship.
- UK is 20-3 (.870) in NCAA Tournament games under the direction of John Calipari.
- Calipari is 45-14 (.763) as a head coach in NCAA Tournament games.
- Calipari-coached teams have appeared in three of the last four Final Fours and is the first such school to achieve that feat since UCLA from 2006-08.
- Calipari has led UK to three Final Fours in four years and leads the country with four Final Four appearances since 2008.
UK in the Regional Rounds
- Kentucky is making its 45th all-time appearance in the NCAA Sweet 16 (the 1988 appearance vs. Villanova was later vacated and does not count as UK's 46th appearance).
- UK has advanced to play in the Elite Eight on 34 occasions, owning a 34-10 (.773) record in the round of 16. Wildcats Lead in NCAA Tournament Wins
- UK leads the nation in NCAA Tournament wins (118).
- It also leads the country in wins in the tournament since 2010, when John Calipari first led Kentucky into the Big Dance (through games on March 21):
- 20 - Kentucky
- 13 - Florida
- 12 - Connecticut, Kansas, Louisville
- 12 - Butler, Ohio State
- 11 - Duke, Michigan State
- Kentucky started the game 2 of 20 from the floor in the opening 8:03 but utlized a 10-0 run to end the half and take a 31-24 edge into the break. It would be a lead UK would not relinquish.
- The Wildcats earned their sixth straight double-digit win that helped them surpass last year's Wichita State squad for the most victories to start the season (36).
- Cincinnati won the rebounding battle 45-38. Cincinnati's 45 rebounds was the second-highest total allowed by UK this year (Texas A&M: 52).
- Kentucky blocked nine shots, compared with six by Cincinnati. Cincinnati's six blocked shots tied Texas A&M for the most by a UK opponent this season. Cincinnati made two 3-pointers, marking the seventh time this season a UK opponent has made two or fewer 3-point shots.
- UK trailed for 7:42 seconds. The Wildcats have trailed for only 187:07 of a possible 1,455 minutes this season.
- Kentucky won bench points 18-15. The Wildcats have won the bench points in all but one game this season (vs. Arkansas, SEC Tournament championship).
- UK's 36-0 start to the season is the first in the history of the program, bettering the 1953-54 group's 25-0 start.
- The 36-game winning streak is the longest such streak in school history, surpassing the previous streak of 32 straight games set from Dec. 5, 1953 to Jan. 8, 1955.
- UK is the only team in SEC history to begin a season 36-0.
- The 36-0 start is the best of any John Calipari team he has ever coached.
- The 36 straight wins is the longest winning streak of Calipari's career, bettering his 2008-09 Memphis team's 27 consecutive wins.
- UK has won 58 of its last 60 games as the Associated Press top-ranked team.
- Calipari has a 102-9 all-time record when coaching the nation's No. 1 team, including a 60-4 mark at Kentucky.
- The Wildcats are 7-1 in NCAA Tournament games held in Louisville. UK is 4-0 in NCAA Tournament games held in the KFC Yum! Center.
- Kentucky won its nation-leading 118th NCAA Tournament game. UK is 118-47 all-time in the Big Dance.
- Since 1992, the Wildcats are 117-32 in postseason play (NCAA, NIT and SEC).
- Kentucky also leads the country in wins in the tournament since 2010 (20), when John Calipari first led UK into the Big Dance.
- UK is 20-3 in tournament games under John Calipari.
- Trey Lyles recorded his second career double- double. He scored 11 points, had a career- high 11 rebounds and added two blocked shots.
Aaron Harrison had a team-high 13 points. He has scored in double figures a team-high 22 times this season.
- Harrison is now 51 points away from 1,000 for his career.
Tyler Ulis had nine points, five assists, three steals and three rebounds.
- Ulis tied his career high in steals (three) and minutes (34).
- Ulis has a 24-to-8 assist-to-turnover ratio in the postseason (five games).
- Ulis has had three or more assists in eight of the last nine games.
- He has scored six or more points in a career-long five consecutive games.
- Kentucky played the part of the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament by rolling past No. 16 seed Hampton on Thursday, 79-56.
- UK started the game 3 for 10 from the floor but went on a 19-3 run to take a 33-14 lead and never looked back.
- The Wildcats opened the second half on a 13-2 run.
- Kentucky entered the game as the nation's toprated shooting-percentage defense, and the Wildcats held Hampton to 28.8 percent from the field.
- UK held a team to less than 30-percent shooting for the first time since South Carolina (Feb. 14).
- Kentucky has now held 12 opponents to less than 30-percent shooting for the game.
- Kentucky improved to 44-10 in NCAA Tournament openers and has won 22 of its last 23 second-round (previously first-round) tournament games.
Karl-Anthony Towns posted his eighth double- double of the season and second in the last four games.
- He finished with a career-high 21 points. He added 11 rebounds and three blocks.
- Andrew Harrison scored 14 points. It was his 15th double-figure scoring game of the season.
- Trey Lyles scored 10 points and added six rebounds.
- Tyler Ulis scored 11 points and had a gamehigh three assists.
Media Opportunity - March 25, 2015
Video: Aaron Harrison, Trey Lyles, Andrew Harrison
Video: Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnon, Karl-Anthony Towns
Q. Tyler, being a freshman and everything, can you sort of give an idea of who on the team would be considered the team's leader and how he goes about that business?
Tyler Ulis: Well, the leaders on the team are basically Andrew and Willie. They tell us when, like in the summer, they tell us when to work out and stuff like that. They just try to talk to us and just walk us through certain things in the game.
Q. Devin, you guys have seen presses all year and I know you haven't seen West Virginia's in person yet, but on film how does it look different?
Devin Booker: I don't know that it's much different but we know that they're going to play hard and it's going to be a physical game, and we have been preparing for that all weekend. We still haven't watched a lot of film but I'm sure we are, but like I said, we know that they are a going to be physical and I think we're going to be prepared for it.
Q. This is for anybody, I just wondered if you guys, how do you check your egos at the door when you come to play for Kentucky? Is that understood before you get there or does someone teach you? How does that work?
Dakari Johnson: You know, Coach Cal does a good job, he doesn't promise you anything when you come here, so from the bat, you just have to start off and work hard, that's what you have to do.
Marcus Lee: As Coach Cal always talks about, we have good kids in teammates so when you kind of fall in love with your team, you kind of don't have to worry about that.
Q. This is for Tyler and Devin, back in the stone ages, freshman were ineligible. There's been some talk, particularly coming from the PAC-10, let's revisit that. I'm just curious, A, what do you think about freshmen being ineligible and what do you think your guys would do let's say your freshman year if you couldn't play for a year?
Tyler Ulis: Well, it's a little late for us now, but if I couldn't play for this year, I would probably be really upset because this is a special team and we probably won't play on a team like this ever again.
Devin Booker: I'm glad they got away from that. Kind of like Tyler said, I would be disappointed if we couldn't play but I've heard the rumors they're talking about, and I'm glad I'm past my freshman year.
Q. Tyler, you talked about the press, I guess you talked about their press a little bit. How important is it, they've had games where they turned teams over 20 plus times, how important, you handle the ball a lot, to not turn it over and what is the key to not beating presses like that?
Tyler Ulis: I pride myself in not turning the ball over, so I've got to just make sure I'm focused and just handle the pressure. Just try to treat it like we did with Louisville and Arkansas and stuff like that, just focus on taking care of the ball.
Q. Dakari, can you talk about West Virginia's front line, what you see from them, how you think you'll attack that and how they'll attack you?
Dakari Johnson: Like Devin said, we haven't went over much tape but we know they're going to be a physical team and we've been working on a lot of rebounding drills, we know that they're going to crash the glass hard, so we've just been working on that and the physicality play all week.
Q. Any of you guys really, a lot of you could have went to any schools and everything, what is it about Coach Cal that makes you drawn to him or like him, do you remember the first time you met him, what is it about his personality that makes you want to play for him and with him?
Dakari Johnson: You know, he's just a competitor. When he came and watched me play, he sat down and told me he wasn't going to promise me anything and he just wanted me to come in and work hard. And he's a big competitor and I'm a big competitor.
Tyler Ulis: Like Dakari said, he didn't promise us anything, he told us he was going to put us on a stage and we had to play, we had to come here and earn our spot and just get better every day.
Marcus Lee: Like they both said, we weren't promised anything, we were told that you had to earn your spot so you couldn't lack at any practice. You were going to play against the best in pros each day in practice.
Devin Booker: He's just down to earth, told us that we're not going to get anything given to us when we get here and we're going to have to work for it. He just gets the best out of you when you come here.
Q. For Tyler and Devin, the West Virginia players expressed a lot of confidence in their press and their conditioning and they say it takes a toll on teams. Will it be different against a Kentucky team that not only has your skill but has two basic units so that you're constantly rotating with each other?
Tyler Ulis: Yeah, it will be different because we have nine guys he plays, rotating in and out, two point guards, a lot of people who can handle the ball so that's going to be a little bit different with the rotation and stuff like that.
Devin Booker: Kind of like Tyler said, our depth's important and we're going to be playing at a fast-paced game and I think we'll be ready for it.
Q. Would any of the players also address your size? It would seem like you would have big targets that would help just throw it over it, the press?
Dakari Johnson: Yeah, our size also can be a big factor, I think. We've been working on a lot of different press attacks with some of the bigs up.
Devin Booker: I think our size and spacing will be good. Like Dakari said, we've been working on it most of the weekend with our size and spacing, I think it will be good for us.
Q. West Virginia took down a very talented Kentucky team five years ago in the tournament. Are you guys aware of that, have you heard about that this week?
Dakari Johnson: Not really. I mean, we heard about back when they lost to John Wall and that team, but you know, it's five years later, so it's a different team.
Tyler Ulis: Yeah, that was my first time hearing about that, but that really doesn't relate to us because like you said, it was five years ago.
Marcus Lee: Yeah, this is two different teams playing at a different time, so I don't think it matters.
Devin Booker: Just like they said, two different teams.
Q. I was just wondering, were you guys drawn to Kentucky even before, like way back were you watching them, were you watching them before Coach Cal came?
Dakari Johnson: Yeah, a little bit even before Coach Cal came. I actually used to live in Lexington for a couple years.
Tyler Ulis: No, I didn't watch them growing up. I actually watched Coach Cal at Memphis because he had Derrick Rose, I was a person who watched certain players.
Marcus Lee: As a kid you just kind of watch basketball no matter who's playing, so you got around to watching just about every team.
Devin Booker: Yeah, I knew it was an historic program growing up but I didn't really pay much attention to it until Coach got there when he brought John Wall to Kentucky.
Q. Dakari, Marcus and Devin, if you could address the way that Tyler has improved this year and what ways his game has gotten better especially toward the tournament?
Dakari Johnson: I think he's in attack mode more. You know, he's the facilitator first, but he's also looking to score, too, so it just adds another threat to his game.
Marcus Lee: Yeah, this year he's just a total pit bull. So him going at our guards and bigger players, he's kind of figuring out how to score against bigger players.
Devin Booker: He's just a floor general out there. He can get everybody involved and he can score at the same time, so he's a problem for the other team.
Q. Dakari, you guys have a chance to make history and do something that no team's done since '76. Is that something you guys talk about, running the table or being undefeated?
Dakari Johnson: We really don't talk about it, we just take it one game at a time and focus on who we have next. You know, we just don't pay attention to that that much.
MODERATOR: We would like to thank Dakari, Tyler, Marcus and Devin for joining us into the main interview room. We're joined now in the main interview room by University of Kentucky head coach John Calipari. We'll ask Coach to please make an opening statement, then we'll take questions.
COACH CALIPARI: We're happy we're still playing and the kids are in a great frame of mind. I'm really focused on my team, trying to stay focused on what we control, and the kids seem to be in a great spirit.
Q. John, you've seen presses all year. What makes West Virginia's different?
COACH CALIPARI: You know, the thing I would tell you, I've seen Bobby's teams over the years, obviously we've been friends for a long time, but he's doing stuff this year I've not seen him do and that tells you the kind of coach he is. He looked at his team and he said, hey, we're going to have to play a little different. So they're giving up two-point baskets, high percentage, which I've never seen a team have a field goal percentage that high and do this well. But they're creating havoc, they're taking you out of your offense, they're creating opportunities for tough shots or turnovers. They're playing very physical, they're coming in and letting you know it's going to be body to body, you had better be ready. He looked at his team and he said, that's how we have to play. And offensively, we have to space this court, we've got to beat them on the dribble. It's what it's about, what team do I have, how do we have to play to have success, and he's got them believing. And again, they're a talented team now, they've got talent, but he's got them believing, which is special.
Q. You talked about you and Coach Huggins being such good friends. What do you respect about him the most? And then second part of that question, y'all first faced each other in 1993, what difference do you see in his coaching style from then until today?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, he and I used to be the young coaches, we were the young guys, and we turn around and now we're the old guys. I don't understand that, what happened, but that's what happened. I've always respected what he does coaching his basketball teams, how hard they play, how physical they play, how they rebound. There's almost like things that you'll see and you'll say that's his team. If they don't do those things, they're not doing what he wants and you know those teams are struggling. But his teams, they play, they compete, they play to win, they don't have any fear. I've always respected that. But again, we went from the young coaches to now he and I are like the old guys. Like what in the world happened? And he's older than me, by the way.
Q. As a follow-up on that, Cal, why are you two such good friends? And can you clear up, was it the nephew or the cousin because he's still saying it's the cousin?
COACH CALIPARI: It was my cousin. Well, he's a Basketball Benny. I mean, he's from our area. I watched him play when he was at West Virginia, played Duquesne and Pitt and always respected him as a player and I can still remember the first time I met him in person, he had just got the Walsh College job. I was working a basketball camp and he went up to recruit and I went up and introduced myself to him. That was way back, he was 23, 24 years old and became a head coach. But you know, the stuff with my cousin was really simple. He calls me, Mark, and said what should I do. I said save him, I haven't beaten him yet.
Q. Coach, do some coaching styles naturally match up against other coaching styles? And the reason why I ask this is do you contemplate at all the fact that Huggins is 8-2 against you head to head?
COACH CALIPARI: Maybe, but when you're playing in these games, none of the past matters. Whether I was 12-0 against a coach, it doesn't matter, this is a one-game shot. We had teams building, competing. They were great games. I don't remember any of them being like blowout games, they were always like two teams. I remember I'm like, I think we can get these guys. I had Derek Kellogg as my point guard coaching. He had Nick Van Exel, who went for about 38 and after the game I'm thinking, "What was I thinking?" No disrespect, Derek, you know I love you.
Q. You and he both mentioned their field goal defense against. They shoot 41 percent. You look at the sheet, it doesn't say Sweet 16. What does that say about his coaching job? He talks about you as coach of the year, what about him?
COACH CALIPARI: I said it all along. I said what he's done with this team, incredible. And again, he's taken kids, they've gotten better individually and they've come together and say here's the style we can win with, and that's how they're playing and they won't get away from it, that's who they are. The players now have taken great pride in it and I will tell you that I could see Bob getting Coach of the Year in a lot of different things. There's no question what he's done, and again, in a tough league.
Q. What do you think is the key to getting your kids to check their ego at the door? And does the history and the atmosphere in Lexington have anything to do with that?
COACH CALIPARI: You know, everything that we do begins with the recruiting process. If you make outlandish promises, you're going to take all the shots. You're going to shoot all the balls, you're going to play all the minutes, it's going to be about you, hard to do what we're doing. We tell these kids this is not for everybody, you're not going to come here and shoot 30 balls a game. Now, you may get 30 in a game but you're not averaging 30 because you are going to have seven or eight, six other guys that are just like you, and you're going to have to defend, you're going to do your thing. We tell them if you want to run around, chase, you that can't do it here, they'll do a 30 for 30 movie on you. You're here to get better, to go from point A to point B to point C. You're here to improve yourself. We've had 13 of our 16 kids had a B average last term, we had a 3.1 one grade point average. For the last five years we've had a 3.0 grade point average as a team, graduated 10 guys, we'll graduate four from this team. So it's not at the expense of academics, it's none of that. These kids have shared. The thing that we had to figure out, is four kids decided to come back. Now you've got 10. What do you do? If you want them all to eat, you've got to figure out how to play 10 which is why we platooned. Now we're at nine and I'm trying to play nine. I want all those kids to play, I want them all to have their opportunity but they've got to go in and perform.
Q. Coach, this morning LeBron James had some very complimentary words to say about his friendship with you, and the job you're doing and obviously his team is hopefully on its way to a championship for those in Cleveland. You're here playing in Cleveland. There's no way you haven't thought, at least just a little bit, what it would be like if your role was reversed, right?
COACH CALIPARI: What would my role be reversed, in what way?
Q. If you were coaching here.
COACH CALIPARI: No, I haven't, and this thing that I have taken on is all-consuming but I've kept an eye on Cleveland because I'm a fan, obviously LeBron and I go back a ways and watching what they're doing and how they're coming together, knowing stuff doesn't happen overnight. It takes time for things to click, and I think Dave's doing a great job, I've said it before, and obviously the best player in the universe is LeBron and I'm happy for him and being able to come home and do the things that he's doing.
Q. Coach, you guys and Wichita State are in the same bracket two years in a row. What did beating them in that third round game last year mean to you guys on your march to the final game?
COACH CALIPARI: That was a heck of a game. That was one of the best college basketball games I've been involved in. Shouldn't have happened that round. I mean, that game should have been a Final Four game or at least a regional final game, but it did. We were very fortunate to get out. They missed a shot at the buzzer to win the game.
Q. It was referenced a little bit earlier, but you did not win Coach of the Year the other day. What did you think of that? Did that bother you? Did you think you deserve that?
COACH CALIPARI: This thing that we're doing here for players and coaches isn't about those individual awards. Every one of us has given up stuff so this thing can happen. Players have given up stuff and I'm not coaching for Coach of the Year honors. I'm coaching to win ball games and I'm coaching to help players develop and have an opportunity to reach their dreams. If that other stuff happens, fine. If it doesn't, that's fine, too.
Q. Just from watching you outside looking in seems like you guys at some point in a game have always seized a momentum, a team could play with you for a half, 30 minutes, 35. As a coach, do you almost come to expect there's going to come a point to a game where your guys are going to say okay, now it's our time?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, you would rather them go out and bash somebody from the beginning of the game until the end, make it easier, but when you go through a basketball season, you must be in overtime games, close games, you must be pressed, you must have teams play Princeton offense against you, you must have teams play zone the whole game. You have to face everything so that when you get in this tournament, which is what we're all playing for, this tournament, anything thrown at you you've seen so there's no confusion. Now you either take the game or they take the game, but there's no confusion, you've been through it all. This team has been down 9 or 10 and done fine. We've been up, we've beaten really good teams by a lot, we've been pressed, we've been zoned, trapped, physically mauled. The best thing about this team, they kept their composure, and I will expect that in this game. Cool and composed, battle your butt off, battle, cool and composed. You never really step out of yourself, you know no one in this thing is going to surrender, you want the team to just give up? They're going to fight you, they're going to battle you, they're going to push you, that's just how it is, they're not surrendering. So you understand it, my team should understand it and know we're in for a battle. We know how good West Virginia is.
Q. I talked to John Miller the other day. He was saying you spend a lot of time at the house when you were a kid. A couple questions related to that. Were he and his younger brother an influence to you to get into coaching. He also said you had a Rolodex of all the high school coaches in the area, you would be setting up games, like a junior high kid, and you ran camps. What kind of drove you to do those things? Was it, you know, money; was it competitiveness, was it -
COACH CALIPARI: Well, when I was growing up, I only wanted to be a teacher and a coach because where we grew up, those were the professionals. You didn't know lawyers and doctors and dentists, you knew the teachers and the coaches. So you looked up to those guys, whether it was John Miller; my own high school coach, Bill Sacco and others, you said that's who I want to be. Then you go to college and you say, well, maybe there's more, maybe I can coach this other sport, college basketball. But John and all those guys, in the Valley back in the day, there were some unbelievable coaches that we could all learn from, look up to, emulate, and yeah, we ran camps. And back in the day you went to the center courts, you went to Monaca, Aliquippa had courts, and you traveled to the courts and played, and you had to win because there was 60 guys there and if you lost you had to wait three hours to play again, you had to go home. So you figured out how to battle and win. You won't believe this, it was outdoors. We played outdoors. Now I'm telling you how old I am. But that's where, you know, you learned about team, bringing people together, scheduling games, who's playing, where are we playing because we weren't in one neighborhood, we were all spread out throughout Pittsburgh, that area.
Q. Coach, I remember the days when you had the trouble getting the Coach of the Year in Atlantic 10, even though you had the best teams there, but wondering if you could take me back to those days -
COACH CALIPARI: Clarksburg, West Virginia, one of my favorite places, lot of Italians.
Q. That's right. Oliverio's.
COACH CALIPARI: Oliverio's. They've got the peppers.
Q. I was wondering back in the day, in the Atlantic 10 UMass when you're first starting out, how different is it now from where you were at that point, and the second question to you is that 2005 game against West Virginia, what do you remember about that?
COACH CALIPARI: I think it was we had 2010, 2011, the West Virginia game. Let me say this about the UMass stuff. I'll bet you Bobby could talk about getting it going at Cincinnati just like I talk about getting it going at UMass. It's kind of like that first opportunity you have and you're in a dogfight. You're not sitting at the big table, you're at the little table on the side with all the little kids and they're having dinner at the main table and you're trying to figure out how could we eat at the main table, how do we get there. The players that I coached there, again, it wasn't the era of kids leaving early. In my eight years at UMass, we had one kid leave after his junior year, Marcus Camby, everyone else stayed four years, it was a totally different era. You had an idea what your team would be like. We weren't able to recruit the McDonald's All-Americans. We were recruiting good players and guys that had good careers and guys that went on to play professionally, but it's not like it is now. This stuff is a little different. But I look back on that time in a very fond way. My family still considers UMass our home, Massachusetts our home. My daughters, one was born there, and Erin, both went to school there. It was a special time. The games that we played in 2010, it was different game. 2010, they were the 2-seed, we were the 1-seed. It was a regional final with the 1 and the 2. I think the next year, it may have been in the Round of 32, I believe, I'm not positive, but it may have been in the Round of 32 and Brandon Knight, if I remember, had a big night and shot the ball and scored well, but they were both good games. If I remember right in 2010 we went 0-20 from the 3-point line. So to even be in the game 0-20, I must have had a hell of a team, which I did.
MODERATOR: We would like to thank Coach Calipari for joining us in the main interview room.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
West Virginia Transcript
MODERATOR: Coach Huggins joining us in the interview room.
Q. I know you've written several books about R basketball and they were hard come by immediately. One of them is actually called Press Breakers, as you know, so I guess if I had a copy of that book, what would it tell me about the secrets to breaking a press?
COACH HUGGINS: I don't remember. That was a long time ago, honestly, I don't remember what I wrote. I was bored, needed something to do. Honestly don't remember. I can't tell you.
Q. You and Coach Cal have known each other for a long time. I'm wondering what most do you respect about him?
COACH HUGGINS: That's a hard question. I think Cal has been able to -- he's more than a basketball coach. Somebody asked me what separates Cal from other coaches, and Cal and I have gone to Europe together and done a bunch of things. And I say, well, most other basketball coaches aren't getting on a plane and read U.S. News and World Report or Money Magazine or those kind of things. Cal is a very diverse guy and I think he's kept things, I think, in a very good perspective. He's a great family guy, just, and he's been a good friend.
Q. You've been coaching a long time, it's been a long journey. Talk about your year at Kansas State and anything that may stick out to you about anything professionally, personally in the year you were in Manhattan?
COACH HUGGINS: Well, I think the thing that sticks out the most is just how good of people there are there. It was amazing to me that virtually every day I was in the office, somebody came in and said, Coach, is there anything that we can do for you, is there any way we can help? I had never had that before. I mean, that's -- and just the people are so nice and it's such a great basketball state. Basketball means a lot in that state. I mean, I think at any given night they've got Wichita sold out. They've got K State sold out, and they've got Allen Fieldhouse sold out, and you can't say that about a lot of states, particularly a state where you don't have a lot of metropolitan areas. So I think the people, I think they're great people there. I've still got very dear friends there. I still stay in touch with the administration there, which is a change for me. I just said that for Doc's benefit. I think the people, I think the people are wonderful.
Q. Since you know Cal so well, Bob, can you share with us one Cal story that's suitable for print that might illustrate the kind of guy and coach that he is?
COACH HUGGINS: Wow. I mean, what comes to mind, and it's not great story, but Cal called me and said we're having this clinic and our numbers are down, can you come in and speak? And I think the great thing about Cal is every time I've asked him to do something for a charity cause or whatever, he's done it. And he had just come in, we had just done a roast and raised a bunch of money for the Cancer Center at West Virginia. He said will you come in, I said sure, I'll come in. What do you want me to do? He said just fly in, speak and fly out. So I get in there, what do you want me to talk about? He says 1-3-1, everybody wants to know how to beat the 1-3-1; they know I didn't figure it out so they want everybody to do it. And I didn't know very much about it, honestly. My players knew more about it than I did. So I told them what I knew about it. And Cal came out, he said now, tell them the story about my nephew. I said it was your cousin. He said no, it was my nephew. And that's the story when I had the heart attack. And how many people do that, though? You've got to have a lot of self-assurance to, you know, bring somebody in to talk about a 1-3-1. And the crazy thing about when they have a clinic in Kentucky, it's all their fans. There's more fans than there is coaches, you know. But that's Cal, he's been a very dear friend.
Q. Coach, can you recount that story about the heart attack for us?
COACH HUGGINS: Do I have to?
Q. I would love if you could.
COACH HUGGINS: I'm in Pittsburgh and I started sweating profusely. I'm walking to the terminal. I'm actually in the garage, I thought I left my GPS in the car. The lady in the rental car deal's having a very heated argument with someone on the other end of the line, so she's not paying much attention to me, and I'm sweating like crazy and I started getting short of breath, and so I thought I better get into the airport. And I made it as far as the sidewalk, and I passed out on the sidewalk. And to make a long story short, they scooped me up, put me in the ambulance and I'm in and out of consciousness, and they're pumping morphine into me, and there's a guy in the back with me obviously and I kind of came to and I said, how much further we got to go? You know how they do, they tap you on the leg, saying I've never lost a patient, you'll be fine. I said listen, I'm not some 90 year old lady, I know when I'm hurt, I've had quite a few things happen, of course, in my life, I'm not going to make it much longer. So he radios to the drivers and said what's the ETA. They said 22 minutes. I said man, I'm not making 22 minutes, so he said abort, abort, abort. And I'm passing out and coming back to. And the thing I noticed when I came back to, he was paying a lot better attention to me then. So I came to and I was fairly coherent at that time and he said, Coach, listen, I can't let you die, I'm John Calipari's cousin, and you can't die until we beat you at least once. So that's the story. Abbreviated version, but that's the story.
Q. Two questions. How did you and Cal come to be friends? And I know that the teams, both teams are obviously different but can you take any lessons from what you were able to do in 2010 for this game?
COACH HUGGINS: Yeah, if Cal promises to miss his first 20 3s like they did in 2010, that would help, if we could get him to do that. I've known John since he was in high school. I've played with one of John's high school teammates, a guy named Joe Frizz. Joe was a freshman when I was a senior, and I think John looked up to Joe as a player so he was around a little bit, so that's the first time I ever met him. I mean, we didn't know each other great then. But then over the years we've got to be very close. We kind of grew up kind of the same way in the same area and a lot of things in common that way.
Q. Can you just describe the risk/reward nature of your defense and how it matches up against this Kentucky team? I mean, do you feel like this defense really can create some tough problems for them?
COACH HUGGINS: I don't know. I hope so. It's going to be a long day for us if we can't. I guess the risk is sometimes we open up the floor, but any time you double team somebody, somebody's going to be open. I think the reward for us is we turn people over and sometimes at an alarming rate. And we've at times created live ball turnovers, which is really what we want, then we don't have to go play against a set defense, but I don't know. I mean, I have no idea whether we can turn them over or not.
Q. When you do try to press and turn them over like that, and they're five inches taller than you at every position, what challenges can that present in terms of their ability to maybe just simply play keepaway, throw it over top?
COACH HUGGINS: I don't know, I don't know what you do about that. I've thought about that, but I haven't really come up with an answer.
Q. When you look at the numbers, your field goal percentage are like .280, and defensively you're down, but you win, how much gratification do you get as a coach to have such a singular style that's so unusual?
COACH HUGGINS: Well, I did it because I like to win, I got tired of losing, and I just thought with the makeup of our team, that would be a way that we would have a chance to win. And I think everybody's heard by now, I ran into Kevin Mackey, and I think Kevin was the best teacher of the press maybe in the history of college basketball and Kevin and I have been friends for a long time and talked to Kevin and he came in to practice and talked before practice and after practice and we talked periodically on the phone, but he felt like we had the personnel we could do that. And my biggest concern was how much time is it going to take, that's one of the reasons I quit pressing in Cincinnati was just the time but we did it different at Cincinnati. He said, we have pretty much all the basic things that we need already in our half-court offense, we just need to extend it the length of the floor. Why do you want to give up real estate, basically. So it made -- I thought if he thought we could do it, then maybe we could do it.
Q. Bob, I wanted to ask you about Kevin. What is it about his system that works so well and why does it work with your group so well?
COACH HUGGINS: You know, I think it would work for a lot of groups, it's just a lot of guys I think have -- our field goal percentage defense is probably the highest that I've ever had. We pressed at Cincinnati, was more conservative so we could still keep the field goal percentage down. I mean, I'll give you an example. I think the Maryland game at halftime, they were shooting almost 55 percent and we were and he shooting like 33 and we're up by 1. So we give up some things. I think you have to, you have to be ready that once in a while, you know, there have been some games we've given up way too much, but that's I guess that's the risk and reward of it. But there are games we probably shouldn't have won, we won because we do that.
Q. Bob, I guess Tony Bennett won Coach of the Year from the basketball writers instead of John. Do you think John was deserving of that award or did it surprise you that John didn't win that award?
COACH HUGGINS: I mean, every year they have that award. There's a bunch of guys that really deserve to win it honestly. What Tony's done at Virginia is nothing short of remarkable. I have said I think with the job that John's done, it's not -- people think it's easy when you have all those players and it's hard because you have a whole bunch of guys that think they can take over a game and you have to get them to play together. What he's done with them defensively is terrific. I mean, they're really, really good defensively. But I thought John certainly could have won it but I can't say Tony shouldn't have, you know? There's a bunch of guys out there that have done a great job coaching.
Q. Can you explain what Juwan does for you guys as a leader? And you've had great leaders in the past, Bobby Brannan, guys like that. How much do you lean on that sort of player when you're fortunate enough to have someone like that?
COACH HUGGINS: I think there's a lot of things, Mike. I think Wanny has really tried to figure out what I want done and kind of when I want those things done. I mean, he studied film, he really has become a student of the game. I think guys that are athletic like him sometimes they rely on their athleticism, which probably he did early on but he's figured out that you can be a lot better when you can understand what's supposed to happen, so he's become a student of the game. I think he's really tried to think the way I do, and you know how hard that is, Mike. I mean, that's next to impossible. But he has tried to do that. And it works, you know, he puts time in. He's been such a great leader by example because he puts time in and he's a guy that loves being in a gym, who's in a gym all the time, and Gary's the same way. I've got two seniors that they're in the gym constantly, and when your senior leaders are in there, then I think everybody else has a tendency to follow. And probably another thing is his ball security. You know, when you look at his assist to turnover ratio, he doesn't turn the ball over, and I think we all saw how much we needed him at the end of games because of his ball security and Gary's the same way. And at the end of the day for the most part, they've made free throws down the stretch for us. So you've got a guy they can't take the ball from. You saw the Maryland game, they tried to trap him, you can't trap him. I mean, he's not trappable. So you've got a guy you can give the ball to that you feel really good that he's going to do something positive with it.
MODERATOR: We would like to thank Coach Huggins for joining us in the main interview room. We're joined by Juwan Staten, Gary Browne and Devin Williams. We're looking for questions for the student-athletes from West Virginia.
Q. For all three, can you talk about Jaysean Paige and what he brings to the team this year and kind of how he's been able to contribute to what you've been able to do?
JUWAN STATEN: The first thing he brings is toughness, he's a tough player, he plays extremely hard and he's a good scorer. He definitely brings scoring and a toughness to our team on the defensive end and that's something that we need with the way we play.
GARY BROWNE: Like Juwan said, he bring a lot of toughness, energy, athleticism, and he can score the ball. He's our best shooter so far.
DEVIN WILLIAMS: Yeah, he pretty much had it right, he's a big contributor to our defense and the way we play. He's a guy we know that's going to go all out with us.
Q. Juwan, press is what you guys do and what you do best. Are you confident that it's going to work against Kentucky?
JUWAN STATEN: Why wouldn't it? We've been playing this way all year, we've had success against everybody no matter what style or what type of players they have. That's the only way we play and it's just up to us to make it work.
Q. Juwan, with the way you guys press is there a point in some of these games where you can kind of see the other team is starting to lose steam and sort of run out of gas; is there a point where you kind of feel like "we got 'em"?
JUWAN STATEN: Definitely. I think it takes place in the second half. In the first half everybody is, you know, everybody's pumped up and they're thinking that they're breaking our press and having success, but they don't realize that they using more energy than they probably used all student-athletes. So in the second half when they have got to come out and try to do that same thing for 20 minutes and they don't have their legs or they're a little tired, then they start to have that effect on them and that's when we try to get even more aggressive on defense.
Q. For Gary, what is the confidence level that their guards might be vulnerable to your press?
GARY BROWNE: I mean, everybody that we play, their guards, they can break the press -- I mean at the beginning of the first half they might be making good decisions but then they don't realize they don't have enough depth on their bench and the second half is going to catch up. Sometime during the game we can see it. We get real excited when things like that happen. I feel like the whole bench, the whole team can realize that and that's when we know, we go harder and more aggressive.
Q. For all three of you, all three of you look pretty fresh. The other day coach was talking about the travel and playing late games and having a quick turnaround. How did you guys deal with that? Did you have to get extra sleep or did it really affect you? You're used to it.
JUWAN STATEN: Well, we haven't had this quick of a turn around probably since we played in Puerto Rico. So that took a little getting used to, but we haven't been going too hard in practice, just doing a lot of, you know, not too much strenuous work, a lot of mental work. So just about getting our rest and getting with the trainers and preparing our body.
GARY BROWNE: What he said, and also I mean, we young guys, we not that old, you know? We only need a little bit of a nap, a 30 minute nap and we be good to go. But at the same time we so focused on what we want that all we need is just a little bit of rest.
DEVIN WILLIAMS: I think playing in a conference we're playing in has really prepared us and like he says, it's what we want. We could be tired later, you know, when we done doing what we got to do. You know, it's what we want, so I at the end of the day it ain't no tired, it's go hard or go home.
Q. For the two seniors, you guys, you talked after the last game, you feel like the whole world except for West Virginia thinks that Kentucky's going to win this game. What has the support been like back home from the fans and as you get ready for this game and really all the momentum starts to come toward you and cheers you on?
JUWAN STATEN: First, let me correct myself, last time I said 1.2. I got a lot of tweets from the fans. It's 1.85 million in West Virginia. So my bad for leaving those guys out. It's just been great just to see their support, they're tweeting us, they're writing stuff to us, they're on our Instagram, and just telling us how much they appreciate us, win or lose, but they just behind us a hundred percent and we appreciate it.
GARY BROWNE: Definitely, just like he said, we've been getting support through the whole season. Not just this game, they've been there through thick and thin. And not only this season, the last two seasons they've been there with us as well. We just appreciate what they do for us, but at the same time, we know what we want and what they want so we trying to reach that.
Q. The other day somebody asked Bob Huggins if he was scared of this match-up, and I know that obviously he said no, I would believe that all of you would say no, too. But what is it about this team, Devin, if we could ask this to you, about this team that you go into a match-up like this and there is no fear, you are that confident that you can come away with a victory?
DEVIN WILLIAMS: I don't really know how to answer that question, but you know we've been doubted the whole season. We weren't supposed to be here two weeks ago, to be honest. That kind of goes out, everybody already had their bracket made as far as what was going to happen and how it was going to happen. You know, that's just a feeling in the boat right there as far as what we trying to do. You know, honestly, tomorrow, we need to go out and have fun and just be together. That's the most important part is going out there and having fun because at the end of the day, it's really just about us going out there and just competing as hard as we can and just going out and having fun and soaking up the moment.
Q. Do you guys believe that you're the best conditioned team on the floor no matter who you play, and how does that help with your confidence?
JUWAN STATEN: We have to be the best conditioned team, you know. We practice three hours every day, and the same way that you see us playing on the court is the way that we practice. So, you know, other teams get tired, and we keep going. I think that question answers itself.
GARY BROWNE: Just like I got people from back home asking me how good is the press. I tell them, yeah, it's good because we press every day, we press at practice, we press at shootaround, and that's the only way we get better at it. I feel like we don't get tired because we have 13 guys, we might not have the best five guys, like Coach said, but we have the best 13 guys, that's why it's hard for us to get tired.
DEVIN WILLIAMS: I just wanted to say Andy, you know, he's been preparing us all summer, definitely since I got there, you could see the progression from the first year I got here as far as my conditioning until now. You know, it's been a lot of days where it it's just like what's this for, but you know, now we see the reason the way we go and the reason the way our coaches and our conditioning coach pushing the way he do because I don't know if it's a lot of teams, you know, wake up the way we do and train the way we do. That's really part of what we doing now. Yeah, I want to give a shout-out to him.
Q. On the subject you're dealing with Kentucky's size but maybe a little bit more narrowly, I was wondering if you could discuss this a little, kicking jump balls. You're very good at it. Kentucky's the best at it. Is this something you practice, is this something you think about going up against Carl, and just one initial thing and then the possession era, but at the same time do you take pride and you're really competitive about winning jump balls?
DEVIN WILLIAMS: That's just our effort right there. They probably be the best at it, that just because they want it. So at the end of the day, from whatever we do to taking charge to diving on the floor to getting the jump ball, they're just all going to come down, you know, who want it. Yeah, just going to come down to who really wants it.
Q. Juwan, Coach was talking about your leadership, he said that you've tried to learn how to think like him and he said that's not an easy thing to do. How hard has it been to learn to think like Hugs?
JUWAN STATEN: It took me three years because just when you think you've got him figured out, he comes with something else. It just takes, like Devin says, how bad do you want it, how bad do you want to be a good player, how bad do you want to be a leader. If you want it bad enough, you never stop until you get that approval. Just watching film, listening to the things that he says the most, and trying to reiterate that to my teammates, and just trying to be more like him. And if that means just studying him when he's not watching, seeing how he reacts to certain plays or seeing how he reacts to things that happen on the court, and then mimicking it. Whatever it takes to be a replica of the coach.
Q. Juwan, five years ago there was a West Virginia team that beat a Kentucky team that had, I think, five first rounders in the lineup. Totally different cast, I understand, but is there any relevance to you, have people talked to you about the fact that it did happen?
JUWAN STATEN: Yeah, that's all we've been hearing all week, is the team that beat that team in 2010, but the reality is we play two different styles. That team had a lot of size and they played a slower down game. But we're going to be in your face and we're going to be pressing. Ultimately that doesn't mean anything but it gives us a loft of motivation and a lot of confidence.
MODERATOR: We would like to thank the studentathletes from West Virginia for joining us here in the main interview room.