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Wildcats Begin SEC Slate at Vanderbilt




Jan. 9, 2013

The Wildcats will open up conference play on the road for the fourth time in the last 10 years and the second time in the John Calipari era with a date at Vanderbilt on Thursday. UK defeated Eastern Michigan in dominating fashion to conclude non-conference action. Freshman Alex Poythress had 16 points, sophomore Ryan Harrow passed out eight assists and freshman Willie Cauley-Stein had a double-double to lead the way.

Gameday
Gameday Information
Kentucky at Vanderbilt
Thurs., Jan. 10 - 9:00 p.m. ET
Nashville, Tenn.
Game Notes: UK Get Acrobat Reader | VU Get Acrobat Reader
Coverage
TV: ESPN
Radio: UK IMG
Live Video via WatchESPN
Online Audio
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Kentucky shot 51.7 percent against the Eagles marking the fifth time this season UK has eclipsed the 50 percent mark. UK is undefeated in those contests. The Wildcats also secured a season-high 52 rebounds, and limited Eastern Michigan to 38 points and a 24.2 percent field goal percentage which ranks as the fewest points and lowest percentage in the John Calipari era.

Scouting Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt has earned a 6-6 record entering SEC action. Much like the Wildcats, the Commodores had to rejuvenate the roster after losing several contributors from an SEC Tournament title a season ago. Kevin Stallings' team sports a pair of double-figurer scorers in Kedren Johnson (16.6) and Kyle Fuller (11.9). Johnson has also knocked down a team-high 27 3-pointers on the year. Kevin Bright is tops on the team on the boards with 77 snagged on the season.

Media Opportunity - Jan. 9, 2013

Head Coach John Calipari

On if he got what he wanted out of the break …
"Yeah, we did but, you know, again, they have to carry over to the basketball court. Their confidence is going to come from demonstrated performance, going on a basketball court and doing it. The first game we have is a road game in a tough environment where you're coaching from the end zones and a team that is going to play pretty controlled basketball. It will be a good test for us because you have to be a disciplined team on both defense and offense because of how they play. "

On Willie Cauley-Stein
"He's just getting more confident. Again, he's starting to perform on the basketball court and he knows now he can do it. All the talk and all the other stuff, it's not about that. It's about going on the court and performing and knowing, 'I can do this if I choose to do it,' and then being disciplined enough to come out. He does sub himself, we have some other guys that don't sub themselves. They think staying on the court is what it's about when it's not. He's done great."

On lessons from Notre Dame road game …
"We're a different team. We didn't have Ryan (Harrow). That's the biggest lesson we learned from that. We didn't have the full complement of our team."

On what he has noticed about the break …
"They've eaten those meals now and so now they're putting on weight. They're getting time to weight train which is a little harder to do when you're doing classes and all the other stuff. They're spending a lot of time together, so not only are individual players getting better with the way we do this, what happens is your team starts to get better. See, Ryan now is around his team 24 hours a day and he's able to really connect with them and now he's able to lead more. But you've got to be around them, you've got to be with them. They've got to know that and he's doing it now."

On having Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein on the court means for Alex Poythress
"We're a big team, again, we should be a great rebounding team, but you've got to make efforts. The whole thing, it's not talent, it's an effort level. If you have talent and they give you a great effort, more of an effort than the other team, you do what we did last year; you win most of your games. If you have a talented team that doesn't give you effort you're going to get beat. A less talented team will outwork the more talented team and they're going to win. That was the first thing that we had to convince these guys of. The second part was the mental discipline you need to sustain 40 minutes. You can't play three or four minutes and then say, 'OK, now I'm just going to do what I want to do,' which is what we had done throughout. The last part of it is how bad they need each other. I think they're starting to understand it but I'm not sure they're quite there yet.

On Alex Poythress' progress …
"We'll see after the game. We'll all have a good idea. Everybody is just looking for fight. Really don't care how he shoots the ball, if he turns it over some. I don't think anybody cares. They're zeroed in on, is he out there in a battle? Is he competing? Does he have a sense of urgency? Or not? And if he doesn't then you'll see that he didn't take the steps that we thought. My hope is that he is starting to get it and that it's going to carry over into the games."

On how he decides what he's going to do …
"Just normally, like stuff hits me, I'm waking up in the morning, I'm having a coffee or I'm in the shower or something says, 'you know what, you need to do this.' Whoever that is in there, I say, 'OK, you know what, I think you're right.'"

On how the team is matching up with the defensive standard of previous years …
"Pretty good. If you look at our numbers, our numbers are pretty good. When you talk about the losses we had, the Baylor game was a tough one to swallow but they're not bad. Baylor and us are like the same. I don't think we had Ryan that game; did we have Ryan that game? The other games, I don't know if the three of those teams have lost two games between them. We've lost to some good teams. We're doing some good, we're defensively OK. We need to be a little stronger on the ball than we are. I think Ryan has done well but there are other spots on the floor where we're not guarding the dribble as well as we can. When you have shot blockers like we do and you're as big as we are it just becomes a rough thing. Last year everybody played us the same way, beat them up, physically beat them up. I think this year they're doing the same kind of deal with this team and we just have to withstand it. After we understood that doesn't work and we just have to play through it, we became a pretty good team."

On how to defend Vanderbilt's 3-point shooting abilities …
"You just try to make it hard but you're not going to stop them from shooting 3's if that's what they do. If they make a bunch, we'll lose. They go 25 three's and they make 20; it's been a good start. Who's our next game? But you're not going to say, 'Alright, we're going to hold them to eight 3's attempted.' They're going to shoot. The question is, do you make them hard? Sometimes you make them hard and teams still make them. That's why it's always dangerous. I can remember over the years playing a team that's going to shoot 30 three's and I'd be a wreck just based on the fact that, what if they pick a game and it's our game and they make them all? They are going to shoot them and this is one of those teams."

On how he's learned to deal with coaching from Vanderbilt's end zones …
"It just makes it more difficult to communicate to your team. They've got to communicate with each other and you've got to have, pretty much, the point guard being in tune with you because if he's turning around looking at you, you're going to lose the ball. We've done okay down there. We haven't played our best games but I'll tell you, every game we've played against them have been wars. For three years they had the same team. Now they're going through what we're going through with a totally different team but for three years they had the same team and it was an outstanding team and they were warriors. Every game we played against them was a war."

On whether he's worried that Alex Poythress will try too hard in this homecoming …
"If it's an effort thing, he can do as much as he wants. Go until you pass out."

On what his team needs to understand about the grind necessary for the next few games …
"They're fine. I told them after last night's dinner, I said, 'Now, we just went through a great month of training and now you go on the court and show what you've worked on. There are going to be bumps in the road, there are going to be ups and downs. It's not going to be like you're going to beat everyone by 30. You're going to be down at half at times but the whole point is, you get a great foundation out of fight. To battle, to know that you can play with anybody if you choose to.'"

On whether Jon Hood is practicing yet …
"He didn't practice but he's been in the gym."

On whether Ryan Harrow is leading better because of how the team is comprised …
"If you're not around your team it's hard to lead. It's hard to walk in a gym if you're never around the guys. And that's what he knew and that's what he's done a great job of. We're doing individual work. He stays after because he and Archie [Goodwin], we do their individual work before practice. The others are doing it in the morning. He stays and encourages his team. That's what leaders do. Instead of going back like, 'Well I'm not worried about anybody', he sitting there and is encouraging them, 'You got this, go!' And, that's what those guys have to know, that you're there for them. He's going to have the ball in his hands. I'm pleased with the decision making he's making. He's getting physically tougher so he can play through bumps. He's gained, I think, seven or eight pounds so that stuff is all good too."

On how well Poythress takes instruction …
"He's great."

On how much Poythress' ability to take instruction helps his development …
"To listen and then to change what you do is two different things. He's respectful. Is he responding to everything? No. That's because it's really hard and it's like anybody else. You get in a comfort level and someone tries to push you out of that comfort level, you fight it. Someone tries to get you to play harder and you don't, sometimes it becomes embarrassing when everybody is watching you. You're not able to do it and it makes it doubly hard to break through. But, as soon as he finds out that he can do this, every great player out there, there was a point in his career that he had to learn what Alex is learning. 'I've got to bust through this one. I'm tired. I cannot look exhausted. I cannot play like that and I don't need anybody to alibi for me. I don't need that. What I need is to just change.' You've got to recognize it first, which he has. Now you've got to change it."

On how many teams he thinks are elite are this point in time …
"I haven't watched the season as closely. I didn't even watch the games last night. I would tell you that what I am seeing, there are probably 30 teams that could be in the Final Four. I don't think there is any clear cut National Champion winner. If you talk about Louisville, they have to be right there as one of those if you are talking four or five. Possibly Duke, or I like Michigan. They are doing the shooting. It scares me some times because sometimes, you go on a run for a month where you can't make a shot. If that's what you are relying on, then your team will go south. I think Michigan right now may be playing better than anybody in the country. I think there are about 30 or 40 teams that can get to the Final Four."

On if his team can make it the Final Four …
"At this point probably not, but by March, that is what our plan would be. I would tell you that even teams like VCU, teams like Butler, those teams all have a chance. You have teams ranked in the top 20, such as one team that got beat by thirty at home last night. It is just one of those years. It is just like a couple of years ago where I am worried about my team. It is all I have to worry about and get my team right.

On if the parity in the NCAA gives him confidence in his team since it is such an open playing field …
"No, it is great for all of us. It is just ok, who is going to have your team playing the best in March? Because that is what it will be about in March, whose team is playing the best in March. There are different teams that have played well early. Arizona is playing well. They have had a couple of crazy wins, but they have still won those games and they are learning how to win. You might throw them in that bunch, I don't know, but I haven't seen Arizona play three minutes so I won't know. It feels right now like it was a couple of years ago.

On if we should expect Willie Cauley-Stein and Nerlens Noel to shoot underhand on free throws tomorrow night based on your comments on radio …
"No, the question was why don't you tell them to just bank it, throw it up there, and fire it off that back board and let them bank it in. In jest, I said we are teaching them to shoot underhand. That guy said, 'Good coach, I like that.'"

#10, Archie Goodwin, G, Fr.

On Willy Cauley-Stein's transformation …
"
Two totally different players, Willie Cauley from the summer to Willie Cauley now. You can tell the difference. The first Willie Cauley he couldn't do the things he can do now. He was just a really athletic guy who could run, but now he is a guy that can make offensive hook shots. He has thickened more and talks on defense and moves his feet a lot better than he already did for a person of his size."

On how non-conference games prepared the team for the SEC schedule …
"
I think so because the losses that we took on the road were tough ones. But we grew from them each time. I think that it has been able to help us out a lot."

On if the team improvement from a loss to Notre Dame to a loss vs. Louisville …
"
Yes, because we were a lot more competitive against Louisville then we were against Notre Dame and that just came from us doing this Coach Cal (Calipari) stuff. Hopefully we can continue to do what we've been doing."

On the winter break aiding the team ...
"I feel like we got a lot better, and that we made a lot of improvements that we were looking to make. We just have to keep pushing forward from here and keep improving."

On transitioning into playing conference games …
"It's going to be a lot more competitive, not saying that it wasn't already, but we are going to be playing a lot more games now. Instead of having the eight-day spreads where we don't play. That's going to play a lot into us as far as fatigue, but as long as we are mentally tough I think we should be fine."

#22, Alex Poythress, F, Fr.

On completing Camp Cal and moving forward …
"Things are going good. We are just ready to start playing games again."

On the progression of the team …
"I think we are progressing as a team. We are getting better each and every day. We are just continuing to learn to play with each other."

On playing near his hometown tomorrow at Vanderbilt …
"It makes it exciting. At the end of the day it's just another basketball game. We just have to take care of business and win the ball game."

On moving into the conference portion of the schedule …
"I'm just glad to start playing again. Just to be able to start playing games and show everyone what we have been working on."

On playing small forward in the team's big lineup …
"It's a nice line up. We are just getting used to playing with each other and I think it is working out very well."

On if he ever went to any games at Memorial Gym …
"I went to a couple of them. I remember how weird the gym is and how the benches are on the baseline."

#34, Julius Mays, G, Sr.

On the team's improvement …
"I think we made another stride. Guys are getting better, working harder and getting ready to start conference play. Individually both offense and defense, guys are playing harder. You don't see guys quit on plays, you see guys go through the shot clock. We're coming more together."

On starting conference play …
"It's good for school to be back in and for us to start to play on a more consistent basis. Instead of having to practice against each other and beat up on each other, we can do it on another team."

On playing Vanderbilt …
"I've never played there but I've watched it on TV and they play there a lot, I expect it to be a big crowd and it to be loud."

On winning the SEC Championship …
"We take it a game at a time. We don't want to look past anyone. Obviously our main focus right now is tomorrow and playing Vanderbilt. We're not talking about winning the league. We just take it a game at a time."

On Alex Poythress' improvement …
"He's improving. You have habits. They aren't just going to change in a day. It takes time to change. First you have to realize what you're doing wrong and I think that was the main thing. He wasn't realizing what it was that Coach (Calipari) was wanting from him, but these last couple weeks that he's been working individually with Coach, we've seen a lot of improvement."


 

 

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