Men's Basketball
Men's Basketball Press Conference

Head Coach Tubby Smith

Head Coach Tubby Smith
"Our players are not in class today, so we have a chance to focus on Tennessee today. It was a good game against Notre Dame and I thought we did some things well, but in every game, there is room for improvement, the most obvious thing being rebounding. So I think that if we can improve in that area, I think we will be a much better team."

"From a shooting standpoint we struggled for a while but we did make the shots that were necessary. The key has been our bench play; I thought they have really shown the maturity and growth that we expect them to have at this time of the year. Cliff [Hawkins] and Erik Daniels are starting to get quality minutes, obviously Gerald [Fitch] has been playing well all along, and it is paying off for us."

"Saul [Smith] has fallen off in his outside shooting and has been struggling in league play shooting the ball, but he is doing other things well. He shows leadership even when he is not on the floor. I like the way Tayshaun Prince is playing. He is being more aggressive offensively. Keith [Bogans] has fallen off a little bit in his outside shooting but he has been hampered by his ankle and so has Saul. I think that has affected both of those guys' shots to some degree. It is physical and we just have to get past that."

"Marquis Estill turned his left ankle pretty bad in practice yesterday, coming down on someone's foot. I am not sure if he will play tomorrow or not. If he can practice today, he will probably play tomorrow."

"Tennessee is a team that is playing extremely well. They don't have many visible weaknesses. They have veteran play, leadership, and experience in their starting lineup. Jerry Green has done an outstanding job building the team. The athleticism in their bench will be a real challenge for us. They have some outstanding people that can do a great job. We have to really get back in transition because they are a team that likes to get the ball back up the court quickly. Tony Harris is one of the quickest players in the country. In Jon Higgins, you have a solid player who is making shots from beyond the three-point line. They can stretch your defense in many ways. They are one of the best at blocking shots, so we have to be conscious of that. They don't have many weaknesses though. They make their free throws and they rebound the ball well. They will probably be the best team that we have played to this date. In my opinion, I think they are that talented."

"We have been in zone quite a bit lately and this is more zone than we have ever played. It is a lot easier to block people out in man-to-man versus zone and the zone has not been as effective as we would like it to be which is probably because we have given up too many second shots. We have to keep working to improve in the zone because I think that is where we get burned in rebounding."

"It takes longer to teach young players man-to-man, it just takes them a while to understand the system and adjust and learn. Gerald [Fitch], Cliff [Hawkins], and Erik [Daniels] are still learning the system, as well as the sophomores like Keith Bogans that are still learning. Zone is a lot easier to play."

"Man-to-man is our best defense, whether it is half-court or full-court. I have never played man-to-man, but I would like to play it a lot more than we are now. We are getting better every day. We have gone back and reviewed fundamentals, which is an area that you kind of assume and take for granted."

"The freshmen have played defense before, just not at this intensity. In this game, you have players that are just as talented as you, just as quick as you, and as smart as you are. They will take advantage of any mistake or lapse you have defensively."

"It is critical you keep them off balance and not let them get in a comfort zone. In order for us to have a chance, we have to mix and change defenses."

On Tony Harris: "His shots attempts have gone down, his shot selection has gotten better."

"The unselfishness of their team has made them one of the top teams in the country."

On athleticism vs. experience: "I would rather have talent and athleticism. Their athleticism is probably the biggest challenge."

"The team gets more highly motivated when there is a ranked team, a team that is picked to beat them. They want to prove and show that they can play with these guysthey can beat these guys."

"Tennessee is a team that will man you. They are a team that is good at keeping pressure on you, full-court man-to-man. Their half-court defense is outstanding. They will zone you as well. But they are basically a man-to-man team."

"When you run up against teams that may be superior athletically in certain categories and certain match-ups, you better be a little more patient. You need to make them play the entire court, don't get caught up in man-to-man play."

"Our goal has been the same from day one: to play our best game every time we go out. Psychologically now, with the confidence being better, I think I can be a little more intense, and they can understand why I can be a little more intense. Before we had to back off a little bit, be more patient with them. I am not less patient now, it is just that now they understand the fundamentals better and there is less room for mistakes."

"We understand that we are 9-5, not 16-1, like Tennessee. They understand that in order for us to be a top team, they have to play with a sense of urgency. They have to get it done now."

#3 J.P. Blevins

J.P. Blevins
On the rivalry...
"There are certain teams that the coaches don't have to say anything for you to get up for, and Tennessee is one of them. There is a little bitterness between the two teams and I think it'll be a great game tomorrow night. Kentucky and Tennessee have always been rivals. They have a couple of players who like to shove it in your face a little and that adds to it. It will be exciting and fun. We'll be ready to go."

On defending UT guard Tony Harris...
"Tony Harris is one of the quickest guards in college basketball so they will have an advantage there, but we have a lot of quick guys too. It is not like one guy is going to be asked to guard him the whole time. We have two or three different people who will guard him at different times, so we will be alright."

On the improved play of the bench...
"We have developed a role for ourselves. We realize what we can bring to this team, what we can do for this team and how we can make it better. Guys have taken it upon themselves when they come in to be jacked up and get things going."

#21 Tayshaun Prince

On what challenges Tennessee presents...
"They present the challenge that every SEC team does except that they are a bigger and better basketball team. They have great leadership in Tony Harris. He is one of the top point guards in this conference. We have to be prepared to protect our home court and play our style of basketball."

On the rebounding problems...
"Most guys on our basketball team try to go and get the ball instead of boxing out first. I have a tendency to do it and I am leading the team in rebounds. I have a tendency almost every time down the court to go get the ball instead of boxing my man out, and I think it is that way with a majority of our players."

#10 Keith Bogans

Keith Bogans
On the Tennessee game...
"I think we are playing well right now. Tomorrow's game is going to be a big test for us. I don't particularly like or dislike Tennessee, we just want to beat them like they were any other team."

On his ailing ankle...
"My ankle has been bothering me a little on my jump shot. I feel like I it is causing me to be a little off balance, I am leaning a little to the left. I don't like wearing braces so I will just have to tape it up and go from there."

On the UK-Tennessee rivalry...
"I think that this is big because it is a conference game, not because it is a huge rivalry. We are both tied for first place in the SEC and that is another reason why it is important. Growing up I paid more attention to Louisville versus Kentucky. It wasn't until I got here that I realized that this is just as big of a rivalry."

On the game plan...
"If they want to run and gun we will run with them. We are also going to slow it up and run our offense too. We have guys that can run with them too.We have no problem if that is what they want. We have guys that are just as athletic. They don't have any mismatches over us."

#14 Eric Daniels

On his game...
"My confidence has remained the same throughout this season. I went through a stretch where I was in a slump, but I realized that I needed to work on things. I knew I needed to be more aggressive and play better defense."

On the bench play...
"It is nice to have good bench play. The starters can come out and there isn't a drop-off in talent. It is also important that the starters are fresh at the end of the game when they need it."

On the Tennessee game...
"A win in this game will be a huge confidence booster for us. It will also keep our six-game winning streak alive and that's important. With some wins under our belt we play better as a unit and we would love to get a win over a top opponent like Tennessee."

#42 Jason Parker

Jason Parker
On facing a highly-ranked opponent...
"We are going play hard no matter who we play against. I think the better the competition, then we step it up another notch. When we have a ranked team or a good opponent facing us it makes us play harder and want to win even more."

On playing against Charles Hathaway and Ron Slay...
"I am looking forward to playing physical with those guys. Even though they are physical players, I can't play too physical because of the way the referees might call the game. I am looking forward to playing against Hathaway and all of the physical players that Tennessee has."

On comparing tomorrow night to other big games...
"There will be more energy because it is an SEC game, a rivalry game and we're playing here at Rupp. Against Michigan State and North Carolina we were playing at their gym, but tomorrow we're playing at home so it will be really exciting. Rupp is going to be crazy tomorrow night."

#4 Gerald Fitch

On the Tennessee game...
"I haven't been told a lot about the rivalry. I know that they are a good team and we have a great opportunity for a big game when they come in here tomorrow night. A nationally ranked team always gets you pumped up. We will be ready."



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