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Kentucky Welcomes Tennessee to Rupp Arena




Jan. 17, 2014

Cat Scratches: Fit and clutter-free, Poythress emerging ahead of UT matchup

At first look, the play was impressive and its significance clear.

Gameday
Gameday Information
Kentucky vs. Tennessee
Saturday, Jan. 18 - 12:00 p.m. ET
Lexington, Ky.
Game Notes: UK Get Acrobat Reader | UT Get Acrobat Reader
Coverage
TV: CBS
Radio: UK IMG
Gameday Live: Live stats, audio, blog, and social media
Live video via CBS
Text Updates

As time ticked down on the five minutes of overtime at Arkansas, Alex Poythress hustled to track down a missed James Young 3-pointer. He grabbed the offensive rebound, leading to a game-tying 3 by Young that of course was rendered a footnote by Michael Qualls' put-back dunk with 0.2 seconds left.

But as good as the play was in real-time, only a slow-motion replay does it justice.

Poythress flies in from the left wing. In one motion, he rises to a seemingly impossible height, snares the rebound over a crowd, lands on one foot, dribbles as he falls to the ground and tosses underhand to Andrew Harrison. ... read the full preview

Scouting the Volunteers

Tennessee owns an 11-5 overall record and a 2-1 clip in Southeastern Conference action. The Vols have a key non-conference victory over Virginia, while securing wins over Auburn and LSU in the SEC. Their only loss in league play is a one-point set-back to Texas A&M.

The Volunteers’ starting five ranks as the top five scorers for the 2013-14 season led by 18.4 per outing from senior guard Jordan McRae. Junior forward Jarnell Stokes is averaging 13.4 points and a team-high 9.6 rebounds per game. McRae leads the team with 46 assists on the season.

Series History vs. Tennessee

Kentucky owns a 149-67 all-time record in the vs. Tennessee, including an 89-16 mark in Lexington.

UK has taken on Tennessee in Rupp Arena more than any other opponent. The Wildcats are 34-4 against the Volunteers in Rupp, including 4-0 under John Calipari.

Tennessee Coach Cuonzo Martin

Cuonzo Martin is in his third season at the helm of Tennessee. He has logged a 1-3 record all-time in head-to-head matchups with the Wildcats.

Last Time vs. the Volunteers

Trae Golden scored 24 points and had eight assists without a turnover as Tennessee rolled to an 88-58 victory over Kentucky, giving the Volunteers their most lopsided win in the 216-game history of this series when the teams last squared off on Feb. 16, 2013.

It marked the first game without Nerlens Noel for the Wildcats after he suffered a season-ending knee injury at Florida just a few days prior.

Kyle Wiltjer scored 18 points, while Julius Mays scored 12 and Jarrod Polson had a career-high 11 tallies in the loss.

Pregame Media Opportunity - January 17, 2014

Head Coach John Calipari

On how the team has been since the loss to Arkansas …
“Been good, been good. You know, I just told them, we watched some clips, some things that we had breakdowns and then where fate intervened against us, about seven plays, fate intervened. So you gotta play anyway. Just play. And that was my message. The other thing is, we just worry about getting better. We’re not – I said when are we going to know whether we won or lost? They said Saturday after the game, so don’t worry about it. Let’s just prepare to play great, we’re not worried about that. Let’s just get better and they got better yesterday.”

On shaking up the starting lineup …
“No, no, we’re fine. You know if I need to put a guy in I’ll put him in a minute into the game. Alex (Poythress) is great again. He’s growing leaps and bounds, he was unbelievable. Again, he’s doing things that no one else on our team could do right now and you know, it’s great that he’s building his own self-esteem, his own self-confidence, his own – it’s all him. It’s not me saying, well this because they know when you BS and you can’t BS players. They know. ‘You tell me I’m great and I stink.’ They look in the mirror and they know. And he’s doing some things; he’s making jumpers now, making his free throws. But it started with that base foundation, get in shape, mentally get yourself right. You can’t get mentally right until you physically can push through comfort levels and get yourself to where you’ve never been. And that’s what he did.”

On Alex’s offensive rebound at the end of the game …
“Unbelievable. No one else – I don’t know of another player in the country that could make that play and I know no one on our team could.”

On if Alex could have made that play a couple months ago …
“No, he would have never gone after the ball. He would have never attempted. And then when you talk to him about it, why didn’t you go after it? His head would have gone down, he would have slumped. That’s what he was then but now he can be alert because he’s in great shape. He can be alert because he has busted through comfort levels, he’s doing more than he’s ever thought he could do and it just took him more time. I mean these kids are on different time tables, they all are.”

On what is different about Alex defensively …
“Because he can stay in his stance, he can bounce, he can think, he’s not looking like, ‘how can I stop? Where can I cut a corner?’ He’s just playing and it all comes back to the same thing, again, for him and I’m talking to all these guys, you can’t deal with the clutter, all the other stuff out there. He had to deal with clutter, it’s this, it’s that, he likes him more; if you did this and that and no one in that clutter makes these kids take responsibility. At some point you have to be a man and man-up, it isn’t about another player and the team is not about the coach, it’s about me and I’m going to change this. And you get rid of the clutter. But I’m going to tell you, the clutter is not just at Kentucky, it’s at every school in the country, there is clutter. And the kids, like our kids have overcome that, and then they go on because they understand about taking responsibility, how are they doing at the next level? They don’t blame anybody. They take responsibility, the guys that don’t take responsibility stay here longer, until you’re ready to take responsibility and be a man about your decisions and your choices, which leads to your performance and you have to own that. If you don’t own it, and people around you don’t want you to own it. ‘It’s not you, it’s him and he likes him better, if you play like he played and every time you make a mistake.’ It’s out there, that clutter is what we’re trying to get rid of so that we can just play and not deal with any of that. I said it yesterday; we got a great group of kids. These kids, I can’t remember what coach called me and just said, ‘as long as you got good kids, this will be fine.’ And we do.”

On what Marcus Lee contributed in the Arkansas game …
“I wish he would have made one of those free throws but I thought he did some good things. There was a block he should have had, a kid drove baseline and he didn’t block it. When he didn’t block that, then you’re like, OK, what’s he add? So then I took him out. But if he had blocked that, he’d have played more. His hand never went above the rim. Now think about what I said, when he went to block it, his hand never went above the rim. Now usually, his head is near the rim and that would have been a block and then he makes a difference. You’ve got to do what you do. And again, whatever the reason, I’m not going to argue or say it’s this, that and the other, whatever you didn’t perform, boom, I’ve got to try somebody else. But Dakari (Johnson) wasn’t the answer and that’s why we went small, because Dakari was just giving up basket, after basket, after basket.”

On Willie Cauley-Stein seeming a bit out of it in the Arkansas game …
“He was and they’re not machines. But he was unbelievable in practice yesterday. He knows, he’s taking responsibility. He knows, it wasn’t what I said or did, it wasn’t what a teammate was doing, it was his performance, he owned it, ‘now I gotta change it.’ And that’s where you grow. After the game, and I wasn’t in there immediately after the game, but James (Young) tried to apologize to his team and they’re all like, ‘stop, you don’t make the 3, we’re not even here. I could have got the ball.’ Another guy said, ‘I was standing there too, James, don’t you do that. You played and made shots to help us so this is on all of us.’ Good sign. Good sign. Again, you’ve gotta know that you’re there for each other. Like I said, we’ve got stuff we’ve got to do but we’re, right now, like I was jacked to be at practice yesterday. I was like, let’s go. Today, we’re doing it a little earlier because of an early start tomorrow, but I’m excited about being here today. And again, a lot of it is just being real, keeping it real, being truthful and now let’s deal with this and move. Individual players playing a certain way, we’re getting closer, we’re still not there. But basically against, you know the last game, you have seven errors of miscommunication, easy basket. When you do seven of those and then fate intervenes also, how are you going to win the game on the road? You’re just not. Fate intervenes and you only have two of those kind of errors, you still win and say, ‘man we just won against all odds, that is great stuff.’ But we weren’t ready to do that.”

#00, Marcus Lee, F, Fr.

On the team’s mood after the loss …
“The mood’s a lot more aggressive in practice. Once we came in, you definitely saw the players go a lot harder and just going at everybody constantly.”

On whether anyone got hurt …
“Well, I mean, we always have one person hurt at all points in time, but we kind of just go through it.”

On the Tennessee game and whether it’s just the next game …
“I guess it’s just the next one. It’s another game to show how much we’ve come together and how much we’re working hard.”

On whether he is ever frustrated by playing time …
“As a player, it does happen. You get frustrated with things you do, but there’s always something you can learn and just get better by.”

On whether good can come from a loss …
“Something good always comes out of a loss. A loss isn’t just, like, something bad. You always have to come out with something that you learned and that’s always a great thing.”

On whether beating Louisville allowed the team to survive a loss like Arkansas …
“I guess it just sets a really great expectation of how much we can do together and how much we should do. But it also gives other teams more on their backs to be like, ‘Alright, we really need to beat Kentucky.’ That just tells we have to work so much more.”

On Coach Calipari saying he wants to play him more but it not happening …
“Honestly it doesn’t really bother me. As long as my team’s working hard during the game I can sometimes just forget and I get so excited and into the game it just happens.”

On losing focus during a last-second shot attempt …
“After those last couple seconds, it kind of just skips your mind to do things because you’re always like, ‘Alright, we got this.’ So you kind of just stop everything. So one of those is kind of just a big heartbreaker.”

On how much they have practiced blocking out …
“I mean, we haven’t practiced—we always do our normal block-out drills, but nothing major.”

On whether the coaches have said anything more about the play …
“We’ve gone over it. We’ve talked about it. We always go over plays after the game, but we haven’t really emphasized it. We kind of emphasized being totally into what we’re doing the whole way instead of having mental lapses.”

On Tennessee’s size …
“We’ve definitely worked on it. We’ve had most of our big men go against Dakari (Johnson), which he’s really big. That’s kind of what we’ve been doing to adapt to being more physical and stronger with bigger guys around us.”

On how that is going …
“It’s rough, but it’s very entertaining when it’s not towards you.”

On whether he was surprised by the flagrant foul he got …
“I was actually really surprised. I usually block out the same way every time for the past 10 years, so I’ve never really had that—well, actually I did have that called against me before but I’ve never really noticed it.”

On what the replay looked like to him …
“When I saw it—I actually haven’t looked back at it, but when they were replaying it I didn’t really understand what was going wrong with it or what was different about how everybody else blocked out.”

On whether he was surprised when the Arkansas player threw him to the floor …
“Yeah. I was totally surprised. No one really gets that upset when I block out.”

On what the stretch of eight straight free throws did to the team’s rhythm …
“I thought, in a way, it kind of slowed everything down but also brought everything to show how intense and how physical the game was going to be.”

On how he sums up his freshman season so far …
“It’s amazing. You don’t really notice you’re a freshman once you’re at Kentucky, so just going as a team you kind of figure out we’re all here, try to figure stuff out together. As you can see, we all learn a lot of things, especially with all these helmet awards coming out.”

On whether it’s easy or tough to not play a lot …
“It’s not easy, it’s not hard. As a basketball player, you try to figure out the little things to do, especially when you’re not a huge player anymore. You try to find the little things that you can just contribute to the team as much as possible.”

On whether it is frustrating …
“No. Well, I guess sometimes as a basketball player you want to have all the great minutes and all the great plays, but it’s kind of satisfying just being a part of this great team.”

On whether he puts more pressure on himself when he does play …
“No. My only goal going into the game is just making sure I don’t have a drop in energy. That’s the only thing I don’t like because I know when you see players go in sometimes you’ll see a down drop and that’s the last thing you’ll want when you make subs. So I always try to get up instead of let it drop down.”

On what Dominique Hawkins’ dunk looked like from his perspective …
“It was kind of funny, but as it happened you kind of didn’t expect anything to happen because Dominque doesn’t really have awesome dunks. You kind of forget that it happens. I haven’t really seen it since the summer, so you forget and then he jumps and you’re just like, ‘Alright, well this is going to happen.’ So you’re already in the air and you can’t really say much about it.”

On it being too late to do anything then …
“Yeah, you’re already in the air so you’re like, ‘I’m going to take this and take the loss.’ ”

On the biggest thing he’s learned …
“To not really stress about the little things. When I was younger, especially in high school, I’ve always kind of stressed about the little things. But now when you’re here, Coach has really taught us to keep playing and not really worry about a missed shot or a missed block-out or something like that.”

On whether he worries now …
“No, especially after the last game. I think I missed like three free throws out of four and I wasn’t really stressed about it. I was kind of like more confident about shooting free throws because I never stressed about those other three shots.”

On responding to the loss …
“We’ve come in more mentally strong, surprisingly. We’ve been more focused. We’ve gone after each other. We’re just trying to get better and make sure that never happens.”

On whether he takes more positive than negative from the loss …
“I saw a lot of positive knowing that we are able to fight throughout the whole game. No matter the ups and downs, we never really let up and I was really proud of that.”

#22, Alex Poythress, F, So.

On how he views his improvement …
“I just look at it as I’m going harder in practice. I’m just doing things I’m capable of doing.”

On being in better shape …
“Yeah, I feel like I’m in way better shape. I feel like I can run more for days. The treadmill doesn’t affect me as much no more. I guess it helps me more. It’s just helped me really.”

On whether coming off the bench matters to him …
“Nah, it really just matters who’s playing at the end of the game. It doesn’t matter who starts; it’s who finishes.”

On whether he’s running on the treadmill now vs. not doing it last year …
“I was doing it last year. I guess this year it’s not fazing me as much. I’m getting used to running on it.”

On getting comfortable coming off the bench …
“Yeah, I’m fine with it. To be honest with you it doesn’t matter. There’s no difference really, coming off the bench or starting.”

On being better defensively than a year ago and how …
“Yeah, I’m just taking defense more personal this year, just trying to stop people, trying to guard people, help my teammates on the weak-side rebounds, weak-side blocks, trying to be in position more.”

On how he got to that offensive rebound at the end of the Arkansas game …
“I honestly don’t know. I just saw the ball in the air, I just tried to go get it.”

On that being the type of play he wouldn’t have made two months ago …
“I don’t know. I just tried to put my team in a position to win. I just saw the shot go off and miss so I just tried to get the rebound, just tried to get up there and get it.”

On the extra motivation against Tennessee after last year’s game in Knoxville …
“Yeah, it did. We owe them one. They came and embarrassed us a little bit. It’s a new game. Trying to rebound from that loss Tuesday, trying to get a W.”

On that game sticking with Willie Cauley-Stein because he was filling in for Nerlens Noel for the first time …
“We talked about it a little bit. We were just confused after Nerlens went down. Our defense changed a lot. Now we’ve got a new team, we just want to look at it as a different game and just go in and play hard.”

On where this team is after the crazy finish in the Arkansas loss …
“It’s crazy. It hurt everybody. It hurt us a lot. Nobody wants to lose a game like that. We fought so hard, put it into overtime, and then we fought so hard to try again to put it into double overtime. Just to lose like that, it’s really hurting, but we just want to come back tomorrow and just play a good game.”

On whether there were any lingering effects from that loss on the way back home …
“Nah, we just tried to keep our heads up. We played hard, we played great. Just sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce our way. We’ve just got to get focused and get ready for the next game.”

On how much that Tennessee game last year changed him …
“It was a big game-changer. It was our first game without Nerlens. We were kind of confused out there defensively. It changed. We just want to look at a new year and try to focus on this year and focus on this game.”

 


 

 

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