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Kentucky Faces Ole Miss on Tuesday




Feb. 3, 2014

Cat Scratches: UK looking to match offensive strides on defensive end

There’s no clouding the positive from Kentucky’s win at Missouri on Saturday.

Gameday
Gameday Information
Kentucky vs. Ole Miss
Tuesday, Feb. 4 - 7:00 p.m. ET
Lexington, Ky.
Game Notes: UK Get Acrobat Reader (Supplement Get Acrobat Reader) | OM Get Acrobat Reader
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TV: ESPNU
Radio: UK IMG
Live Video via WatchESPN
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Facing a team that almost never loses at home, the Wildcats built a double-digit lead and held on to it down the stretch. Just days removed from a disappointing loss at LSU, UK refused to wilt.

“I think it just showed our will to win,” Andrew Harrison said. “We knew we had to pull it out and we did. It shows that we’re growing mental toughness. We do have what it takes to win.”

Offense is where UK got it done.

With the home-standing Tigers rallying, the Cats scored on their final four possessions in an 84-79 win. For the game, they shot 53.6 percent from the field and scored 1.25 points per possession, UK’s best total in Southeastern Conference play.

“We’ve matured offensively, and guys executed,” said assistant coach Orlando Antigua. “I think they understand what we’re asking of them, especially Andrew. Andrew had a great floor game for us.”

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Pregame Media Opportunity - February 3, 2014

Assistant Coach Orlando Antigua

On the emphasis of defense in practice this week …
“We’ve been concentrating on trying to get better defensively as a unit. I think with a young group, guys have to understand the commitment you have to make in order to do the things that we want to do. The good thing is that they are coming along and they are getting better. It’s a commitment that they have to continue to make. With a young group like this it takes a little bit of time, but I think it takes more time, particularly the way that we want to defend. Obviously we have to do a better job of trying to get back in transition defense and have teams try and score against our length and our size. We’re doing a better job and we have to continue to keep doing that.”

On the transition defensive frustrations …
“It’s not frustrating. We’re dealing with a young team. We have the youngest team in the country, and we know with that, that presents its challenges. We’re excited about the way we are playing offensively, obviously. We’ve got to continue to do that and just continue to work. We’ve got 10 games left in the regular season before you start talking about postseason play. We’re concentrating on those things like we need to hustle back.”

On the tactical problems of transition defense right now …
“I think the first part of transition defense is getting back, and then communicating. That’s one of the things that we’ve been honing in on the last couple of weeks. Just getting back and communicating, stopping the ball first, and then identifying the threats in transition.”

On if opponents can expect more of the zone defense …
“We’ve been working on it a lot. That’s all I’ll give you.”

On John Calipari’s opposition to the zone in the past …
“Coach (Calipari) is great at this, adjusting to the strengths and weaknesses of our team. In the past, we have worked on it, but he just never felt comfortable enough to put it out there. The guys are working really hard on that as well. We’ve had some success with it. We will try and see if it gives us success again, and then we will stick with it. But we do have length and we have size. The one thing that you can’t get enamored with when you’re in the zone is thinking you don’t have to work as hard as you would in man-to-man. You actually have to work just as hard. Our guys did a good job. We’ve got to rebound better out of it, and hopefully we’ll continue to improve in that area.”

On Missouri getting transition baskets off of makes …
“That’s something that we can control. That’s identifying the problem and fixing it and not relaxing, not looking to celebrate, just recognizing that we’ve made a basket and we have to bet back on defense unless we’re in a situation where we’re pressing, everybody should be sprinting back on defense and identifying who we have.

On Ole Miss’ Marshall Henderson…
“You just know he’s going to shoot. We are expecting that. He is a talented, talented player and it’s going to be a good challenge for our guys. Not just for our guards, but for our entire team to make it difficult on him. He is going to get his shots up. We know that. It’s what he has done his whole career there at Ole Miss, so we are just going to have to try and make it difficult for him.”

On a player that compares to Henderson…
“No, he is very unique in that way. He is a talented scorer. Coach (Andy) Kennedy has got them playing great basketball right now, and we’ve got a challenge ahead of us.”

On successfully containing Henderson last year…
“Honestly, I don’t know Jerry (Tipton). He shoots it out 30 feet so, I don’t know if you can push him out any further than that. Our success last year was that we moved the ball, and we scored the ball really well. Obviously, Nerlens (Noel) had a great impact on defending the rim. We just have to try and continue to make it difficult for him. He is going to get his shots up. We just have to have a hand in his face, make it as difficult as possible, control the rebounds, and see if we can get out and get some easy baskets in transition.”

On Willie Cauley-Stein’s funk…
“Just an up and down of the season. He has continued to work in practice. Obviously we need him to be playing well for us to continue to have success. We are just encouraging him to keep working hard in practice, and hopefully that will translate back into the games.”

On opponents trying to take advantage of Kentucky’s transition defense…
“No question about it. I think everyone is going to try and test our transition defense because of our size and length. Once we get into half court I think we are pretty solid defensively as a unit. We just have to get back, and get people in front of us so we can contain them.”

On the team maturing…
“We have matured offensively, and guys executed. I think they understand what we are asking of them. Especially of Andrew (Harrison) who had a great floor game for us. We now have to get the other side of the court to execute on that same side of the court on defense. I think we are moving along nicely offensively.”

On if he buys the cliché about freshmen hitting the wall and what they do to try to lessen it …
“Yeah, all young players I guess hit a wall. What we try to do is try to make practices really difficult so that the games are a little bit easier and that they can play through that. I think our depth has really helped us in being able to rotate guys in and out so that if guys are in foul trouble or a little fatigued or may not be playing as well we can go to do something else to step in and our bench has done a great job of being prepared to take on the responsibility of stepping in.”

On seeing the team respond Saturday when Missouri battled back …
“Anytime you can get out of a road game with a ‘W,’ you like that. Definitely enjoy the fact that we took their best blow and we responded so that’s a sign of growth. But we have to continue that on to the defensive side. We’ve gotten better but we still have some room to grow.”

On comparing the challenge of containing Jabari Brown and Marshall Henderson …
“A little different, Jabari was a guard that’s really strong, got it going, both him and (Jordan) Clarkson got it going, whereas Marshall is a lot smaller than Jabari is but he’s quick. Obviously he doesn’t have a green light, he has no light and he is really active and those guys are really looking for him. Ole Miss does a good job of trying to get him in positions and screen for him so that he can come off and do what he does. So we have our hands full, we have our hands full.”

On how the team plays off screens …
“We’ve gotten better; we’ve gotten better in terms of not running into screens and trying to avoid the screens by chasing. I think we’ve got to continue to do that. Our bigs may have to be able to help the guys, stunting and giving them different looks.”

On Marcus Lee and his development …
“He’s coming along pretty nicely. He gave us some really good minutes, I think some of – Marcus Lee has to continue do what he’s been doing in practice, playing with energy, playing with that lively body that he has and that’s what our team needs from him.”

On what they saw from Andrew Harrison on Saturday that made them pleased with his performance …
“Kept us organized, he knew when to attack, when to shoot, when to pass. Defensively, he did a pretty good job but more importantly than that he kept us organized, when they were trying to throw different things at us he was able to make the right calls and he’s starting to get the feel of what we need.”

On if he’s noticed head coach John Calipari being a little more hands-on with this team …
“Yeah, I think coach does a phenomenal job like I said earlier of adjusting each year to the strengths and weaknesses of the team and what they need. Sometimes that takes us as the staff, sometimes a while to figure out and pinpoint exactly what it is that we need to do. He joked about having to be 35 again and coaching with that kind of passion and energy and it worked.”

#5, Andrew Harrison, G, Fr.

On the things being wrong with this team being fixable …
“He (Coach Calipari) says it every day. He says it to the whole team. Like he said, it’s just a growing process. We don’t really focus on winning or losing. We’re just trying to get better every game.”

On the way they executed down the stretch offensively …
“I think it just showed our will to win. We knew we had to pull it out and we did. It shows that we’re growing mental toughness. We do have what it takes to win. That’s what we’re just trying to do and get better.”

On staying calm every time Missouri made a run …
“That’s what basketball is. Missouri is a great team with great players. We knew they were going to make a run. We just responded. We got hit and we hit them back.”

On (Ole Miss guard) Marshall Henderson …
“I know he’s like a really enthusiastic player. He’s a great player, can really shoot the ball, stuff like that. So we’re going to have to be ready to play on Tuesday.”

On transition defense …
“It’s just a matter of sprinting back and just having a ‘want to’ to sprint back and be a defensive team. I feel like we’ll be much harder to beat if we become that defensive team.”

On whether the transition defense is troubling considering it was an issue earlier in the season …
“No, because it has nothing to do with our talent, our skill or anything like that. It’s just being aware and just wanting to do it, and I feel like we can do that.”

On the desire being the key to being a good defensive team …
“Yeah, that’s one of the steps of being a really good defensive team.”

On what he thought of the zone …
“It worked really well. We’re a pretty big team, so I think it got them off guard because we usually don’t play too much zone. Us being so long and being able to deflect balls and stuff, I think that affected them a little bit.”

On how much they expect Ole Miss to push the ball against them …
“I know they’re going to try to press and stuff like that. We just have to be strong with the ball and play as a team.”

On Calipari challenging them defensively …
“Definitely. When you’re not used to playing every possession hard and now you’re starting to get used to it and starting to have to do it – or you have no choice or you won’t play – I feel like that’s just a will to win. Being enthusiastic about defense and like Coach (Kenny) Payne says, having a defensive spirit, that’s what you have to have to win. I think we’re getting there. I think we’re getting better every day.”

On experiencing the whole one step forward, two steps back because of breaking bad habits …
“Definitely, because we’re still a young team no matter what anybody says. We’re still very young with not that much experience, but at the same time we have talent and we have some heart. We just want to win and we’re just trying to get better.”

On comparing themselves to other top teams in the country ….
“We just try to focus on who we’re going to play against and try not to look at anybody else. All those other teams are pretty good. I feel like we’re as good as anybody in the country as long as we just stick to the plan and stay to the course.”

On whether he’s seen some of Henderson’s antics …
“Yeah, definitely. But you just try not to pay attention to that and try not to feed into it and just play the basketball game.”

On Henderson being a difficult player to defend because you don’t know when and where he’s going to shoot …
“I’ve never played against him, but yeah, from watching tape and stuff, definitely a pretty tough person to guard because he’s always looking for his shot. He can always go off a screen.”

On whether they are bothered by teams shooting better than 50 percent against them in back-to-back games …
“Yeah, it bothers us because that just makes us have to play even better offensively, which won’t happen every time. We have to stop people.”

On how he personally feels about playing zone …
“It doesn’t matter to me. Whatever stops the offensive player. Just doing it as a team and team defense is the biggest part. Whatever we can do to stop them. We’re long and athletic, so we should be able to do either one and be successful with it.”

On whether he is surprised to see Calipari use a zone given his preference for man-to-man defense …
“No, because I feel like he loves to win even more. Whatever he thinks will work he usually does, so we just try to do that.”

On whether the zone will be a one-game thing …
“We’ve been practicing it, but we never really did it in the game until then. We were successful for the most part.”

#00, Marcus Lee, F, Fr.

On the team's state of mind ...
"Right now, we are just practicing to get better. We are not really worried about anything right now. We are just trying to take it step-by-step right now."

On how hard that is to do because of the attention ...
"Yeah, we've learned a lot since we have been here on how to go about things. I guess, as we come in and learn different things every day and we are just trying to figure things out."

On what is the way they need to go about things ...
"I guess it is just knowing that everybody is going at our heads each game and we need to figure each moment, right when the game starts, that they want to be who we are so we have to play with so much more energy than them."

On if he was aware of Marshall Henderson's antics last season ...
"I had no idea to be totally honest.  I had no idea what was going on."

On how aware he is this year of what kind of player he is ...
"He is a great player. I can definitely call him a pro and say he will be a pro at some point. He did a great job and kept fighting and kept doing what he knew he could do knowing he had to do a lot to get his team excited and his team was really excited to play."

On if he saw the UK-Ole Miss game last season ...
"No I didn't. I am from California. They didn't show that."

On who he watched out there ...
"We had our Cal and Arizona games. We got excited for those."

On how he felt he played at Missouri ...
"I just tried to do my job knowing that I have been slacking on the energy. Everybody is saying that our team isn't energetic and lacks energy. That was pretty much my only job. I kind of decided if I was going in during that game that is what I was going to bring, and I did."

On him expanding what he means by "slacking" ...
"Yeah, I definitely felt that I have backed up as the season went on with bringing the energy."

On if not playing much led to him not having as high of energy level ...
"Not at all, it's just the fact of keeping it in mind knowing that you have to bring the energy so the rest of your team can bring the energy so you can get better each day."

On getting better playing against the zone ...
"Because of me, I love the zone because that zone was really fun to play with. We realize that every team is going to play a zone at some point in the game so we just keep working at it."

On UK playing zone ...
"We've worked hard on it a couple of times knowing that we would have to put it in eventually. We have learned that it works out really well so we may put it in a lot more."

On if Coach Calipari tells the team the problems they have are stuff he can fix ...
"He tells us that all the time knowing that it is something that we can work on every day, something that we have to just be excited for and something that we have to be mentally ready for. We just have to be mentally here all the time."

On if there was a moment when he realized the team had to step up its energy level every night ...
"The team as a whole kind of figured it out as the season went on that every team brought the energy every game and brought everything they had. They were dying after the game because they had brought everything. We realized that we had to come out with our best energy knowing that our energy is way higher than theirs if we give as hard as we can."


 

 

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