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Kentucky Begins Two-Game Homestand vs. South Carolina




Feb. 4, 2013

Notebook: Noel Named SEC Freshman of the Week | Kentucky's Nerlens Noel Nominated for GEICO Play of the Year

Gameday
Gameday Information
Kentucky vs. South Carolina
Tues., Feb. 5 - 9:00 p.m. ET
Rupp Arena
Lexington, Ky.
Game Notes: UK Get Acrobat Reader | USC Get Acrobat Reader
Coverage
Gameday Live: Online audio, blog and stats
TV: ESPNU
Radio: UK IMG
Live Video via WatchESPN
Text Updates

After playing four of its last five on the road, UK returns to Rupp Arena on Tuesday to begin a two-game homestand beginning with a matchup with South Carolina. Kentucky has won five of its last six games including a dramatic overtime thriller in College Station, Texas, on Saturday. Freshman Nerlens Noel charted a double-double with a career-high 19 points and 14 rebounds. Senior Julius Mays contributed a season-high 19 points and added a season-best four 3-pointers.

UK and South Carolina meet just once this season, snapping a run of 21 consecutive seasons the teams have met for a home-and-home series. Kentucky owns an all-time record of 46-10 over the Gamecocks including a 24-2 margin when the game is played in Lexington.

Scouting South Carolina

South Carolina owns a 12-9 overall record and a 2-6 mark in SEC action under the direction of first-year head coach Frank Martin. The Gamecocks are 1-4 away from home this season. Benton Williams leads the Gamecocks in scoring with 10.6 points per game. Michael Carrera posts a team-best 7.0 rebounds to couple with 10.2 points a game.

Media Opportunity - Feb. 4, 2013

Head Coach John Calipari

On how this team has been in flux…
"Kyle [Wiltjer] is starting to change. Alex [Poythress] is beginning to change. We're getting better but we've been in flux the whole season. We have not been able to say, 'Okay, here's who we are. Now let's just get better than what we are.' And, it has put us in positions where we're not as confident in each other. Guys don't believe in each other the way they should. We just haven't been together like that."

On where he feels his team is on the calendar for the season…
"I have no idea. All I know is we're getting better and now hopefully we'll start growing from here but I don't know."

On what he thinks this team's identity should be, could be, or is…
"I don't know. It's still developing."

On whether he will use Willie [Cauley-Stein] the same way as he did before his injury…
"Well, Kyle needs to play and Alex needs to play so it would probably take minutes away from Ryan [Harrow] and probably some minutes away from Archie [Goodwin] because, if Alex and Kyle deserve to play more because of how they're playing, well then who's not? You've got to take somebody else out. And, Nerlens [Noel] deserves to play. He needs to be on the floor. You can't say, 'Well, I'm going to take 15 minutes from Nerlens.' Ain't happening. So, what that means is, 'Alright, you're not getting it done. You're not getting it done. You've got to step back.' And so, but Willie has got to also perform. He's got to play the way he's capable of and he's fine to go. The last game, the only reason I didn't play him in the second half is because of the way the game was going and I didn't want Nerlens out of the game."

On whether Julius Mays has stepped up to be the leader Coach Calipari needs…
"I don't know about leading but I'll tell you what he's doing is he's playing, like I said, 'Instead of trying to just be a jump shooter, now you're playing basketball. You went out and guarded people,' which means he could do it every game he plays. 'Just go out there and be that guy.' Now, there may be some guys that are a little longer or more athletic that he couldn't do that to, 'Well then, you won't guard that guy.'"

On why he doesn't choose Archie Goodwin to be his defensive stopper…
"No mental discipline. Ryan doesn't have it. He doesn't have it. Alex doesn't have it. They'll play for a little bit and then they'll just stop if they do something on offense. Their heads go down and then they can't play defense. They don't have the mental discipline. A veteran like Julius had the discipline to guard that kid on every bounce, every second he knew how important it was. The other kids don't have that discipline yet, nor would I guess any freshman accept maybe a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, that I've coached, would have that kind of discipline to do that."

On whether it frustrates him that Archie is better suited athletically to be the stopper…
"No. no. You've got one that's 18 years old and the other that's 24. Archie is going to be pretty good when he's 24."

On what has gotten Ryan Harrow off track recently…
"I don't know. I don't know. Just going to keep working with him."

On what kind of physical challenge South Carolina might try to present…
"Same. They'll do what every other team is doing. Get up in your body. Be physical. 'You bump this guy, he'll turn his back. You try to deny him the ball, he won't work to get open.' We're working on it and talking about it. I think our guys see it but, the good news I keep coming back to: we're getting better. And, individual players are now starting to feed off of each other. But, when it really gets rough and tough, we've got a couple guys that just can't be in the game and that hurts you."

On whether it's encouraging to see improvement even with losses…
"Yeah. We're just hanging on. We're hanging on and we're not near our best and we're hanging on and this is what happens when you have a young team. You look at numbers, we have five guys in double figures and really, six. Shooting pretty good percentage. Defensively, hold them to a percentage both in the three and the two. Literally, like really good and we've got all young kids. Why are we turning it over? We're soft with the ball. So, you just come down and throw it away. You don't have that toughness. But, short of that, rebounding margin. Occasionally, there'll be games where they'll have a two or a three that goes and gets balls and our three is not tough enough to keep them off the board. But, short of that, we've got to become a better finishing team. We've got to become a better team when we're up 15 or 16, and that's all mindset. That's all that is."

On whether he likes Kyle coming off the bench …
"Yeah. He's doing great."

On whether he believes Alex is becoming more physical…
"He's getting better but see, it's hard because it's embarrassing when you say to a guy, 'You're soft.' So, when I tell them, 'You're not tough enough, strong enough,' that's embarrassing. So, you've got to deal with the embarrassment of it. You've also got to deal with the ignorance of it. Like, 'Not that you're dumb, you just don't even know how to be physical, how to be tough, how to wedge.' So, that's something that I deal with as a coach ever year, not just this year. It's what you deal with. Like I said, 'First of all, accept your position. Accept our predicament. Accept your weakness. Alright, what are they? Now change.' That's the great thing about the human race, when we figured out, 'Dang, I can change my own attitude.' And then we figured out, 'Wow, if I change all my habits, it changes who I am? Wow.' Well, that's how this goes. Kyle Wiltjer changed his mental attitude towards practice. He loves walking in. He's changed how he approaches practice and his habits in practice. It's changed him. Now, they've all seen it, but here's what it is: really hard. 'I think I can still get what I want without working.' No. Nothing in life is that way. Anything worth having is a dogfight to get. The stuff that's free and all that stuff, it's not worth having anyway and so, that's where we are. But, like I said, we're just going day-to-day, making strides, trying to keep ourselves in the right frame of mind, yet getting them to come to grips and be honest with each other."

#22, Alex Poythress, F, Fr.

On if he has gotten a lot more physical since coming to Kentucky …
"Yeah, I am always getting more physical. I am working on it each and everyday."

On if the team has a chance to establish momentum after the last three wins …
"Yeah we have a little streak going. We are just playing hard and playing together. We are coming together as a team."

On how his game has changed from the beginning of the season up to now …
"I am just playing a little harder and not taking plays off. I am just learning how to work hard which is helping me play."

On what is the big difference in the team getting better in the past few weeks …
"We are just focusing and just becoming a better team. The teammates are actually getting it and learning to play together better and just figuring it out."

#33, Kyle Wiltjer, F, Soph.

On the change in the team …
"I think we've just been staying positive and just getting better every day, I think that's been the key, just focusing on listening to what Coach Cal has to say and then just trying to build on it during the games."

On feeling pressure in overtime at Texas A&M …
"I didn't feel any pressure, there were a few turnovers that I made that I was disappointed in myself but I try to look over them and leave the play behind me. I have to just keep being positive and just help my team win."

On the team facing adversity …
"We've faced adversity having Willie (Cauley-Stein) go out and the same with Ryan (Harrow). We've just tried to keep positive regardless of the situation. It has taken a while to find our identities but I think we're starting to come into our own and hopefully we can just keep building upon it."

On the importance of keeping the momentum …
"Every SEC opponent is going to be tough and come to battle so we just have to take one game at a time."

On this year being more exhausting than last year …
"It's been overall similar. There has been a different approach this year, just trying to find the way we're going to play so it has taken a little longer but I think we're starting to get better so that's all that matters."

On figuring out how to play physical …
"Just have the mentality, knowing that every team is going to be like that and that's how they're going to play. Coach Cal does a great job of creating practice plans that will kind of get us ready for the game so that's similar to last year, that's how you get ready for the game, practice hard."

On having been through a year …
"I've been through it so I kind of know what to expect. Even the young guys on our team this year, I don't even know how many more games we have left but we have to be getting close to half way so they're pretty much like sophomores as well, they know what to expect."

On the identity the team wants …
"We just want to be an unselfish group who plays hard. We know teams are going to battle so we want to be physical back and we just want to be a tough team."

On expecting teams to make big runs against them …
"We know every team is going to make their run and now we just need to keep working on improving to not let that rattle us and make our own run in each game. Even if we make a bad play, coach really just wants us to move on and he's going to stay on us but that's because he wants the best. We want to have that short-term memory and get on to the next play so we don't let it affect us."


 

 

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