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Kentucky Travels to Auburn to Face the Tigers




Feb. 11, 2014

Cat Scratches: Past midway point of SEC play, UK far from a finished product

Gameday
Gameday Information
Kentucky at Auburn
Wednesday, Feb. 12 - 8:00 p.m. ET
Auburn, Ala.
Game Notes: UK Get Acrobat Reader (Supplement Get Acrobat Reader) | AU Get Acrobat Reader
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TV: SEC Network
Radio: UK IMG
Live Video via WatchESPN
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This late in the season, there's a line of thinking that says teams are what they are. Some might say that with just a month before conference tournaments tip off, the only work that can be done is fine-tuning.

UK assistant coach Kenny Payne disagrees.

"I don't buy it," Payne said. "I think that every day we come in, our sole philosophy is to get better each day. And we're so young, and what we are can change tomorrow."

Payne can say that with confidence because he's seen it happen.

"One game we can be an excellent post team, one game we can be an excellent guard-oriented team," Payne said. "We have very good depth, but they have to play well together. For us, it's every day getting better."

A particular emphasis in that process of daily improvement since a win at Mississippi State on Saturday has been transition defense. The Bulldogs -- though the box score showed they only outscored UK 8-2 in fast-break points -- repeatedly made UK pay for not getting back in transition.

"Their game plan I think was just to outwork us and so that's what it was," Willie Cauley-Stein said. "The only way they could really score was if they were to do it in transition or straight-line drives. That's what we've really been working on."

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Pregame Media Opportunity - February 11, 2014

Assistant Coach Kenny Payne

On everybody not playing their best game at one time and how close they are to doing so …
“I would like to say that we are really close, but until we do it once, it’s hard to say. If this team ever gets five or six of these guys playing great at the same time, who knows how good we can be. If we can do it consistently, it’s scary.”

On the closest they’ve been to having everyone play well this season …
“I thought we really played well offensively against Missouri. I think that would probably be the closest.”

On the defensive transition issues …
“We’ve been working on it for quite awhile. I think the thing that we have to continue to do is continue to build on it, continue to remind them of how important it is because every team seems to be using that as an advantage for them. It’s a weakness of our team that we need to address.”

On if the defensive issues are related to having a young team …
“No question. There is a saying that we are ‘taking pictures’. So the ball goes up, somebody shoots it, and we’re watching the ball instead of getting back on defense.”

On the risk of overlooking Auburn with Florida on Saturday …
“There is no risk with overlooking Auburn. We all know that Auburn can beat us. We know that we’re going to get their best game. We know that they are a very, very good team who has two guards who are really playing well the last five games. (Chris) Denson is averaging 24 (points) and (KT) Harrell is averaging 20. If we walk in there and just think that we’re going to beat them, it’s not happening. We will have to play well to beat that team, especially at their home.”

On if he subscribes to the theory that teams are what they are at this point in the season …
“I don’t buy it. I think that everyday that we come in, our sole philosophy is to get better each day. We are so young with what we are, that everything could change tomorrow. We’re very talented, but we’re young. One game we could be an excellent post team, one game we could be an excellent guard-oriented team. We have very good depth, but they have to play well together. For us, it’s everyday getting better.”

On the ups and downs of Willie Cauley-Stein
“Mental. I just think that it’s the mental approach to the game. Willie is a very, very talented player as we all know. There are games where he comes out and gets 16 (points), six blocks and six rebounds, and then the next night, for whatever reason, he is not mentally prepared to do that every night. He’s figuring it out. Hopefully when he does, we get him to play that way consistently because he is a big, big key to this team being a great team.”

On if he is the guy who pushes Willie Cauley-Stein the most …
“I wouldn’t say the most. I would say Coach Cal probably pushes on him a little more than me. I do push on him. I push on all of them. That’s a part of it.”

On the development of Dakari Johnson
“Very proud of Dakari as a staff. He has grown so much. He is running the floor very well. He is taking on the role of being a starter. He is looking up to the challenge. As long as he keeps getting better and keeps fighting, he’ll do well for us.”

On Julius Randle dealing with being the focus of other teams …
“Julius’ situation is a little different; Julius is facing something that not many college guys face. On the perimeter they are sending three, on the post they are sending two. So it’s hard for him to be on one-on-one situations which means that we as a team have to help him and he should start every game out being a facilitator and then we have enough talent around him where we can burn them as a team. If that happens it opens it up for him. The other part of the game is the better we are defensively and running out in transition, the better it is for him and it loosens him up.”

On Jon Hood’s role on the team …
“I would say Jon Hood has been one of our most prominent leaders, best leaders. He’s one of the most energetic guys in practice, totally positive, comes in every day and works his tail off and when he got his opportunity, he took advantage of it and played really well. I thought that, you know, it’d be hard for us to win that game at Mississippi State without him.”

On how hard it is to be a leader when you don’t play very much …
“Extremely hard, extremely hard because you don’t know when your time is coming and you’re being vocal to young players who are seeing you not play but he’s never deterred, he’s always being positive, he’s always talking to guys, motivating guys and when his time came, again, he produced.”

On if it’s easier for Jon Hood to lead when he’s played with NBA players like John Wall and Eric Bledsoe …
“No question. I think yesterday’s meeting Cal talked about the players that Jon Hood has played with and probably no other  college player has played with so many NBA guys as Hood has so that in itself is invaluable to our team and for his leadership role.”

On how Julius Randle responded to head coach John Calipari’s response to his help defense …
“I think the big part is showing him on film, you know, in the heat of the battle you get emotional so you may not see it the way the coach sees it. So when we broke down the film and showed it to him, he understood and he saw it. It’s all a part of growth, Julius Randle is a talented, talented kid who is a great basketball player but he’s learning. He’s learning. A year ago he was playing high school basketball.”

On getting James Young to drive more and getting him to get to the line more …
“No question. I think James, I don’t know the percentage of 3-point shots opposed to 2s but James Young is 6-7 and a great jump-shot shooter. If he ball fakes and gets in the lane, he can make one-dribble pull-ups, he can get fouled and go to the free throw line. There is so much more that he can do to help this team than just stand still and shoot jumpers. We need that from him and that’s his growth, that’s a part of what he has to do to help this team to be great.”

#15, Willie Cauley-Stein, F, So.

On what the team has been working on …
“Transition defense. It seems to be reoccurring though. So I guess it’s just really polishing it up.”

On why the issues reappeared on Saturday …
“Their game plan I think was just to outwork us and so that’s what it was. The only way they could really score was if they were to do it in transition or straight-line drives. That’s what we’ve really been working on.”

On what UK needs to improve …
“You know, Coach Cal says there’s a lot. It’s just defense and energy and it’s been like that since day one. And then it’s really not anything that he can teach. It’s something that we gotta go and take pride in it. That’s the only way it’s going to change. That’s the only way our team’s going to raise up is if we do those things.”

On whether there is a danger of overlooking Auburn …
“You know, I know for us we’re not even looking at Florida because Auburn is good, you know what I’m saying? Their coach is probably one of the best coaches in the country at scheming it and stopping people’s offense. So that’s what we’re really worried about because we’re going down to Auburn, it’s going to be a tough place to play at and with our up and down on our transition and stuff they got a couple guards that can really hurt us. That’s our biggest challenge right now is Auburn and not even looking forward to Florida until it comes.”

On dealing with more ice in Alabama …
“It seems we can’t get away from it. You think we’re about to get a little bit of warm weather and then it comes back. So it must just be that time where you’re just not going to get warm weather.”

On needing to bring defense and energy personally …
“It’s gotta be as a group, not one or two people can do it. It’s gotta be cohesive with everybody and that’s when you’re going to start seeing us peak is when everybody’s doing it, not just one or two people at a time and that’s the hardest battle right there is just getting everybody to play with that energy. I think once we start figuring that out—once we have one game where everybody does it, then it’s going to be like—you’ll watch the film on it and be like, ‘Oh, dang, this is really how we need to play.’ Right now nobody—like we haven’t done it, so we don’t have nothing to really look at for it.”

On the way Jon Hood played …
“I love it. That’s what—that’s how everybody needs to play, with that much energy and effort and just flying around and, you know, just doing all the little stuff right. That’s what being a vet is, you know what I’m saying? He knows how to do it all. Being young, you think you know it and then you’ll have a game when you do it and the next game you don’t do it and you get all mixed up, you don’t know what you’re trying to do. His situation, he’s played with a lot of pros and he’s been through the works, so that’s why his game is like that.”

On where he is personally …
“I think I’m more focused on the big picture of just trying to get the team right, trying to get everybody—keep everybody up and when stuff happens, guys’ heads go down and you just kind of tell them, ‘Look bro, you’re straight. We’re still winning, blah, blah, blah, stuff like that.’ I think that’s the most important thing I could do, especially—I can’t really say anything about people’s performances because mine hasn’t been there for weeks. So it’s not like I can do anything about that, but I can verbally just keep people up.”

#4, Jon Hood, G, Sr.

On how he felt about how he played over the weekend …
“I just came in and gave energy. That’s really all it was. Yeah, I played pretty well, but we’ll see where it goes from here.”

On whether he has any idea what to expect in terms of playing the rest of the season …
“Guys play good, play with energy, then they can – no, I really don’t know. I have no idea. I was going to try to make it sound like I did, but I have no clue. We’ll see. We’ll see. Only Coach knows.”

On whether he realized he put off a disappointed vibe when Calipari originally put Derek Willis in Saturday …
“It wasn’t intentional. I thought when he put his hand down he was grabbing for me, so I was kind of on the edge of the seat. He said ‘Derek’ so I just kind of laid back. I wanted Derek to go in and play well. You don’t ever want your teammates to play bad.”

On where this team is right now …
“We’re still learning. We’re still growing. We’re not a complete team. Guys don’t play hard all the time, play in spurts when they want to, but that’s just something the young guys have to get past.”

On why that happens …
“I don’t know. It’s happened every year and I can’t really put my finger on it. They always, sometime mid-SEC play, they always get it, so it’s always about this time.”

On whether this team is growing at a better rate than last year’s team …
“I think so. Communication is a lot better this year than it was last year. I think that’s a main difference. So I would say we are growing quicker than last year.”

On being prepared for his opportunity …
“I’ve been practicing pretty well. I’m always prepared, always ready to play whenever the opportunity may come.”

On what he’s going to do next year …
“Probably going to work for somebody. I don’t know.”

On whether he will try to play ball somewhere …
“It hasn’t been fully determined yet. We’ll see. My options are open. They’re all good options. I’ll look at it at the end of the year.”


 

 

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