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Kentucky Welcomes No. 3/4 Florida in SEC Showdown




Feb. 14, 2014

Cat Scratches: Fair or unfair, Calipari asking Cats to come together vs. Florida

Gameday
Gameday Information
Kentucky vs. Florida
Saturday, Feb. 15 - 9:00 p.m. ET
Lexington, Ky.
Game Notes: UK Get Acrobat Reader (Supplement Get Acrobat Reader) | UF Get Acrobat Reader
Coverage
TV: ESPN
Radio: UK IMG
Live Video via WatchESPN
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A group of 18- and 19-year-olds, the Kentucky Wildcats are still in their formative years. Most of them still developing physically, trying establish themselves with an eye on their bright futures.

At the same time, they are faced with more immediate priorities. With almost certainly just one year together as presently assembled, the Cats know they have no choice but to come together and come together fast.

There's no overstating the magnitude of that challenge.

"They're trying to grow as an individual player yet come together," John Calipari said. "Think how hard that is. Trying to establish who they are and how they have to play, yet do it for each other. This stuff is impossible."

But at Kentucky, "impossible" is not part of the vocabulary.

"I told them yesterday, 'It's not fair what I'm asking you to do,' " Calipari said. " 'Now do it. Now do it.' It's not fair. You can't ask kids to do what we ask them to do. It's not fair. But, now do it. And they're trying."

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UK to Wear New Nike Hyper Elite Uniforms Against Florida

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No team in college basketball has more wins (2130) or higher winning percentage (.762) than the University of Kentucky. Its 52 NCAA Tournament appearances and 111 tournament wins are also tops in college basketball and only UCLA has more National Championships than Kentucky (8). It's that great pride, tradition and success that inspired the Nike Hyper Elite Dominance uniform that Kentucky will debut on Saturday, February 15 against the University of Florida.

The Nike Hyper Elite Dominance University of Kentucky uniform is inspired by success on the court that stems back all the way to the 1920-1921 season.  Known as the "Wonder Team", they won the first ever Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association Tournament. The uniform also includes inspiration from the 1948-49 team up to the present. The jersey features rounded neckline with bonded taping along with the 1948  "Kentucky" graphics. Top to bottom white color is inspired from the 1921 team. The side of the short included eight bars (one for each championship) along with a short side stripe inspired from Kentucky's first championship. The school's current UK logo is present at the bottom of the short... full release

Pregame Media Opportunity - February 14, 2014

Head Coach John Calipari

On if a game like this gets the coaches excited …
“Yeah I think so. I mean, every game has its importance. I mean it’s, they’re all, you can’t – if you start making one game more important than the other you start losing games you’re supposed to win but it’s an exciting game because they’re making it a big deal on ESPN and all the other stuff.”

On discussion of Florida being the best team in the country …
“They haven’t lost in so long. What they are is a very talented, veteran, senior-oriented team that plays with discipline for 40 minutes. And I think Syracuse plays different but is very similar. They don’t stop playing even when you’re making, like Pitt made shots from out-of-bounds, 42 feet. Made two of them and they didn’t stop playing, Syracuse just played. I mean they’re two teams, and again I haven’t seen Wichita (State) play enough. Arizona is a veteran team that’s pretty disciplined but I would say there is an argument that they’re the best team in the country. They’re talented, they’re veteran, they’re disciplined. You know there have probably been seven games that they’ve played with four minutes to go the game is in doubt and they won them all, a couple of them were won going away.”

On wanting this team to put the youth vs. experience storyline to bed …
“Well you never know how the game will play out but, you know, again, this isn’t – that’s not the only thing that will happen in this game. This game is gonna be our 19-year olds against their 23-year olds, now how does that play out? I know when they’re 35 and 36 and you’re 30, that’s a difference. The old guys got a little problem. But at the younger ages they got an advantage and it is an advantage. Most of it is their discipline. They’re skilled, I mean their guards are skilled, their bigs are skilled, they can throw to the post, they run their stuff but they do it for 40 minutes and we haven’t been able to do that and most of it is because of our lack of experience.”

On tomorrow being a big game in the player’s minds …
“This game will tell us where we are. And I would imagine they’re coming in not to just win, they want to smash. And so we’re going to find out, I mean, there were big games when the other team came in excited and we weren’t able to withstand the beginning of the game, we got down so far early that even though the rest of the game we won, you didn’t win by enough. That’s happened to us three or four different times. So I don’t think, I think our kids are excited. They had a great practice last night. I mean, I didn’t feel real good which made me believe they wouldn’t have felt real good because of our travel and then we went in and they practiced. I think they’re excited about playing, this is why they came here but they know this is a hard game. I mean, they know what we’re up against. I mean, you know, like you’re saying, this team could be the No. 1 team in the country and they got all seniors.”

On how well Florida collectively plays defense …
“Their emotion is all tied in to their defense, that’s what they do well. They’re a good offensive team, I mean they’ll score and if we don’t get back in transition it will be a similar game to Missouri where they’re taking 11 lay-ups deep. Just get it in and go, whether you score or not, they play that way. But in their defense, you know, they have a little three-quarter court press, you know, we, like other games, have to try to negate that. And they do a great job sprinkling in their zone late, their 1-3-1 late in games, late in halves and the rest of it is more of a 2-3. But basically it’s like Auburn found out, why are we playing zone? They’re better against zone than they are man. Just play them man-to-man. So I would imagine he’s watching that tape just like Tony (Barbee) was watching tapes and we’re pretty good vs. zone, whether it’s 1-3-1 or 2-3. We’ve got to get more efficient offensively when we’re man-to-man.”

On if this team plays to its competition …
“No, I think what happens is we get up and they revert back, that’s what I think they do and I don’t have the answer for it, I wish I did or we wouldn’t be up 10 and the next time we look around it’s a two-point game. You know, let’s get it to 17, let’s get this thing – we don’t do that. They just come right back. Again, the effort level, the intensity, the energy, the emotion is all tied to it, it just reverts. So this game, we’ll see.”

On how James Young is responding to his performance at Auburn …
“Good, we had a nice meeting today. We watched some tape, he and I together. We’re going to show some more tape of him to the team. And James is fine, he’s a great kid, he’s settling for jumpers, he’s trying to avoid all contact and in this game it’s not a game you can play then if that’s how you’re going to play. These dudes, they play rough-house basketball now, there are going to be fouls now, may not be called but there are going to be a lot of fouls, both ways, because the game is going to be physical.”

On what he showed James Young on tape …
“Just being ready and prepared when you catch the ball, not, you know, not being – being down, being ready to attack and go.”

On showing the team the clip of Patric Young diving for a loose ball vs. Tennessee …
“Because what are you willing to do to win a game? I know what he’s willing to do to win a game. I know what he’s willing to do to win a game. I saw it, now you look at it. His feet were off the floor and he’s diving in a pronate – I mean, I showed it to them. Now what are you willing to do? And I said; now look at the Tennessee guy as he runs by him. He made sounds and I don’t know what the sounds were but as he dove by him, ‘ahhh.’ Well are you going to make the sound or are you going to dive with him? I mean, you know, it’s – every experience I can use, I’m trying to teach.”

On if Florida is playing like he wants his guys to play …
“Well, historically we don’t, you know, we don’t have five freshmen starting so we’re usually a little bit better defensively even though we’re in the top 25 or 30 right now defensively. Still breaking down, and still not playing with the discipline we need. You know, top-five offensively in efficiency and still not passing the ball all the time that we could and we do and when we do we look so good and we still have the ball stoppers and other things going on. When we play with great energy and intensity, wow! And then all the sudden it backs up and we’re back to a pace of the game that you can’t win at. All the sudden we’re great at transition defense and then all of a sudden they’ve got three straight lay-ups, after we made a free throw. How can that happen? Well you’re talking 18-year olds.”

On how Julius Randle has matured with handling the double teams …
“It’s still; it’s still a work in progress. It’s still a work in progress. Julius is a great passer, literally a – just not a willing passer right now. So what happens is by the time he passes it it’s getting tipped, or he’s getting tipped, just – he’s learning and there are times they’re going to take you away, then they take you away and your teammates do the damage and we win anyway and go rebound and defend. He’s still learning, it’s a work in progress. But he’s getting better, he’s getting better. I mean, I look at this whole team, you think of an Andrew (Harrison), having to get himself right and really focus on himself getting better, thinking right, playing with more energy, getting better. But to lead, what’s he have to be thinking about? Everybody else. So, wait a minute, I’ve got to think about myself because I’m not right yet and you want me to think about everybody else. It’s a hard deal but he’s getting better. And then on top of that, there is another guy that looks like you and when he plays bad they think it was you. If one or the other plays bad, they stunk today. Think about that move.”

On recruiting Julius Randle
“Well what happens is, you want to talk about ‘Cal can say this and talks right,’ and I hate to talk about myself in third person, but the results. 100-percent success rate, going to graduate, going to get drafted, going to become an All-Star, gold medalist, or you graduate or you do both, or you become a movie actor. You could walk and say, well – players know the last three years, they don’t know 20 years ago. They don’t know, they know the last three. And, again what’s happened here, the results speak for themselves but what they don’t get is how hard it is and what I try to explain to them in the recruiting process, this will be the hardest thing you ever do. We’re the most analyzed program in the history of -- sports.  And that means you, you personally are going to be overanalyzed and everybody is going to give you their best shot. They’re going to try to make their career at your expense. They’re trying to become a pro at your expense to prove that they’re better than you. And they’re not going to sleep, I mean it’s hard here and so, you know, not every kid comes here, nor should they. This is not for everybody out there. They go other places. You know, I focus on our guys and that’s all I try to do, the guys that want to be here and then understand how hard it is. You talk to any of these guys, they never realized it would be this tough, they never did. And now they’re here and it’s like, oh my gosh. And then they’re supposed to win every game by 20 and don’t go losing on the road to a team with three pros, don’t do that. You know, I mean it’s just a different deal here.”

On how they’ve handled getting hit in the mouth early in the game and keep playing …
“We’ve been alright. I mean, we’ve lost five games by a total of (21) points and some of them they came out swinging, we got down early. Other games we got down and we never – you know, it’s not like we’ve lost by 18 points. I mean, you know, but again, our loss is double everybody else’s loss but that’s another point. We’ve been hanging around even when we get knocked in the mouth. This will be a hard one for us. It’s a great opportunity, it’s why you come here, to play in these kind of games against highly ranked teams that come into your building favored to win, with veterans and here we are, ‘the young guys can’t play in this kind of game, they’re going to give up at some point, something’s going to happen and that veteran team is going to blow by them.’ And it may happen that way but that’s what we’re up against but, you know, like I said, I like my team, I like how they’re responding to stuff, I like their growth, would I have wanted them to be farther ahead? Yeah, I’d like them to be the finished product right now. They’re not. You’ll see warts, you’re going to see them do stupid things and you’ll say, why did you do that? And I ask the same question in the huddle and the guy says, ‘I don’t know.’ And he doesn’t know why he did that. ‘I’ve always done that.’ I know but that’s wrong and those are those habits and the way they think, why did you respond that way? ‘I don’t know.’ And that’s the part of teaching and coaching young players, I’ve had a ball with this team. I’ve had a ball coaching and I’ll say it again, we’re – every game is someone swinging and we’re trying to figure it out. They’re trying to grow as an individual player and come together, think how hard that is, trying to establish who they are and how they have to play yet do it for each other. This stuff is impossible. I told them yesterday it’s not fair what I’m asking you to do, now do it. Now do it. It’s not fair. No one, you can’t ask kids to do what we ask them to do, it’s not fair. But, now do it. And they’re trying.”

#44, Dakari Johnson, C, Fr.

On his play of late …
“Yeah, I just try to contribute each game and just help my team get a win. I just try to play my hardest whenever I’m on out on the court. That’s what I did last game.”

On what’s different about him now from earlier in the season …
“Just working hard. Just getting the concept that if I don’t work hard I’m not going to play. If I’m not going to play hard out there and not listen to what Coach is saying, I’m not going to play. As long as I’m listening to what Coach Cal wants me to do, I’m going to be out on the court and I’m just going to produce.”

On it being the first time someone telling him he’s not going to play if he doesn’t hustle …
“Yeah, that was the first time, and I think that’s really helped me out a lot, you know, because usually I would just, in high school, I would just, like, even if I don’t produce or worked hard I would just play anyways. Here, if you don’t work hard you’re not going to play.”

On how much they are looking forward to the Florida game …
“We’re looking forward to this game, but it’s just like any other game. We just got to go in there and battle. We just got to treat it like another game where we just have to battle. Lose or win, if we’re getting better as a team, that’s the main thing. If we get better as team, that’s the main goal.”

On whether this is a statement game in terms of knowing where they are in the conference race …
“Not really. Every game should be a statement game for us, so we’re just going to treat this like a regular game and we’re just going to play harder throughout the game, all 40 minutes.”

On whether this is more than just another game because of ESPN College GameDay and the fans getting up for this one …
“I mean, yeah, they’re No. 1 in our conference, but we just got to treat it like another game. It’s not a special game. Every game we have to play hard, so this is just another game where we have to play hard throughout 40 minutes.”

On what he knows about (Florida senior forward) Patric Young …
“I know a lot. I went to high school in Florida. I visited Florida a lot. When I went up there to visit I shadowed him. So he’s a real good player. He competes hard for 40 minutes, so we’ve just got to compete with them.”

On how hard Florida recruited him …
“They recruited me pretty hard. Their point guard, Kasey Hill, I played with in high school, so they recruited me pretty hard.”

On how much better he’s gotten at defending ball screens …
“I’ve gotten a lot better. That’s mainly Coach Cal. He does a lot of good things, just helping me wall up, and my teammates do a good job of helping me out on ball screens.”

On what he knows about Florida’s big men …
“I know they compete. (Young’s) a real big, physical guy. I’m a physical guy too, so I’m just going to try to compete with him for 40 minutes.”

On how close he feels they are to taking over the reins of the team …
“I think we’re all starting to get it in practice. We’ve been practicing hard. We just got to translate it to the game where all of us are competing hard. But I feel like a game like this, all of us will click together because we’re going to need each other for a game like this.”

On whether he keeps in touch with Kasey Hill …
“Yeah, he’s like a brother to me. We talk a lot, often. But I haven’t been talking to him a lot this week.”

On what it’s going to be like to see him …
“It’s going to be a little weird at first because I’m so used to playing with him, but I feel like that’s going to help me because I’m so used to his game. It’s going to be weird at first, but it’s just another game where I’m going to have to compete.”

On where this Florida team looks the most dangerous …
“They really have really good guards. They have a balanced team. Coach Cal just said they really play hard and they really just outwork their opponents, so we’re going to have to play hard for 40 minutes and compete with them.”

On a bunch of freshmen competing against a team of veterans …
“People say that, but when the ball is tipped, all that goes away. It’s whoever works the hardest and competes.”

On whether it’s time for the youth excuse to go away …
“Yeah, it’s time for that to go away. We know what we have to do. We know we just have to play with a lot of energy and compete for 40 minutes. As long as we do that we’ll be fine.”

On being more energetic the last few games and slapping the floor against Mississippi State …
“I was into the game, so I didn’t notice I did that until after the tape. But I just tried to come out and play the hardest I can to get myself going, I talk a little smack out there to get myself going. That helps me out a little bit.”

On his teammates’ reaction when they reviewed the tape and saw him slap the floor …
“Everyone was laughing, but Coach Cal loved it. He said that’s how we’re going to have to play like.”

#22, Alex Poythress, F, So.

On whether this feels like the biggest game of the year …
“You know, it’s a pretty big game. We’re taking it—we’re going to take it all serious and try to be focused for tomorrow.”

On whether he takes anything from the experience of winning some big games last year …
“I mean, if you just come together as a team you can win big games. It’s going to be at home. We’re going to have a big home crowd. We’ve been focused the last couple days so practice has been real good. So we’re just ready to play the game.”

On Calipari saying “it’s time” and whether he agrees …
“Yeah, yeah. We do it every day in practice. Everybody plays good and plays with each other. We just gotta show the world, basically.”

On what they need to “show the world” …
“That we can play. That we’re a good team. That we play real well together.”

On the second-half defensive stretch against Florida last year …
“We were just communicating on defense, just talking a lot, just helping our man, help-side rebounding, just holding them to one shot, you know. I thought we did a great job of doing that.”

On whether that was a desperate stretch and if UK needed a statement win …
“I just feel like we just locked up on defense. We just focused real hard at the end of the game. Down the stretch, we made some plays and came out with the W.”

On the idea that Florida has an advantage due to experience …
“I guess you could call it an advantage, but at the end of the day we gotta play the game still. You know, we’ve played half the year already so we’ve got no freshmen no more. We’re all experienced players so far. We’ve played the game so far. We’ve all played college basketball games, so I feel like both teams will be ready to play.”

On whether Calipari has sent the message that youth should not be an excuse …
“We just don’t want to use it as an excuse. It’s not that he tells us to drop it. It’s just like we don’t want to make excuses for ourselves. We just want to come out and play the game. We don’t want to have no disadvantages, no advantages. We just want to play hard and play the game.”

On whether hearing Florida talked about as one of the best teams is motivating …
“I mean, it motivates you. You want to take on the best. You want to play people and you really just want to win games. You want to go out and compete hard.”

On Florida’s defense …
“Florida plays real good on defense. They’ve got some veteran players. They know how to play, have been there a long time, know how to help each other. So they’re very good on defense.”

On how Julius Randle is adapting to facing double teams …
“He’s adapting well. He learns when a double team is coming to pass the ball. So he’s doing a better job of doing that.”

On what Calipari means when he says to just “do it” …
“I think he just wants you to compete. I think he just wants you to go out there and just play. He seen (us) all play. We do it all in practice, he’s seen us do everything so he just wants us to do it really.”

On how difficult it was to deal with expectations this season …
“Expectations are always big here. You just gotta get used to it being here, but it’s happened before, high expectations. You just gotta come out here and play and just get ready to play, really.”

On whether it’s easier to get up for a game vs. Florida …
“I mean, a big game just gets you excited and ready to play. It’ll be a great atmosphere there. GameDay’s going to be tomorrow. Everybody’s going to be hyped: both teams, the crowd, the coaches. I’m just ready to play, really.”

On whether he saw Patric Young’s play against Tennessee when he dove for the ball …
“Yeah, I’ve seen it.”

On what he thought of it …
“It was a great hustle play. It’s a great hustle play. I feel like anybody on our team would have made the same play in the situation. But it was a great play.”

On whether this is a statement game …
“I guess you could call it that, but really it’s just a game between two great teams. You just want to come out and compete hard and may the best team win.”

On whether this will be a measuring stick …
“I’m not really sure. I guess you could say that but we don’t really look at the rankings, we don’t look at how many teams are ahead of us. We just try to play the games and just try to take it one game at a time and try to win.”


 

 

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