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Kentucky Returns to Rupp For Matchup with LSU




Feb. 21, 2014

Cat Scratches: Against his nature, Coach Cal sprinkling in zone ahead of LSU rematch

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Kentucky vs. LSU
Saturday, Feb. 22 - 4:00 p.m. ET
Lexington, Ky.
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TV: ESPN
Radio: UK IMG
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In his first years as a head coach at UMass, John Calipari had a not-so-sophisticated approach to teaching zone.

His team needed to at least be able to show the defense in practice for the purposes of preparation, but Coach Cal never actually intended to use it in games. For that reason, zone installation was a quick process.

"I told them stand around and put your arms up," Calipari said, recalling his approach. "And if someone goes by you, kind of switch."

Two decades later, Calipari has softened a bit on his anti-zone stance.

Fielding the tallest team in the country according to kenpom.com, Calipari has turned to a 2-3 zone in spots as a way to capitalize on his personnel.

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Pregame Media Opportunity - February 21, 2014

Head Coach John Calipari

On Julius Randle saying that the team was embarrassed by their play at LSU …
“I would imagine LSU is really motivated to play this one again, too. You know they outplayed us. Johnny O’Bryant was really good, but he wasn’t the only guy that outplayed us. They out-rebounded us. They outcoached us. They outran us. They got us in transition defense. They got us every which way to lose. The only reason the game wasn’t 20 (points) was because we made three 3s. Bankers – or it would have been a 20-point game. I’m anxious to see how we’ll play against them, but it’s not like they got worse. LSU got better. It’s going to be a hard game.”

On how much better UK is than the first time they played LSU …
“We’ll see. Let’s throw it up tomorrow and we’ll find out.”

On if there has been a focus or fight problem since the LSU game …
“It was just a trip with the weather. Are we going to play or are we not going to play? And then we came out against an inspired team. How their fans found the arena, I have no idea. I thought there would be 200 people at the game. It ends up being a rowdy crowd. And look, give them credit. They played. LSU is a really good team. It’s like I’ve said about Tennessee and LSU and other teams in our league – Missouri – It amazes me when people beat each other in other leagues it shows how strong their league is. When we beat each other in our league, then the league is not very good. What? I mean, I don’t get it, but we will see. They’re very good.”

On what Julius Randle is doing to be more effective …
“He’s playing less minutes and he’s passing more.”

On James Young saying that he wants to play hard against LSU …
“Play the game. Throw the ball up. We’re going to find out where we are. They had a good day yesterday. Let’s have a good practice today. Our chemistry, our will to win for each other and for the team is what we’re focused on. Being more player-driven is what we’re focused on versus being coach-driven. We’re on that a lot. But, the guys are on that. They’re doing pretty good.”

On the talk of payback and motivation …
“Well, the whole thing for me and the hardest thing when you’re dealing with young players is you have to get them to think different. Their inner dialogue has to be for us and not themselves. That they stay in a positive light. When they go to the foul line – ‘Oh my God, I’m gonna miss this. I don’t think -.’ Well, believe it or not, you’re going to miss that. Or ‘I can do this. I can’t wait to shoot these. Foul me.’ And young guys, especially when they’re thrown in this mix, you can get that inner-dialogue knocked out. Some of that is mixed in because you’ve never had dialogue mixed in with your own game, and now that’s got to begin to change. These guys have done good. They’re making the strides we want. But, this is a hard game for us. This is going to be a tough one.”

On what he saw looking at the first half of the Ole Miss game …
“A team that ran really fast and a team that passed the ball to each other early. (A team) that played so fast that we turned it over some, yet, were really aggressive, communicated defensively. That start and even the beginning of the second half, there were three, four minutes when we backed up and had mental breakdowns, but short of that, we played. Even at the end of the game, the last minute and a half.”

On if he will live with turnovers if they can play fast …
“Yeah. Again, there are good turnovers and there are some bad turnovers. We had some bad ones. We have some players that aren’t great at handling the ball or passing and you hope they don’t pass much. But if they do, they’re going to turn it over some. But each of them, they came to each other; the locker room had energy after the game. I said you had fun because you played fast, you played aggressive, and you were into each other. But it’s hard to sacrifice and give up. Are you going to give up as much as I’m going to give up? Or am I the only one giving up (anything)? It becomes that inner-dialogue and that fight from within to get them to all lay it out there for each other. You’re going to find out. Julius (Randle) is playing less minutes, taking less shots, passing more, and his numbers are up. Really? How can that be? It’s a dogfight to get him to get that. And it’s not just him. All of them. But, they’re getting it.”

On if the better free throw shooting is throughout the whole team or just a couple guys …
“Well, Willie is shooting better, really confident in him. Julius is shooting better. Just can’t have terrific shooters go 1-for-2, 1-for-2, 1-for-2, front-end one-and-one when the other team is going make, make, make, make, make, make, make because you’re going to get beat, especially against good teams.”

On what he was saying to Julius when he made the strange face …
“I think he was telling me, ‘Coach, I really love you.’ And I went ‘What?’ I think that’s what it was. I’ve been wrong before. ’78 – 1978.”

On if he’s seen the video of himself with the taco going into his mouth …
“I don’t look at that stuff, come on.”

On how he feels about the zone at this point …
“They made four baskets in a row. It’s funny, people that want us to play zone it’s kind of like coaching a kid and being positive 80 percent of the time and he only remembers that you get on him. So the zone people out there see every stop and don’t realize that Mississippi was getting back in the game because they made four straight baskets in a row vs. the (zone). But, I’m getting better at teaching it; I’m getting better at understanding it. I was just with a player – former player of mine from UMass – and he said, ‘I can’t believe you’re playing zone.’ He said, ‘we never worked against zone. I don’t know how we scored against zone because we couldn’t even put a zone in.’ I told them stand around and put your arms up. And if someone goes by you, kind of switch. So, you know, this is a good – I’ll tell you who is the best zone player I’ve seen is Aaron (Harrison). He’s like; I’m calling him ‘The Cat’ now. The team is laughing their butt – I show them on the tape, man, he’s like a cat. And he goes out with his arm but then you watch his brother and he’s not a cat. And I said, you won’t believe this, Andrew, your arm is as long as his arm. You can do the same so, you know, we – I’ll tell you who else is good in a zone is Jarrod, is good in zone. It’s helped us. I’m not arguing the point but I do know this, Tony Barbee said this to me, ‘you’re good in zone, coach but when you switch everything, it’s a one-on-one game. There is nothing else we can do.’ When you play zone, you know they’re always going to be able to get off a 3 at any point, now if they’re making them, you lose. Well, what if it’s a deep – it could be a deep 3 that they’re making but when you’re playing man and switching it means they’re taking a contested shot. But it’s a good changeup, it’s a good defense for us, it’s been good and we’ve worked on it every day which, you know, it’s not something I’ve done in the past but we’re working at it and trying to give these guys the best opportunity they can to win.”

On if using this much zone is a bit apocalyptic for him …
“No, I would love to be a zone coach. I’m telling you – tell me why? How much do you really have to prepare for it? Not against zone. How many things can you really do against zone? Screen the ball, high-low, three-out, four-out for all you ‘Basketball Bennies’ that have no idea what I’m talking about. There is not a whole lot you do against zone and everybody does the same thing. Five or six things you can do. You can’t put a sixth guy out, you can’t put guys standing – I mean there are five or six things. I would love to be a guy that could do that, that’s just not me. But, we’re using it, it’s been effective, if there was a game where I thought we’d have to play the whole game, play zone to win the game I’d do it.”

On if he had his best players for two years if he’d play more zone …
“They’re talking about it going to two and I’ve called to see if we could have that, you know, immediately.”

On if there is anyone he has relied on to try to learn the zone defense more …
“Well, Rob (Murphy) at Eastern Michigan was the one who came in and really, you know, gave me the breakdowns and the drill work because you can’t just do – you’ve got to break it down, you’ve got to do it, you’ve gotta give them an idea what they have to do and then I would call them. Jim Boeheim and I talked and I said, you know I played your zone? He said, ‘I watch it.’ He said, ‘you should play more zone.’ And he says, ‘every time your team gives up a 3, you go back man-to-man.’ And he said, ‘but if the other team makes three 3s in your man, you don’t go zone.’ He said, you know – I’ve studied it and put it in and you know, to be a good zone offensive team, to be honest with you, you’ve got to have a good zone in defensively so you can work and we’re probably better vs. zone than we are man. But, we will see.”

#30, Julius Randle, F, Fr.

On how much he watches other teams on TV …
“I don’t watch much TV. If it’s a game I see—like I watched a little bit of the Duke-North Carolina game. I watched a couple minutes of the second half. But I don’t watch too much college basketball or the NBA really.”

On whether he believes they can play with anyone in the country …
“Yep, I truly believe that.”

On if he’s always believed that or if he’s starting to believe it more now …
“I’ve always believed. This is like Coach says: It’s a process. This whole season has just been a process, but I always believed it because I always knew we had the talent. But the chemistry now, it’s getting better.”

On what has changed about the chemistry …
“It’s just us trusting each other more, connection on defense, talking more, encouraging each other more and just the little things that we see is helping us a lot.”

On how far the guards on this team have come …
“Amazing. Coach is doing a good job with staying patient with all of us, keep encouraging us and leading us. It’s kind of become, like Coach says, a coach-driven team to a player-driven team. Guards have done a big job of helping us improve.”

On how much he’s looked forward to playing this game after what happened at LSU …
“Looking forward to it, of course. Everybody gives us their biggest shot so it’s another challenge, but we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”

On what he remembers about that game and what LSU did to slow them down …
“It was a blur. Just the intensity and the fight just wasn’t there. It was embarrassing, but that’s why we get another chance to play.”

On whether he’s noticed more scrutiny because he’s at Kentucky …
“It is what is. I don’t care about that. It may or may not be true, but I’m playing basketball. I didn’t come here to be liked. I came here to win a championship.”

On how the year has been to him …
“It’s been a process, but when you look back on a lot of it, it’s gone by extremely fast. It seems like I just got here the other day on campus, and now we have like, what, five games left for the season, so every day I just want to cherish, cherish every moment.”

On if he likes playing three teams down the stretch that have beaten them …
“I do.”

On why he likes that …
“I don’t like losing. If somebody beats us, I want to see if you can beat us again.”

On how impressed he was by LSU the first game …
“It was a good team. They play hard, they have some pretty good players on their team, but at the end of the day our fight and intensity just wasn’t there that game. But we learned from it.”

On how that happens when they don’t have fight …
“Maybe just focus. I couldn’t tell you too much else other than focus and a lack of attention to detail. I don’t think you come into a game wanting to say, ‘I’m not going to fight, I’m not going to have intensity.’ But it just happened that day. Got to move on from there and learn from it and improve.”

On the chance to prove they learned that lesson …
“I don’t even know if it matters if it’s them. In general, whoever we play, how we bounce back from a game like that says a lot about our team.”

On this game being payback …
“Yeah, I mean, it is payback. I don’t like to do too much talking. We’ll see what happens once we get on the court.”

#1, James Young, G/F, Fr.

On memories of LSU …
“It was pretty bad. We didn’t come out to play as well as we should have when we went there and we took them lightly. That’s something we’re going to give them a lot of payback when they get here.”

On why they took LSU lightly …
“I just heard from a couple guys that played here before that said they’re not good and stuff like that. So I just came out there and didn’t really take them like they were going to come out there and play hard. They did. When they come here, we’re just on payback.”

On whether they looked at LSU tape …
“We really didn’t. We just focused on us; see what we had to do to improve and what we did last game probably to stop (Johnny O’Bryant). We gotta stop him more than anything. That’s about it.”

On how to contain O’Bryant …
“Probably just double-team him a lot more. Just straight traps as soon as he gets the ball and make him go baseline.”

On how he accounts for UK making more shots in the final minutes against LSU …
“I feel like we know when we’re about to lose or it’s coming close to losing, we just get that extra energy burst and we don’t want to lose. So everybody’s confidence and focus, I guess, gets an extra boost and everybody concentrates a lot more.”

On whether he was settling too much for outside shots …
“Yeah, definitely. I was just taking contested 3s. He (Calipari) just told me to give a little up fake and try to get the hole as much as I can and attack.”

On whether he is thinking less in those situations now …
“Uh, yes. I feel like if I have a 3 I’ll just take it, but I usually just don’t as much. So now I’m kind of aware of what I should do now and just attack the defense because they usually just go by my up fakes and my pump fakes, so I can just do that a lot more now.”

On Julius Randle saying this season has been a process …
“Definitely. We came a long way. In the beginning we were just 16 individuals playing on a team, but now we’re coming closer together like one big team.”

On whether he expected it to be like this …
“Not at all. It was kind of hard for us to get to know each other and know each other’s (personality), but like the process was, we know each other now.”

On what it’s like watching film with Calipari one-on-one …
“He tells you—we call it medicine. He feeds you all the bad things and you know you’re not going to like it but you gotta get it anyway. Just learn from it. It’s nice because you see everything you do wrong and he points it out to you. You just gotta fix it.”


 

 

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