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Kentucky Travels to Gainesville to Face No. 1 Florida




March 7, 2014

Gameday
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Kentucky at Florida
Saturday, March 8 - 12:00 p.m. ET
Gainesville, Fla.
Game Notes: UK Get Acrobat Reader (Supplement Get Acrobat Reader) | UF Get Acrobat Reader
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TV: CBS
Radio: UK IMG
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Cat Scratches: Cats relish rare role of the underdog, chance to turn things around

Rarely has a time come during the 111-year history of Kentucky basketball when UK has played the role of the underdog.

Saturday will be one of those times.

Headed to Florida for the regular-season finale against the Gators, everything appears to be pointing in Florida's favor. The Gators (28-2, 17-0 Southeastern Conference) are No. 1 in the country, they boast a school-record 31-game winning streak at the O'Connell Center and they are in search of some pretty remarkable history

The Gators are looking to become the first team other than Kentucky to go undefeated in the SEC since Alabama navigated through the league with a spotless 14-0 record during the 1955-56 season. UK did it as recently as 2012, but Florida, with a win on Saturday at noon ET on CBS, would be the first SEC team ever to go 18-0.

Throw in the fact that UK (22-8, 12-5 SEC) lost two in a row before its ugly win over Alabama on Tuesday or that Florida will be revved up for Senior Day and, well, it doesn't look good for the Cats.

They understand their backs are against the wall, but it also doesn't change their belief in their ability to win Saturday. Asked how confident he was they could win Saturday, Willie Cauley-Stein left to margin for doubt.

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Pregame Media Opportunity - March 7, 2014

Head Coach John Calipari

On where the team’s confidence level is at this point …
“We’ll see. I mean they shot the ball well yesterday. They had a great practice. (They’ve) gotta do it in the games, gotta have a fire, or a passion to play. If we’ve gotta get them excited about this game, I think they’ll be ready to play but we’re playing an outstanding team that plays well at home. They haven’t lost in the league. They haven’t lost a home game in a long time. It’s a tough challenge.”

On an unleashed offense …
“I want them to fly up and down the court. I want them to be aggressive, create for each other more than us having to run stuff. Now, against them (Florida) you do have to do things because they do a great job at getting back in transition defense, they’re not going to give you easy baskets. So, you do have to be strong with the ball and create for each other. Our numbers whether they’re defensive or offensive numbers are fine versus their numbers. It’s just going to be, okay let’s go. Let’s go do this. Let’s go compete and see what happens. It’s not going to be easy. Nothing is going to be easy about it.”

On what lessons you take from the first 30 minutes of the first matchup between the teams and the last 10 minutes …
“Well, we lost the game because of two offensive rebounds. Now, we could have made more shots and it wouldn’t have come down to that and all this and that and that. Two offensive rebounds. The Smith kid going to the baseline and kicking it out and it’s a basket. And then the other one grabbing it in the middle and kicking it out. That’s a three. That was five points and that was the ball game. Two offensive rebounds. We fouled late in the clock two or three times down the stretch. We just didn’t have enough defensive discipline, but we gave ourselves a chance. So, there was a lot of good stuff that came out of it. We didn’t play fearful. We went to Mississippi and didn’t play fearful. And then we just hit a stretch of games where we got a little rattled.”

On if the team has hit a wall …
“Possibly. It’s (the team) in the shape you want it to be. But, these kids all played high school basketball and their season ended about two weeks ago, three weeks ago. Their high school seasons have ended, and now you’re into the gut check of your season. So, that could be some of it.”

On areas they have to do a good job at tomorrow …
“You gotta be – you gotta negate the press. They’re going to come after – they press more there than they do on the road and they’ll bring four guys and they’ll try to steal. You gotta be strong with the ball and be aggressive and you gotta be able to play their pick-and-roll offense, you know, because a lot of it is pick-and-roll. Offensively, they do a great job of crowding so you’ve gotta make some jump shots. This is not a game you can go 2-for-22 from the 3. Not this game because they will give you, their field goal percentage against the 3 is like 34 percent. Well why is that? Well, they crowd, they make sure if they’re going to give up something it’s going to be a 3. Obviously we play a little bit different than that. This is a game, they force you to make some jumpers.”

On if previous young players were better at subbing themselves out …
“Yeah, again, you know, we even got guys arguing that I’m not, you know – like I’m putting a couple of assistants on individual players and telling them, you sub them. If they don’t want to come out just take them out. So we’re doing whatever we can to get guys off the floor. Now the guys, like a Jarrod (Polson), this game he’s got to go in and perform, he can’t play timid at all, just go play. Shoot balls, if you’re open let them go because we’re going to have to get minutes out of him.

On who is assigned to sub Julius Randle out …
“Kenny Payne is watching him and he was getting him in and out, doing a great job.”

On if he can tell the difference in Julius Randle when he gets a short break …
“Julius in the last three weeks has done everything we’ve asked him to do; we just want him to take more jump shots. But he’s doing everything else, he’s rebounding the ball. Because he’s not playing as many minutes he’s not breaking down defensively as much. We gotta get Alex (Poythress) playing back to, you know, an aggressive, you know, we need you to do two or three things on offense and then rebound and defend and go block shots. If you’re open, shoot the ball, one dribble pull-ups. Don’t try to pass cross court, scoop pass – don’t. Just give it to the guard, it’s not your game. So we’re trying to narrow in guys so they can play in a confident way and, you know, you’re confident at these things then it’s gonna make you confident. Just do those thing. But it’s – what’s amazing to me is a team that has this much ability and size and the numbers speak that we’re pretty good, if you look at our numbers and I’m not talking the RPI which is good, strength of schedule which is good, I’m not talking about that, I’m talking defense, shot blocking, rebounding, 3-point field goal percentage, offensive field goal percentage, we have some numbers that aren’t great but when you look at all that, to have people say this team is done, I just don’t believe it. I mean, a team that has this kind of skill and ability. Other teams have lost, four out of five and go on the road, lose a home game to somebody, somebody else has lost, this team has lost. OK, wait ‘til they get ready for the tournament, that’s what this team is. Let’s hope the light goes on. If it goes on this game, fine; if it takes another game, fine. We just need the light to go on. I’ve had teams come around at all different times. You know, I believe in this team, I believe in the individual players, I really do. These are great kids, I love coaching them. I had a ball in practice yesterday, and I did tell them this, I said, I’ve had friends of mine say, ‘one, you look tired.’ I am tired. It’s March, I’m exhausted. ‘You look tired.’ How stupid is that? Do you look at any coach that doesn’t look tired? I’m the only one that looks tired? Oh my gosh. The second thing is, they say, ‘you know, I’m watching you, you don’t have as much fun as you usually have with your team.’ And I said to my team, you guys must be rubbing off on me now because that’s never said about me when I’m coaching. So, you know, again, great kids, they’re trying, the weight of the world, overhyped, over-this, over – set up for failure, all that, all of us, including me. Bang, none of that matters. Now go play, let’s go have some fun and ball and see where we are against the best team in the country on the road on senior night. Let’s see where we are. Thanks.”

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

On if getting a win would change the perception of how things are going …
“I would probably say you’re right. I mean, they’re the No. 1 team. We’re searching for a big win, and it would definitely be a big win if we could pull it off.”

On how much they believe they can win …
“I mean, it’s a game. You play to win the game, so obviously 100 percent.”

On what he’s seen from his team to believe they can win …
“I think the team knows what we’ve got to do and what mistakes we’ve got to fix before we go down there and play tomorrow. But for the most part, I think we’re prepared more than you can be. There’s not much more we can do.”

On if they feel any different just getting a win even though they didn’t play well Tuesday …
“Definitely. We were searching for a win bad. It might have been ugly but a win’s a win. Anybody in the SEC is liable to beat you. Any win is a good win.”

On if this team can make a run …
“Definitely. It’s to that point where our backs (are) kind of against the wall. Players are going to have to show that they’re players – everybody on the team. It’s definitely a thing that we’ve got to keep in mind when we go in there.”

On what he thinks of possibly spoiling Florida’s perfect SEC season and Senior Day …
“It would be great. That’s what we go down there for and that’s kind of the motivation of what we’re trying to do.”

On what they have to do in this game that they didn’t do in the first one against Florida …
“Not give up wide-open shots. There late we gave up wide-open 3s. Make sure we’re putting a body on everybody rebounding. Other than that we played a near-perfect game until those three points.”

On if they hit a wall against Florida after doing so well the first 30 minutes and if that’s a conditioning thing …
“No. I think being a young team you make those mistakes at the end. We’re so young you don’t really know when the crunch time or the winning time is. It’s the last five minutes of the game and that’s when – everything else before that really doesn’t matter. You win or lose a game in the last five minutes, and I think we’ve learned that the past year pretty much. The last five games (have) been a struggle, but definitely watching that game back on film, easily you win if you take care of the things that you’re supposed to do as an individual.”

On if he learned anything from last year about bouncing back and responding positively …
“I mean, it’s different because it’s a whole (other) team, so they don’t know what struggle you went through last year. The only people that really know (are) me, Alex (Poythress), JP (Jarrod Polson) and (Jon) Hood. And everybody else, they really don’t know what it feels like, so it’s different. Right now they’re feeling a little bit of the struggle and it’s really not as big as it was last year. The struggle last year was people saying that you’re not going to make it, and then you’ve got some people saying that you have this amount of chance if you win this game, this game, this game, and then it puts a whole (other) pressure on you for it. This is just like – I mean, obviously you want to win – but it’s a different feel. Like, I can’t explain it.”

On if it’s good to be young and not know what they are going into at Florida …
“No, it’s not a good thing. If you don’t know about it then you’re going to get shell-shocked when you get there. That’s not good because you’re wasting time when you get there. So it’s better if you really know what’s about to happen when you get there.”

On the balance between subbing themselves out and a coach telling them to come out …
“It just looks better when you are subbing yourself anyways. So if you’re doing it yourself, you get to go back in when you’re ready. He’s not really BSing you when he says that if you sub yourself, when you’re ready I’ll just throw you right back in. But when you’re tired and you’re just prolonging it, like, I’m going to come out of the game, well then your performance is looking like trash. Like maybe miss a box out because you’re tired or you’re not running the floor on that one possession because you’re tired. Well, that makes you look bad, so then he’s going to get back at you and take you out and you don’t know if you’re going to go back in for five, seven minutes.”

On if it’s hard to take yourself out when you’re young …
“I mean, it looks like it. I don’t know. I did it when I was a freshman and I’m still young, so it’s like you just got to listen, I guess.”

On what he took from the first Florida game …
“After that game I felt like we could beat anybody in the country. And then the next couple of games (I felt like we could) lose to anybody in the country. So it’s like a wide spectrum of our team. That just goes with what Cal tries to do here.”

 #1, James Young, F/G, Fr.

On what the team learned from game one against Florida that will help with game two ...
"It just shows that we can compete with anybody. We came out with a lot of energy, we had a lot of fun out there and I think it shows we can compete with anybody."

On the team feeling like they have nothing to lose ...
"We just see it as another game. I know it’s their Senior Night and it's probably a big game to them, but we (are) just going to come out there and play our game, hopefully come out with a win." 

On looking at his video from a down shooting night against Alabama ...
"I looked at the video and I just kept leaning back a little bit too much and just kicking my leg out. I came to the gym a little bit later and worked on my shot a little bit so it should be good." 

On him feeling like he's falling back when he's shooting ...
"Yeah, I tend to do it a lot and kick my leg out and Coach has been getting on me a little about that, and just getting up extra shots to work on my form." 

On the focus of practice since the game against Alabama ...
"Just having a lot of energy, having fun with the game. You got to love playing basketball and that's what we do. Really just having fun." 

On playing 40 minutes like the team is coming from behind ...
"It's something that we got to work on. I feel like we got better at it a lot and we just got to play like that the whole game and take no possessions off." 

On being surprised that he's shooting 30 percent from 3 on the year ...
"I don't pay attention to stats like that. I'm just going to keep shooting the ball. Coach Cal said I got the green light so I'll just shoot it."

On working on playing through contact ...
"I'm doing a lot better. When I first got here, I used to shy away from contact and stuff like that, but I look for contact and being more aggressive with the ball. I've been working on that in practice so I feel a lot better at it."

On the game at Florida being the last game of the season ...
"The season went by fast. I wish it was a little bit longer. It just went by real fast."

On if he's excited for the postseason ...
"Yeah, we're looking for a long run right now and we're just going to take it game by game." 

On if it has hit him that this will be the last time he plays with all of these guys ...
"I don't know. We're all going to miss each other. It's a great team, probably one of the best teams I've played with."

On having a party-crasher mentality going into Florida ...
"Not really, it's just another game for us." 

On it getting discouraging to keep missing shots ...
"I try to just not think about the next shot and just keep moving forward and just shoot. I kind of got my confidence down last game and I think that's really affecting my shot." 

On what he knows about playing in the O’Connell Center ...
"I've never been there so it should be a nice time and it should be a good game for us." 

On this being the time for the players to show everyone what they can do ...
"Yeah, definitely. We're just going to look at it like another game and play like we play every game but have more fun and more energy." 

On if he can pinpoint what's been up with the team offensively ...
"I just think it's our confidence. It's a lack of confidence on our shots and that's what keeps us missing. We have more confidence, we'll make them."

On being hesitant shooting the ball last game ... 
"Yeah. I thought the guy was going to come out a little closer than I thought he was. I just kind of hesitated and really messed up my shot. I just got to let it go." 

On being able to shake off lack of confidence by coming into the gym and watching shots go down ...
"Something like that. It's getting up extra shots and being confident. There's not much really you can do." 

On what the team has to do differently this time around against Florida ...
"Just play the whole game, execute on every possession and just have fun playing. I think that's what we're going to do, we're going to have a lot of fun in practice and it should turn out to be a good game." 

On the team being in the kind of shape they need to be in to not get tired and lose focus ...
"Yeah, we are. It's just about confidence now. After we miss a couple shots our head will go down or we feel like we can't make a couple shots. But our confidence is a big part of why we shoot and we kept missing a couple shots last game and we can't lose confidence." 

On how he views the Florida game ...
"Just as another game. We're just going to take it game by game and just try to keep winning every day."

On the game being a major opportunity ...
"Yeah it is. It's to show we can play with everybody and compete with everybody. We get this win, it'll be a good win for us." 

On wanting to spoil their sweep of the SEC ...
“That'd be nice. But like I said, it's just going to be another game. We're going to come here with a lot of energy, a lot of fun, execute the whole game, not just one half." 

On playing with pressure off their shoulders ...
"Yeah and just play with unleashed offense is what Coach says. Go out there and have fun with it and we're doing a lot better with that in practice. We just got to turn that into the game and have more fun with it." 

On following NCAA Tournament seeding ...
"Not really, I don't follow that." 


 

 

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